If dot-coms seemed to compete with any of Sundance's non-Internet sponsors this year, the festival wouldn't let the dot-coms join in the sponsor games. But the Net companies came out in force, anyway.
The biggest testimony to the Internet invasion of Sundance this year could have been the fact that festival-goers were calling Park City, Utah's Main Street "Dot-Com Alley'. From the celebrities who spent hours making the rounds of the Net companies stationed in Harry O's to the constant efforts at guerrilla marketing on the street, Sundance 2000 was very much about the Net.
AtomFilms may have made the biggest impact, with a Tuesday night block party that festival attendees - and assuredly not just the dot-com set - were buzzing about days in advance. The company also hoped to raise its profile by signing the first short to get picked up at the festival - a film from director Jason Reitman called "In God We Trust." Reitman says MediaTrip.com also bid on the film.
The independent filmmaking crowd said that this year's show had more energy. Attendees attributed this to a strong lineup of movies; greater creativity in film production, due to the festival's embracing of digital video; and the presence of the energized, and energizing, dot-com companies.
"It's new energy and new money meets experience and creates better content," said Carl Bressler, president of Montana Artists, a Los Angeles-based talent agency.
But the independent film scene isn't all that savvy just yet. An attendee of one panel devoted to digital filmmaking and the Internet was disappointed that the panelists offered little guidance to the future of independent filmmaking in a dot-com world. "They would get to that point and then" stop, he says. What the panel offered was an overview of the tools and sites that were out there, but no one seemed to know what to do with them going forward.
In a sign that the film industry knows it has to get itself up to speed, one studio sent an executive to the Sundance festival with the sole purpose of gleaning dot-com knowledge and reporting back on its influence on filmmaking. If that's not the New World following the Old, what is?