This is the most difficult week of the year for
American Filmmakers, the week Sundance
announces its picks for next year's Festival.
Of course for a few hundred filmmakers,
including those with shorts and documentary
makers, it's a wonderful week; but for thousands
more it's a disappointing week. The chance to
gain a little attention for their labor of love has
been denied them.
And beyond the filmmakers who applied in
a specific year and did not get in, there are
tens times more who applied in previous
years, failed to get in and know their
work is unlikely to ever get even the little
attention an unsuccessful film at Sundance
will get. (Full Disclosure: I do NOT have
a full submitted to Sundance presently. )
Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggested in The
Black Swan that all prizes, such as the
Pulitzer and the Nobel, be abolished,
because luck plays such a large role in
who wins and the prize hurts a much
larger number of worthies who never
win or receive attention than the few
who do. I admire him for admitting the
psychic pain of losing out to others is
real for artists and not pretending it's
petty or doesn't matter.
His critique seems to apply to Sundance
as well, which for many American independent
filmmakers divides the winners from the losers.
And in ways that don't always seem based on
merit. Certainly having well known actors
in your film gives it a better chance to get
in Sundance than any other factor.
Those small films that do sneak in do so on a
combination of factors, including luck.
The year I came close to getting in
with NIGHTINGALE IN A MUSIC BOX -
I know, because I was warned to make
sure my print was ready - I knew someone
who worked at Sundance who made sure
John Cooper looked at it personally.
Still to admit chance plays a role in who
gets in - and how could it not with so
many entrants for so few spots - does not
negate the good Sundance does in widening
the opportunities for lower budget films.
It's only right to admit that it does so at
a high psychic price for myriads of
disappointed American filmmakers who
find the week before Thanksgiving the most
painful of the year.