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— Errata Movie Podcast —

Writing in The New York Sun, S. James Snyder writes first about the mismatch between what distributors and studios were looking for at Sundance this year and what independent filmmakers (and, implied by the article, the Sundance programmers) had to offer. Snyder then wonders if New York's Tribeca Film Festival, now in its seventh year, may aim to steal some of Sundance's thunder.

I have noticed that every year as Sundance approaches, I receive a few emailed press releases from Tribeca, timed it seems to deflect or ride some of the Sundance buzz. Around this time, in the wake of a just-finished Sundance, it's also not unusual to see New York newspapers polishing Tribeca's steel. But aside from these anecdotes, aside from the equally anecdotal tidbits in Snyder's article — Oscar buzz for a couple of Tribeca-screened films, and stories of filmmakers who went to Sundance instead of Tribeca (after Sundance rejected them) — and aside from the general Sundancy feeling at the core of the less focused (or, if you prefer, broader) programming at Tribeca, there's less evidence that the lower-Manhattan fest is aiming to steal from Sundance than be its complement.

As an industry insider said to me this time last year, Tribeca seems poised to take business not from Sundance but from another venerable festival, Cannes, both of which take place in May. The films competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes are typically made by icons of cinema, but surrounding that prestigious institution is a good ol' film market. And, as this person said to me, what Los Angeles- or New York-based film purchaser wouldn't prefer a zero-to-four-hour plane ride to a cross-Atlantic, multi-hop trip if it were available? In fact I'd wager that much of the "poised to take business" assessment doesn't arise from any proven track record but rather from a desire for someone to do so.

Tribeca, merely by duplicating Sundance — with a celebrity sponsor, an emphasis on emerging filmmakers — in a different part of the annual calendar and a more attractive location, needn't weaken Sundance's pull at all to take a substantial piece of the pie.

I probably spend more time thinking about distribution issues than you might guess given my somewhat esoteric taste. But it's not because I care what sells, what makes money, or which festivals feed our theaters. It's because I care about how, as Jonathan Rosenbaum put it, the industry limits what we can see. The mechanics are fascinating and infuriating; the juncture between art and commerce often is.

It's hard to lament along with distributors that, boo hoo, the little dramas that some people liked at Sundance this year simply won't sell. Yes, that's true. I know it. And I'd add that this is the house that Hollywood built, a narrow little pipeline that allows only a handful of genres and types to pass through its caked walls, narrower than Waldenbooks, narrower than the newsstand at the subway station. I don't think we can blame filmmakers for that.

Posted by davis | Link