Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sundance 2015 from a Writer's Perspective

I’m a conference junkie, and one of my favorite places to pick up tips on the art of the story is Robert Redford’s film festival Sundance in Park City, UT. While seeing premiers of movies can be fun, and the parties often border on the outrageous, the gem of Sundance (at least for my best friend and me) is the panels. I’m also intrigued by how often places like Sundance set the zeitgeist in motion, and am on the lookout for how trends originate and which marketing teams are most effective.

Here are some of my key takeaways this year:

--Sara Silverman on selfishness (a unifying theme this year was a disdain for selfishness) “self-hate is not modesty. It’s self-centered. There’s no room for anybody else.”

--“The Golden Age of TV” panel spent a decent chunk of time talking about long-form storytelling now that we have the Netflix binge. I couldn’t help but think about how the long-form novel rose up in tandem (The Goldfinch=Pulitzer last year). Will we see an official YA novel follow suit soon?

--The TV panel also talked about the importance of creating the moment when “the character becomes real for us” and I was surprised that most of the clips chosen were not from the first episode. I appreciated how slowly the writers liked to build the fa├žade first.

--RJ Mitte of Breaking Bad led a thoughtful panel on shifting perceptions in our society by including a more realistic landscape of complex characters of all colors and “different-abilities.” 

--Even Johnny Knoxville is obsessed with craft. He watches old classic cartoons over and over for inspiration and to get timing just right on stunts, and will re-do as many times as necessary (revision) until they fit conventions of a specific cartoon.

--At the party for The Abolitionists (story of former CIA/FBI guys who freelance save girls from
sex-trafficking), they told about how same producer who produced Schindler's List produced this because "what if that movie had been made during the holocaust? Would things turn out differently?" so he made one on this atrocity. Will it turn out differently? How powerful is the power of story?

--One of the trends in films chosen/submitted this year was rape/sexual assault stories, and the panel emphasized the need to speak openly, non-judgementally, and with complexity (include the perpetrators) in our stories in order to really address/make better what is happening in our society. (I have also officially added Pat Mitchell and Regina Scully to my list of heroes. Lin Oliver, Kevan Lyon, and Andrea Davis Pinkney have some company on the list now).

--On promotional branding: AirBnB house did an amazing job at integrating their message with their promotional activities. To mirror the idea of building community in their brand, they had people drawing portraits of others, and it was a really popular/memorable stop (always a line) for the artsy crowd (really knew their target audience). 

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