Not every film fan can pack a parka and head to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals starting this week. Though you may have to provide your own VIP wristbands, moderate post-movie Q&As in your TV room and take turns being a hanger-on, it has never been easier to at least get a taste of the festival experience from home.
A number of movies are being made available through various video-on-demand platforms, and there are Web and cable TV options as well. Although most of the movies may not have the obvious stars or even genre hooks of some of the festivals' hottest titles, home viewers might be enticed to give them a shot because they're being shown under the banner of a major festival.
"In a way it's analogous with the film festival experience in general," said Matt Dentler, head of content for the digital entertainment service FilmBuff. "You'll see films at a festival you wouldn't normally wait in line to see on a Saturday night. So there is a sort of halo effect that a festival, in particular a brand like Sundance, can bring to a film."
Sundance Selects, a sister company to IFC Films, is making five films available on cable VOD at the same time as their first Sundance screenings, including the U.S. premiere of Gregg Araki's "Kaboom" and the world premieres of Brendan Fletcher's "Mad Bastards," Michael Tully's "Septien," Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton's "These Amazing Shadows" and Joe Swanberg's "Uncle Kent."
The Slamdance Film Festival, taking place at the same time as Sundance, is making five competition titles — Shane Aquino's "Road Dogs," Albert Birney and Jon Moses' "The Beast Pageant," Doug Manley's "Modern Imbecile's Planet World," Damon Russell's "Snow on Tha Bluff" and Stephan Wassmann's "Scrapper" — available for a week starting Friday on the Xbox and Zune platforms. Another 12 films from previous festivals will be available on VOD year-round.
Sundance is also making 12 short films from this year's festival available on YouTube, as well as streaming select press conferences and post-screening Q&As on the festival's Web site, http://www.sundance.org. The documentary "Life in a Day," composed of footage from YouTube, will stream in its entirety on Jan. 27.
For those still inclined to an actual theatrical experience, Jacob Aaron Estes' "The Details" will screen at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles on Jan. 27 as part of Sundance Film Festival USA, an effort to bring films from this year's festival to nine cities nationwide.
As well, Sundance Channel is devoting itself to "10 Days of Sundance," with on-the-scene coverage of this year's festival in partnership with online magazine the Daily Beast and fashion reports from Yvan Rodic, creator of the style blog FaceHunter. There also will be nightly pairings of films from previous years' festivals with works by Sundance-affiliated filmmakers; the films include "Daddy Longlegs," "White Lightnin'" and "Unmade Beds."
For filmmaker Swanberg, whose new film, "Uncle Kent," is something of an indie analogy to "The Social Network," with its story of lonely single guy struggling to make a real-world connection with women he meets on the Internet, there was little doubt that going VOD was a good call. His film "Alexander the Last" was one of the first to have a simultaneous festival and VOD premiere when it played the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival.
"There are people who are a part of the film world on the Internet who don't live in major cities and often they can't see these movies they are reading about," Swanberg said. "It allows everyone in the country to be part of the discussion if they want to.
"As somebody who grew up in the suburbs and read magazines about movies I couldn't see, I have to champion this stuff because I keep thinking of my own high school self, how awesome it would have been for me to order up these movies on VOD."