This year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, was so well attended that this normally quaint ski town was bursting at the seams: on Saturday night, at the height of the opening weekend’s hottest parties and screenings, the power went out on Main Street for about an hour. With an ongoing writers’ strike threatening studio release schedules, it seemed like every industry person was here looking for a hidden gem to bring to market.
But the ten students from CBS’s Media Management Association had no such motives — we focused instead on soaking in the scene, hitting the slopes and finding and watching some great films. Despite overwhelming demand for screening tickets — almost every screening sold out weeks before the festival began — our group had great success with wait list and day-of ticket sales.
Having worked at MTV Networks and Marvel Entertainment, I came to Sundance hoping to observe to industry mechanics of this festival firsthand, and it certainly met my expectations on that front. For me, though, the highlight of the trip was a attending a screening of a documentary called Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Though it flew into the festival with little buzz and not much promotion, it seems to have created a bit of a stir here, with every screening ending in a standing ovation, tears,and gushing volumes of praise.
When I caught the film Sunday morning, I understood why: while a rock documentary about an obscure Canadian metal band may seem like a niche offering, its incredible direction, message of hope and exceptionally entertaining subjects transcended its genre and left audiences — and me — overwhelmed. Being a part of the electrified audience that morning made me understand why this festival can be so thrilling for filmmakers, their audiences and the businesses that have grown up around them.