Nine Recent Statistics for the Sundance Film Festival

The 1999 Sundance festival program cover

Today is the first day of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, America's most hyped film fest and the El Dorado of indie filmmakers. After two years of people asking me if my film is going to play at Sundance, I thought I'd finally set the record straight about it. Not exactly the democratic free-for-all it purports to be ("Just send in your movie with a check for $50 and you might be the next Tarantino!"), Sundance is mostly an event where the festival's committee gives breaks to their professional contacts and to big stars. But don't take my word for it: look at the statistics, culled from Sundance's own festival guides. (By the way, Sundance is divided into several smaller programs; only the three that get the most press are listed here.)

  1. Dramatic Competition stats for 2000. Number of features: sixteen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: four. Number of those made by established film industry professionals (non-Sundance returnees): five. Number produced by major industry players: eight. Number with major stars in the cast: eight. Number of films that do not meet any of these criteria (i.e. possible true "independents" – and I'm being generous with the definition): three out of sixteen.
  2. Documentary Competition stats for 2000. Number of features: seventeen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: five. Number of those made by established documentarians (i.e. those who have made documentaries for PBS, have won Oscars, etc.): nine. Number of films that do not meet any of these criteria (i.e. possible true "independents"): three out of seventeen.
  3. American Spectrum stats for 2000. (These are features, both fiction and nonfiction, which for whatever reason aren't allowed to compete in the above two programs.) Number of features: sixteen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: five. Number of those made by established film industry professionals (non-Sundance returnees): eight. Number produced by major industry players: four. Number with major stars in the cast: six. Number of films that do not meet any of these criteria (i.e. possible true "independents"): three out of sixteen.
  4. TOTAL NUMBER OF THE FORTY-NINE FEATURES IN THOSE 3 PROGRAMS WHICH MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN MADE BY STRUGGLING FILMMAKERS WITH NO TIGHT CONNECTIONS WITH THE FESTIVAL OR INDUSTRY PLAYERS: NINE (about one-fifth).
  5. Dramatic Competition stats for 1999. Number of features: sixteen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: four. Number of those made by established film industry professionals (non-Sundance returnees): four. Number which were "the director's first feature": all sixteen. (The previously mentioned returnees had had short films at Sundance.) Number of films which received theatrical distribution in the US by December 31, 1999: eight out of sixteen.
  6. Documentary Competition stats for 1999. Number of features: sixteen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: seven. Number of those made by established film industry professionals (non-Sundance returnees): four. Number which were "the director's first feature": four. Number of films which received theatrical distribution in the US by December 31, 1999: five out of sixteen.
  7. American Spectrum stats for 1999. Number of features: eighteen. Number of those made by Sundance returnees: four. Number of those made by established film industry professionals (non-Sundance returnees): two. Number which were "the director's first feature": thirteen. Number of films which received theatrical distribution in the US by December 31, 1999: five out of eighteen.
  8. TOTAL NUMBER OF THE FIFTY FEATURES IN THOSE 3 PROGRAMS WHICH RECEIVED AT LEAST A LIMITED U.S. THEATRICAL RELEASE: EIGHTEEN (36%).
  9. Foreign Correspondents Sundance stats. Number of actors who star in Foreign Correspondents who are also in Sundance 2000 films: four. (Melanie Lynskey, Corin Nemec, Steve Valentine, Richard Moll.) Number of actors who have starred in previous Sundance films: three. (Lisa Lo Cicero, Blaire Baron, Lorna Scott.) Number of times Mark Tapio Kines has attended the festival, either as participant or audience member: zero.