Sundance’s Web presence now mirrors the Park City fest’s programming more closely and will last longer. Accessible anywhere in the world via the Internet, the fifth edition of the Sundance Online Film Festival (SOFF), which kicks off tomorrow, will be unspooling until June at www.sundance.org.
“Instead of creating another entity we wanted to translate what Sundance does over to this venue and extend to those that don’t come to the festival,” says John Cooper, Sundance’s director of programming.
Before remaking the site, Cooper pooled ideas from San Francisco-area Internet and digital world experts. Their advice was simple: if it’s not in the festival, don’t include it in the web version.
Whereas past online ventures showcased “online-only” films, this year’s SOFF offers free access to about half of the documentary, live-action and animation shorts accepted to Sundance 2005. (Several filmmakers opted out of the online version due to strict Academy Award rules banning Internet play of shorts.)
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Five interactive SOFF Frontier shorts also will be showcased, as interactive pieces can’t be properly appreciated in a standard theater. They may be accessed via a dedicated screening room at the Sundance Digital Center on Main Street. Live demonstrations of these projects will be held on five afternoons during the fest, with the filmmakers on hand to shed light on their experimental storytelling.
There’s also new content in the form of filmmaker interviews and daily behind-the-scenes coverage. Seeking to capture some of the freshness of newbie indie directors, Cooper and his staff interviewed Sundance first-timers at recent filmmaker orientations. Additional clips will be added during the run of the festival.
Eventually Cooper expects to stream material from the summer labs. He also predicts that feature films will be shown online someday, but many tech and legal issues must be overcome first.
The free and easy online presence will save some filmmakers from having to chase press and execs with hard copies of their work. They may simply e-mail a link to desired viewers.
“It’s a lot like Internet dating now, it’s the same theory,” explains Cooper. “We’re hoping to create an easy hook-up for filmmakers with an audience or buyer.”
Two SOFF alumns already have made the jump to a bigger screen. Brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, better known as Jib Jab, created the trailers for Sundance 2005.