As has been the case with all industry events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival had to adapt to a new normal in order for the show to go on, and now they have unveiled exactly how the festivities will actually take place.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be offered digitally via a custom-designed online platform (festival.sundance.org) alongside drive-ins, independent arthouses, and a network of local community partnerships. Through the setup, the festival will provide global access for storytellers and audiences alike to come together, experience artists’ new work, connect with one another, and participate in the conversation. All films in the program will be available online in the United States, with certain films opting for global availability while the full talks and events program, as well as the New Frontier section for XR and emerging media, will be available globally as well. The Festival will run from January 28 through February 3, 2021. Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, acting in this capacity for the first time this year, had this to say about the virtual experience:
“Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can. So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our Festival in the form of an online platform and socially distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S. we are not putting on our Festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique — a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed.”
Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam also added “Our Festival footprint has changed this year, but we are excited to bring an incredible community together in new ways to engage with new artists and new stories — whether they’re joining us for the first year or have been for decades. Our ambition is for everyone to come together, safely, wherever they may be, and participate in screenings on our platform at the same time. The Sundance team has consulted with artists, worked with incredible partners, and built a plan to welcome new audiences and capture a true Festival spirit.”
Here is the complete rundown of how things will be working for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival as they embark on a much different journey for next year’s event:
As at past Sundance Film Festivals, films will premiere throughout the day, with Day One films set to debut Thursday, January 28, at 6 p.m. U.S. Mountain Time. During the 2021 Festival, each of the 70+ feature films will premiere online in a dedicated time slot, followed by a live Q&A. Multiple films will premiere simultaneously roughly every three hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. U.S. Mountain Time. This rollout is designed to preserve the energy of a Festival, with an abundance of choices and collective experiences, as audiences can begin the film simultaneously, and participate in the live Q&A which follows (viewers can also begin films any time within three hours of their premiere’s start). All films will return to the platform two days after their premiere for a “second screening,” offered on demand for 24 hours. The platform’s movie player is powered by Shift72 and developed with best-in-industry security and access practices. In a Festival first, the entire 70+-feature lineup on the platform will be closed-captioned on-demand, and Q&As will be live-captioned.
SHORT FILM, INDIE SERIES PROGRAMS
The Short Film and Indie Series (formerly Indie Episodic) programs, focused on creative storytelling outside the feature format, will include 50 short films and world premieres of four episodic works. These will be available on-demand on the Festival platform for the full length of the Festival.
Since its launch, the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier has served as a showcase for dynamic, innovative work at the crossroads of film, art, and technology — and 2021 is no exception, with 14 works in the program. For the first time ever, adventurous audiences around the world will be given the chance to engage with the works, the artists, and each other via a bespoke virtual platform, accessible via computer and VR headsets. The New Frontier Gallery hosts the complete slate of live performances, AR, VR, and other emerging media works. Cinema House is the Festival’s fully immersive, big-screen theater, and Film Party is an interactive social space where the entire community of accredited Festivalgoers can safely gather together again. The environment also features interactive tools such as proximity audio and video chat.
Expanding beyond its Utah home, the Festival has created a network of partnerships to bring feature films and customized local programming — talks, events, artist meet-ups — to communities across the country. In addition to these Satellite Screen partnerships, the Institute will program screenings at The Ray in Park City and the Rose Bowl and Mission Tiki Drive-Ins in Los Angeles, health and safety guidelines permitting. Each Satellite Screen will create and host their own events, sharing local cultural conversations with broader Festival audiences, with most also screening selections from the 2021 program.
One of the fundamental values of the Festival is gathering: it’s a place where a global community of independent artists can convene for a generative and open exchange of ideas. This year, that will take place on the platform’s Festival Village, a free-to-all space where Satellite Screens, partners, and Festival sponsors will host a wide range of events, programming, and offerings to complement and enrich the official program. The platform’s Main Street will act as both an homage to the iconic Park City thoroughfare and as an extension of the Festival’s core programming, featuring digital partner spaces hosting conversations, musical performances, and more. The Artist Lounge will feature a space for creators to gather for artist programming, as well as for the Festival’s Class of ’21 to network and celebrate at private events.
Tickets and passes for those who want to experience the Festival for the full run, a single day, or a single screening will be available to the general public beginning January 7, 2021; further details will be available later this month. For more information, sign up at Festival.Sundance.org.
Will YOU be joining the new virtual experience for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival?