Thursday, January 10, 2013

By the Numbers

As this is my 10th year attending the Sundance Film Festival, I can't help but think about the numbers. And, boy, does Sundance have numbers. Before we even book our flight, the Sundance jury has reviewed approximately 12,000 submitted films to come up with a 10-day festival that includes 113 feature length films and 50 short films, divided into 11 categories, playing from 8:30am until midnight in 16 different theaters.

In ticket buying, the numbers game continues. First, we and 12 of our closest friends register our intent to buy individual tickets. This enters us all into a lottery that randomly assigns ticket-purchase time slots. Of those 15 people, four were assigned time slots on the first day of individual ticket sales. This is important, because many movies are sold out prior to the start of individual ticket sales. (Thank you high roller pass holders and movie execs.)

During each time slot, we are allowed to purchase up to 20 tickets, no more than four for each movie. We spend hours pouring over the film catalog to come up with a list of movies to try to see. This list looks at the films that are playing the days we are there, the times they play, the venue, and the film description. The film descriptions tend to be very brief and vague, but over the years, we have identified several "red flags." Here are a few examples:
  • The words "non-linear" time frame.
  • Any film described as surreal, haunting or macabre.
  • Or this actual excerpt from one of this year's film descriptions;  "From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes S-VHS, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore." No thanks!
  • Any film starring Ashton Kutcher.
That being said, we did use five of our ticket-buying time slots to purchase a total of 59 individual tickets to 19 different movies. A couple that I am excited to see include: Mother of George, which tries to paint a true portrait of the African immigrant life; In a World, a comedy about a voice-over artist struggling to find her voice despite having a father who's the best in the business; and When I Walk, where a documentary film maker chronicles his fight with MS. With 19 movies, I'm sure there will be some duds and some delights. Wi-Fi permitting, I will share photos, highlights and movie reviews throughout the festival. Oh, and I'm hoping to have at least one close encounter with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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