Buy My Shorts!

PARK CITY, Jan 18. This year, the citizens of cyberspace will have it one up on those of us actually attending the Festival. Not only will they be able to stream (for free) the same shorts we pay money to see, but they will able to buy short films if the spirit moves them. Starting on January 22, you can click on iTunes, plunk down $1.99, and download a short to play on your computer or ipod. For the more frugal, go to

Sundance Festival [] site, and then click on “Watch” page.


For Director of Programming John Cooper this development has larger implications than just extending the festival into cyberspace. Cooper remembers last year, “I asked filmmakers, “We streamed your film, so now where do you think this should be going?” Their response was: “We need to sell online. There has never been one successful model for monetizing shorts. Personally, I would love it if a short filmmaker could make enough money to live for a year.”

While it is doubtful that filmmakers will be retiring anytime soon from their iTunes profits, this project could push the public and filmmakers to take shorts more seriously. For consumers, it proposes a model for making a short film a discrete commodity. For filmmakers, it assigns a new responsibility. Of the 71 short films, only 46 will be streamed, and only 32 of those 46 will be on iTunes. While some filmmakers simply opted out, most were ineligible to participate because they hadn’t cleared all rights, an oversight that short filmmakers might take more seriously in the future.

Still: CUBS

Shorts won’t be the only things online. Associate Programmer Joseph Beyer, who handles the online section, produced a series of “Meet the Filmmaker” video segments. “We have done it for three years, but this year we really pushed to capture every filmmaker from both sides of the competition.” Shot in conjunction with Sundance Channel, the video segments provide, among other things, a sense of familiarity with this year’s new filmmakers.

In addition, the “Live@Sundance” section provides a cyber-portal for those wanting to see the Festival in action (including a webcast of the Awards Ceremony. And finally, many of the panels will be podcasted, a feature that holds a lot more public interest that the online staff originally imagined. Beyer remembers, “we were shocked last year when a panel with Wim Wenders and Sam Sheppard [] was picked up by 25,000 listeners, and started showing up all over the web.”

While the online section might appear like a virtual sideshow, for many it’s the real thing. By Beyer’s calculations, “If every single person in Park City came to a short, that would be about 45,000 to 50,000 viewers, but many of the online shorts had 200,000.” And the effect on any one viewer can be profound. “A 16 year-old kid in Thailand,” Beyer relates, “wrote Redford to tell him that after having seen all the shorts online he knew that this is what he wanted to do.”

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine