Festival

Sundance Film Festival

2012

Who You Calling Wack?

Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival

The honchos at Sony Pictures Classics may not be the most popular guys at Sundance. Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are not known for whipping out bulging wallets to buy and when they do make a deal, some say they don’t send movies into the world with a big enough push. (Last year, SPC’s purchases included THE WACKNESS and FROZEN RIVER).

But if some at Sundance have issues with Bernard, he has some issues with Sundance.

In the past, there have been complaints that Sundance has become too much of a Big Hollywood Thing, while true independents are marginalized. Bernard now feels there’s been an over-correction, and there aren’t enough splashy Hollywood movies in the mix. Starry films that already have distribution deals make Sundance a bigger event, he says, and that is good for everyone.

Another complaint: Sundance has not created a strong structure for deal-making. There’s no centralized office where people can meet and leave messages. “They want lots of business to be done but they don’t want to facilitate a situation that makes business easy to do,” he says.

Finally, he thinks too many filmmakers come into the festival at the mercy of over-committed sellers and publicists. “You’re seeing a lot of people who I refer to as carpet-baggers or middlemen, picking off people’s profits,” he says. The festival may claim to educate the filmmakers but “they’re pretty much at the mercy of the salespeople” who represent their films.

This year, Sony Pictures Classics has two films in the festival—both documentaries. Among some others that were turned away is one that Bernard likes a lot called SOUL POWER, about an historic R & B concert in Zaire in 1974.

Could that be the real problem with Sundance?