TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Sundance 2000 brings out the ladies, dot-coms and laptops

The Sundance Film Festival, held every year in Park City, UT, poses somewhat of a dilemma for PR pros. On one hand, unlike Cannes and most other film fests, Sundance purports to be about art rather than commerce.

The Sundance Film Festival, held every year in Park City, UT, poses somewhat of a dilemma for PR pros. On one hand, unlike Cannes and most other film fests, Sundance purports to be about art rather than commerce.

The Sundance Film Festival, held every year in Park City, UT, poses

somewhat of a dilemma for PR pros. On one hand, unlike Cannes and most

other film fests, Sundance purports to be about art rather than

commerce.



On the other hand, the main goal of filmmakers and their PR minions is

to get noticed, get launched and hopefully get bought - rendering most

’art first’ talk moot.



Unlike most festivals, Sundance juxtaposes works made by virtual

unknowns with those backed by the likes of Jodie Foster, Robert Altman

and Robert De Niro. The link is the budget: a very, very small one,

usually financed from credit cards and the goodwill of friends and

family.



The story out of Park City this year was women, shorts and dot-coms.



Female directors accounted for more than 40% of the dramatic and

premiere feature films, and their works were honored with top

prizes.



Among the big winners were Aiyana Elliott, who took home the Special

Grand Jury Prize for Artistic Achievement for The Ballad of Ramblin’

Jack Elliott. The story chronicles the life and times of her father,

folk-singing legend Jack Elliott, who is considered by some to have been

the bridge between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.



Though not a PR sensation on the scale of the Blair Witch Project

Sundance debut, Ramblin’ Jack owed part of its success to Henry Eshelman

of Baker Winokur Ryder PR.



According to Eshelman, who promoted the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize

winning film Slam, the challenge of Sundance is not just to get heard,

but to do so with flair.



Though attendance at the initial Ramblin’ Jack press screening was

lighter than he had hoped, Eshelman’s buzz-seeking campaign - bolstered

by live performances around town by the legend himself - made the film a

hot ticket, with all general screenings sold out. ’The film just became

known as one to see,’ he said. By week’s end, the two Elliots were being

trailed about town by CNN, VH-1 and other members of the media.



Another big PR splash was made by pop.com, a Web venture being tested at

Sundance by Steven Spielberg and a horde of A-list partners, including

Ron Howard.



Playing against the wholesome image of its key investors, the

soon-to-launch site threw a bash called ’LapDance.’ During it, ’CRAP

(Certified Renegade American Product) TV,’ which reportedly consisted of

downloadable short soft-core porn flicks hosted by drag queens, received

a lot of play.



Indeed, few argued that it provided the festival with its most inventive

use of the term ’laptop.’



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