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
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
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
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
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.’