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So... Sundance Didn't Select Your Film; We'd Like To Get To Know You. Introduce Yourself & Your Work

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 30, 2011 10:22 PM
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I did this each of the last 2 years, and I figured I'd make it an annual thing; especially as awareness of S&A continues to broaden. There were no takers when I posted this in 2010 and 2009, but maybe someone (or some people) will bite in 2011... or maybe not.

The title says it all... the 2012 Sundance Film Festival US/world dramatic/documentary competition titles were announced earlier today, with selections from other categories still to be announced in coming days. Regardless, those who submitted their films for consideration should already know whether or not they're in.

And if you're one of the many thousand filmmakers whose films (shorts or features) were rejected by the 2012 Sundance selection committee, don't fret; as I'm sure you know, despite how influential that top-tier festival is, it is the first of the year, and there will be a few other industry-relevant film festivals for you to consider, throughout 2012.

Of interest to those of us on this blog are films by and/or about people of African descent. So, if you or your film fit the bill, and we've never written about either before, I'd love to hear from you! Maybe there's some way S&A can aid in raising awareness for your film... even if it's something as simple as just profiling it on this blog.

At the very least, it'll be great just to know you exist, so we can become familiar with you and your work, and track from hereon.

So, if you agree, feel free to send me an email to, with all the vitals about you and your film, and we'll go from there.

Good luck to everyone!

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  • AO | December 4, 2011 2:38 AMReply

    For those who didn't make it into Sundance, if you hurry, you may be able to get into the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in February. They are celebrating their 20th Anniversary and are the largest film festival in the US dedicated to showcasing films made by and/or about people of African descent. Check it out at Although the deadline has past, they are flexible when it comes to good work. But please don't send them any blank dvds.

  • Donnie Leapheart | December 1, 2011 2:48 PMReply

    Conspiracy theories aside, I think most of the larger festivals make selections not just based on merit. I believe that from a programming perspective, they select films based on buzz, marketing draw and exclusivity. "Who's in it?" will always be a factor as having recognizable faces helps expensive festival ticket sales. But its all a business, so its understandable. CONSPIRACY SIDE NOTE: I do kinda feel like many festivals already have "faves" locked in for at least half of their slots from the beginning of calls for submissions (based on trade news and buzz). So for Sundance there may have really only been 8 Dramatic Competition slots available for submission fee hopefuls. Its both funny and sad that so many people KILL themselves to get their films ready for the deadline but they may never even be considered at all.

  • JB | December 1, 2011 12:33 PMReply

    If I was running a festival and you sent a blank DVD in to me I'd think you were a moron and reject you too.

  • Ash | December 1, 2011 1:01 PM

    That's what I was thinking too. If I worked there and I received a blank DVD, I'd think "If you can't even take the time to make sure there is an actual movie on the DVD you sent, you've made it easy for me to immediately reject it". Why should they care if they can't watch your DVD that you didn't even make sure was working when there are 1,000 other movies that are?

  • Trent | December 1, 2011 11:42 AMReply

    The dirty little secret is that Sundance does not watch all their submissions. This year 17 of us sent blank DVDs for the early deadline. Not one of us received a notification that Sundance could not watch the DVD. However, we all got our rejection emails yesterday. The rumors have always been unless you/ anyone involved in your project has a Sundance in than your project doesn't even get watched.

  • Quentin | December 1, 2011 2:09 PM

    @ SISTA TOLDJA (love the name) TRENT did it as a joke I'm assuming. It wasn't a mistake. At least I would like to think sending blank DVD's was intentional.

    Also, Dee Rees did have an in: NYU and her short film "Pariah" (it didn't hurt that she just got off an internship on Spike Lee's "Inside Man" prior to making the film). She then masterfully made it into a feature length screenplay that, because of the short film's success, was accepted into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. From there, everything is pretty much gravy. She had to work but the Labs are almost guaranteed. After doing the Lab, your film have to not be ready in time for the Sundance deadlines or had to be completely unsatisfactory to NOT get into the film festival.

    I think it is a combination of work and an "in." Take it from me when I tell you this. However, I could point out a few on this years list that probably had more of an "in" than work ethic.

  • Sista Toldja | December 1, 2011 1:12 PM

    Yeah, Trent, that doesn't prove anything. I've worked TriBeCa Film Festival and they, like Sundance, have a low tolerance for stupidity. They will lose all respect for a filmmaker they "perceive" didn't take 10 min out of their miserable life to put their film on a flash drive, or triple check the DVD. THAT is what really happens, but the conspiracy theory would make a great Michael Moore flick. Oh, by the way genius, I highly doubt that Dee Rees or her team had an "in" to get into Sundance. She got there by busting her ASS like the rest of the submissions!

  • darkan | December 1, 2011 12:34 PM

    Good to know. I''ll be looking out to see if you guys have done a documentary exposing that. Explains alot. Thanks.

  • bryan | December 1, 2011 10:01 AMReply

    'anonymous' your numbers are very flawed. While there are only 16 us dramatic competition films, a film submitted to sundance is considered for non-competition categories too. for dramatic films the acceptance rate is almost 3%. You ignored Next, Premieres, Midnight, New Frontiers sections of the festival program. And from 2011, all 16 us dramatic films got distribution deals.

  • Anonymous | December 1, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    In 2010, 1,102 films applied to Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition. 16 films
    were selected. 14 of these films signed a distribution deal. 1.3% of the submitted films in 2011
    found a distributor. The application fee is $45.00

  • Donnie Leapheart | November 30, 2011 11:35 PMReply

    Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever done the math:
    Submission Fee + Total Films Rejected = $$$,$$$.$$

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