Friday, October 10, 2014

How To Make The Perfect Sundance Film

That's right, by the time you finish reading this article you will be ready to dominate the Sundance scene.

Okay, not exactly. But Ted Hope (CEO of Fandor and author of Hope for Film) has shared his advice on how he got his films into Sundance.... all twenty-three of them. Not only that, but his films have won the Grand Jury prizes three times. That's the big kahuna of prizes at Sundance.

He even understands our modern short attention span and broke down his advice into 10 easy to follow steps. For extra measure, I've added pictures to extend your attention.

1. The protagonist

Center the story around an everyday person, someone the audience can identify with (not a wealthy or an evil type).

2. The plot

The protagonist needs to go through a serious arc, suffer hardship, and then come to some understanding that the audience didn’t expect.

3. Be bold

Show risk-taking in the filmmaking. Make it feel like it may all fall apart, but then save it at the last moment: People should say, “It’s bold.”

4. Be disciplined

If you can’t be bold, be disciplined. If it doesn’t fit the form, cut it out.

5. Own your aesthetic

Embrace, even flaunt, your aesthetic and the limits of your aesthetic. Don’t be ashamed of your limitations. Own your choices.

6. Engage bigger issues

The story has to be bigger than the movie itself and should deal with issues of either class conflict, gender conflict, sexual conflict, or other political issues. How do you comment on the world at large while still examining the minute and particular?

7. Cast

You need to cast a few stars or soon-to-be stars, so it should be an ensemble piece that covers generational conflict. You have the old-name actor you’re bringing back and the up-and-comer whom no one had seen yet, along with actors who can move from TV into feature films.

8. Shock value

It needs some moment of audacity, the kind of thing that people will talk about and that might even shock the uninitiated.

9. The right mix

Have a sense of humor about great tragedy— or find the tragedy in the hilarious. Embrace the cocktail; make it at least feel fresh.

10. Leave them wanting more

Shorter is better; 90 minutes is the new 120 (today, 80 is the new 90). No one ever says, "I wish it had been longer" when they leave the theater.

The following was an excerpt from Hope's new book, "Hope For Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions", also featured in a blog post on I found this post particularly interesting and insightful, and hopefully you find it helpful too as you write your new Sundance film :)

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