For those who couldn't make the festival, or who didn't get around to reading this year's awesome program, here's a re-print of my article.
Ever since Sex, Lies and Videotape, scored a big distribution deal at Robert Redford's little pet project in Park City in 1989, the term "Industry," when related to film festivals, has come to mean one thing – distribution. Yes, there is currently an argument that distributors aren't as important as they used to be, given online video on demand, etc. etc., blah, blah, blah.
I would never make that argument. One need only see the thousands of unfiltered submissions to Dances With Films to know that gatekeepers play a vital role in the arts. You as the audience do not want to be exposed to the dirt from which the gems are uncovered, believe me!
But something is lost when "The Industry" only includes distributors. At Dances With Films we know that not every movie screened here is ready for a wide, commercial distribution, but there is something about each movie – be it the direction, the cast, the photography, the script, the production value, something about each of these films that stands out above the rest.
When you watch Less and you realize that actors Zak Barnett and Rebecca Noon have you believing in an impossible love, and that Gabriel Diamond's words are pitch-perfect, then you'll know what I'm talking about. When you discover Jeff Gill, Adam Soule and actor-techie Gary Henoch in The Aristocrat – which also as fantastic dialogue – then you'll feel pride in the discovery you made.
When you see Charlie Anderson's photography in Close-Up you'll want to hire him for your next film. When you see the kids Caitlin Kinnunen and Joseph Montes in Sweet Little Lies, you won't be able to stop grinning. Evald Johnson's agile comedy in Stan will have you pulling for the everyman.
The cast and script of The Corridor. The comedy of Hopelessly in June. The smokin' hot intellectual erotica of Mortem, along with the talent of their cast. The "OMG, I just saw what kids'll be into in the next two years" feeling of Night of the Alien.
Zack Parker's twists and turns in Scalene. Jamie Greenberg's mastery of comedy in Stags. The warmth of Love's Kitchen. The camp of Millennium Bug.
And that's just SOME of the features. Never mind the heart wrenching importance of docs like Certain Proof, or the cavalcade of talent in the shorts programs. I could go on and on.
For those of us in this business, the point is not so much to hit it big with one movie, but to keep working. In order for that to happen, casting directors, development executives, below-the-line agents, production houses, production executives, and yes, distributors of narratives and documentaries need to see our work. A discovery festival like DWF is a great place for that to happen. So, let's get away from this idea that The Industry means distributors alone. Let's remember; success can be a Director of Photography getting a job that pays, or a writer being hired to punch up some dialogue, or an actor that gets a more visible role.
Giant steps are great, but they come once a decade or so. If we take human-sized steps, we can cover that ground just as fast.