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THE SUNDANCE SCENE: Has the Sundance Film Festival succeeded in returning to its roots? Well, sort of. Founder Robert Redford has decried the emphasis on gift suites, rowdy parties and wannabe celebs. This year’s fest in Park City, Utah, which wraps on Sunday, premiered more than 100 independent features and documentaries, including a new category for low-budget projects.
But the economic downturn might have had the strongest impact on toning down the Tinseltown effect, with fewer logo-plastered storefronts, advertising lounges and swag suites.
“The economy, to be honest, has affected that,” said Katie Kennedy, Sundance’s associate director of corporate development. “But it’s also the efforts we make to protect our sponsors from competitors who use ambush and guerrilla marketing techniques.”
Although official sponsors include Timberland and L’Oréal, brands not affiliated with Sundance have found ways to integrate themselves into the festival, some more organically than others. On Jan. 23, Gucci staged dinner for 20 at the High West Distillery for recipients of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, whose films had premieres at the festival. The fund, now in its third year, annually provides grants totaling $100,000 to at least four filmmakers.
No film festival is ever devoid of parties, but Sundance staffers managed to relegate most of them to the commercially zoned Main Street in Old Town Park City. On Jan. 22, Seven For All Mankind teamed with Gen Art to host the third annual Seven Fresh Faces in Film event honoring rising stars Zoe Kazan, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Ferguson, Kevin Zegers, Shiloh Fernandez, Shawn Ashmore and Zoe Lister Jones.
“So many people come here just to gift product and they don’t really support the actors or the films,” said Seven For All Mankind president Topher Gaylord, who touched down for the party en route to opening the company’s first store in Beijing. “We support these up-and-comers because what they do is the ultimate creative expression, and we hope that the relationships we make here will continue what we do at home in Los Angeles.”
One of the busiest swag suites was the Fred Segal Fun “boutique,” near the festival headquarters, featuring vendors that sell in owner Jaclyne Brander’s Santa Monica, Calif., store. “I tell vendors they can get more press here in five days than they get in a year,” Brander said.
— Marcy Medina