This coming year's Sundance Film Festival will feature numerous panels in addition to the usual mix of films, new media and limos stuck trying to turn corners in the narrow streets of Park City. They usually announce the panels early in January, and tend to focus on things like creativity and distribution, but sometimes branch into other arenas of interest to the field. Here's one I'd like to see:
Indies, Levi's and Wal-Mart:
Indie filmmakers have always been desperate for cash, and increasingly there's talk of a new wallet in town - funding, partnerships and marketing support from brands. Shane Meadow's funded his entire feature film Somers Town through a partnership with Eurostar, and even little indies like Hunter Weeks have used branding partnerships to get their films made and seen. Branded entertainment is a buzz word, with some people suggesting it offers the perfect compliment - consumers/audiences getting content how they want it (free), filmmakers making a living and companies extending their brand. Even documentary filmmakers are now engaging with brands - with the Good Pitch leading the way. This could be great for everyone involved, but does it go against the "indie spirit" to which we're accustomed? What are the ethical issues to be debated? What are the best practices? How do I get in front of marketers? How do I protest this if I hate it? And is anyone actually getting their film made and seen this way? Come join a marketing executive from our major sponsor, Morgan Spurlock (whose film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is in the fest), Jess Search of the Good Pitch and a rep from AdBusters in debate about this emerging trend.
I'd go to that panel. I'd moderate it. I'd be interested in the debate. I am not against this practice either - as I've said elsewhere, I just think that as this trend continues, it would be good to have a discussion about it publicly - at one of the biggest film fests in the world (and one nearly synonymous with branding in the indie world). A quick aside though - actually, I hate panels. I'd prefer to see this as a debate between two people with a moderator, but you get the point.
Edit note - I added Morgan Spurlock's name after Sheri Candler reminded me that his film was in the fest, before I just said an indie filmmaker.