I’ve been a Programming Associate for the Sundance Film Festival since 2005, focusing on US Documentary Features. With the programming cycle for the 2011 festival (January 20-30) beginning, it seems like a good idea to remind filmmakers about submission deadlines and other information, if you’re aiming to have your work considered.
First of all, the staff has prepared a very comprehensive downloadable FAQ that every filmmaker should review closely before submitting. It reviews everything from submission categories, eligibility, and when/if premiere status matters, to what materials you should/shouldn’t include in your submission package and how to label your disk.
Second, if you decide you are ready to submit, make sure to check out the various submission deadlines – the early deadline for documentary and narrative features and shorts is coming up August 16.
Third, since all Sundance submissions must go through Withoutabox, access the 2011 Sundance Application and either log in with your Withoutabox account, or start the process to set up an account there as you submit your film.
Finally, a special note: Many filmmakers in production use the Sundance deadlines as their own deadlines – and that works for a lot of people, but not for everyone. Of course, a potential world premiere at Sundance is attractive to a lot of filmmakers, and Sundance is dedicated to discovering engaging and exciting new independent films. So, by all means, if you have a cut of your film that you’re happy with by the final Sundance submission deadline, send it in. If, however, you’re considering submitting something far too rough or incomplete just to make the deadline, take a step back: it may not be the best idea to make your first impression with a cut you are not happy with. While film festival programmers are able to fill in a lot of gaps and see the potential in the numerous rough cuts we review each year, we’re not psychic. You could be doing a grave disservice to yourself, your collaborators, and your film to send it out for judgement before it’s really ready. Remember: Sundance will likely receive close to 10,000 submissions this year, so you should give your film the best chance to make an impression. You might be better served to wait, give yourself the time you need to finish your project properly, and submit it to one of the other great festivals out there, or even, if it makes sense for your project, to wait until the following year’s Sundance deadline.