Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Sundance Film Festival Diaries
The Process, The Awards

by R.J. Millard

As the number of films that get "picked up" at Sundance increases (22 films in '96) and as " rights fights" become more and more heated (see "Shine" and "The Spitfire Grill"), the pressure to find the biggest new films increases. This year the Sundance Film Festival received over 800 feature length films for the Independent Feature Film Competition and American Spectrum. Of those, 16-18 Documentary and 16-18 Dramatic films will be selected for the Competition and 20 films will be selected for Spectrum.

Each film submitted is shown to at least two festival programmers or members of the selection committee, comprised of film industry professionals. The film is then judged on development, production, and artistry. If the film makes the final cut, it is placed into the Competition or Spectrum to be screened at the festival. A panel of judges will vote to determine the best films of the festival. The best overall film will be awarded the Grand Jury Prize. Past winners include "Welcome to the Dollhouse," "The Brothers McMullen," "Crumb," "SilverLake Life," "Ruby in Paradise," and "Paris is Burning."

Additional prizes are awarded by the jury for Excellence in Cinematography, the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award to a dramatic film, and the Freedom of Expression Award to a documentary film. Audience members and filmmakers are also given the chance to vote for their favorites with the Audience Award and the Filmmakers Trophy, respectively.

The '97 festival will inaugurate the Directing Award, sponsored by the DGA, to honor outstanding achievement in directing.

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