Flipping the Script: Sundance Film Festival Goes Online

Noted as a milestone in the careers of industry legends like Wes Anderson, Lulu Wang and Quentin Tarantino, Sundance Film Festival typically unites filmmakers, next-gen storytellers and entertainment leaders every January in Park City, Utah. It’s an annual celebration of creativity, and also the spot where industry-breaking bidding begins for some of the most sought-after independent movies of the year.

But with the pandemic cancelling festivals, gatherings and other events, the Sundance Institute knew they had to rethink their strategy for the 2021 event held earlier this year.

Leading the way

The entertainment industry is no stranger to digital transformation, with some of the biggest shifts in how we create, manage and consume music, movies and books taking place in the last decade. For the Institute, pivoting from a typical in-person event to a virtual festival presented new opportunities for the team – but also brought unique complexities and considerations.

These ranged from logistical elements such as content security and copyright concerns and technological considerations, right through to the most important elements of a festival experience – audience engagement and content sharing and viewing. And as one of the most-renowned film festivals with a rich history dating back to 1985, other organizations were looking to Sundance to create a blueprint for how to capture the essence of these key industry moments and bring them to life via online experiences.

Going into production

Technology has played a huge part in the planning and execution of the film festival, and since 2019, Dell Technologies has proudly partnered with Sundance Institute to modernize their technology infrastructure and power the entire event. This year was no different, and despite the limited timelines and the need to create an online experience from scratch, our teams collaborated to create an engaging, accessible, and fun online Sundance Festival.

“If there was ever a year that illustrated the interdependence of Sundance Institute, the film world, the arts world, the nonprofit and technology, this was it. We are so grateful to Dell for being our partner, for being part of the journey,”  Keri Putnam, Former CEO of the Sundance Institute, said.

Breaking barriers and records

According to the Sundance Institute, moving to a digital-first seven-day festival reached a total audience 2.7 times larger than at the typical 11-day Utah in-person edition, despite the shorter duration and with fewer feature films (73) than the festival’s typical 120 features.

The Sundance 2021 Film Festival not only broke audience records for the Institute – it also reinforced power of technology in making the festival content more assessable for online movie fans across 50 states and 120 countries. Details will soon be shared for the Institutes’ plans for the next Sundance Film Festival, but we are excited to be along for the ride again in 2022!

After all, Dell Technologies is committed to helping our media and entertainment customers bring their ideas to life – from blockbuster studios to indie filmmakers. With purpose-built solutions to meet the demanding needs of the rapidly advancing industry, we’re here for the storytellers, the creators and the innovators.

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