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  • Writer's pictureElla Madden

My Experience With Sundance Online

Another year, another film festival. While I was not able to go to Park City this year, Park City came to me, with the Sundance Film Festival moving online this year.

As years have gone by, Sundance has gotten more and more star studded. Some of last year’s notable guests were Taylor Swift and her legion of fans who had no idea what Sundance even was until her documentary, Miss Americana was announced and thought they could get in easy-peasy, Now, the festival is the most inclusive and open it has ever been. I was able to score some tickets to two premieres this weekend, How It Ends directed by Zoe Lister Jones and Daryl Wein, and Mayday directed by Karen Cironne.

First off, I will answer the obvious: How It Ends was indeed jam-packed with It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia cameos. Second, the online format was actually incredibly easy to navigate.

I tried (and failed) to wiggle my way into an online version of the Toronto International Film Festival this year, probably because I missed tickets and was a 17 year old high schooler with little to no knowledge of how film festivals worked other than reading loads of commentary on Twitter. However, once I heard Sundance moved online, I swore to myself I would get tickets and maybe achieve some mild letterboxd fame (and possibly also some bragging rights as Sundance still remained fairly exclusive this year).

Buying tickets online is still like any other online ticket platform. However, film festivals tend to be really overwhelming. There’s a lot of options to choose from, like how many movies you want to see, what passes you want to buy, etc., also taking into consideration time zones and when the movies are available to watch. Do some research before tickets and passes are on sale. See how many movies you actually want to see, and decide if that amount is worth buying a pass or individual tickets. I only bought individual tickets to 2 shows, because I am a student with a ton of homework. So I can’t exactly be watching a movie at 10 am in class or super late at night. Going in with a clear vision of what you want to see and planning beforehand helps so much.

In the three or four weeks in between ticket buying and the film showings, I looked up ways to watch the movies and set up my tech beforehand. Sundance only lets you sign into your account on one Apple TV, Fire TV, etc., although you can access your account online on multiple computers. In order to submit questions for the Q&A after the film you also had to be on your computer and in the waiting room before the film begins. I’m sure film festivals this year will be following some sort of model based on this.

For the actual film watching, my experience was great. I watched How It Ends on my TV with a Fire Stick, and Mayday on my laptop. The quality of the films were both great. Mayday is such a gorgeous film that it made my laptop feel like a cinema. How It Ends was also in good quality on my TV, and my FireStick or my laptop didn’t have any lags, glitches, or Wifi issues. Sundance does have a watermark with your email on it to prevent piracy and leaks that will pop up every few minutes but you can hardly notice it. I’ll most likely wait until a theatrical or streaming release for How It Ends and Mayday to publish full reviews on them.

How It Ends was written and shot during the pandemic, and it’s obvious. Nearly the whole movie takes place outside, with characters rarely ever touching each other physically, and the overarching themes are of the world ending, staying together, and cherishing each moment. But there’s a beautiful thing about this pandemic movie: it’s not about the actual pandemic. It’s like a little memento of the past year and everything we’ve been feeling, but in a funny, innovative way. Sure, it has a lot of cameos and can be too quirky and indie for its own good at times, but it’s a really fun and enjoyable time. I watched this one with both of my parents who are both fans of Life In Pieces.

Mayday, as I said earlier, is visually stunning with an amazing score to boot. While the premise of a young woman getting magically whisked away to a remote island to join an all-female army certainly seems action packed, the movie is far more quiet and understated than I thought it would be. Grace Van Patten and Mia Goth give great performances, and the film overall is such an amazing experience. I found the story fairly easy to follow along with as well for such a bold film. I really hope theaters are fully open for this one to release, because I am dying to see it again on a big screen.

Sundance may be over, but truth be told, we have so many more film festivals and 2021 releases to look forward to. I for one cannot wait to keep watching more films this year. I know it’s selfish to think, but I’m gonna be a college student the next few years and really want to keep experiencing Sundance, so can we keep it like this for a hot minute? Until I become financially stable enough to fly to Park City every year?

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