Halloween decorations have been up for weeks, though October just arrived, and you can even see tentative hints that Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the way, though November and December seem a long way off to most of us.
But if you think public relations for those events begin early, how about the Sundance Film Festival?The annual Park City movie trek won't be here until Jan. 17, but already festival promoters are trumpeting the news that a number of changes are in store:
- Most obvious, of course, is the new name, which was announced at the end of the January 1990 festival - The Sundance Film Festival, dropping "United States" from its title.
- The festival will run Jan. 17-27, adding a day of programming. The opening night premiere will be on Thursday, Jan. 17, rather than the traditional Friday, and will continue over the next two weekends.
- A new award will be on hand for the independent film competition. In addition to the grand jury prizes, the cinematographer awards and the audience awards for dramatic and documentary entries, prizes will be given for screenwriting.
- For the first time since the initial move to Park City in 1981, there will be selected screenings in Salt Lake City during the week of the festival.
- There will be midnight movies for those who have had it with parties and wish to take in unique late-night cinematic offerings.
- The number of films shown at Sundance during the festival will be increased.
- Some seminars will be geared to the general public rather than all of them being insider discussions for filmmakers.
"We're doing a lot of different things," says program director Geoff Gilmore. "The changes are significant but not dramatic."
Gilmore himself is another addition, replacing Tony Safford, who departed after the January festival to become a vice president at New Line Cinema.
As the head of film and television programming for the UCLA archives for the past 10 years, Gilmore has programmed 800 to 900 films and 4,000 to 5,000 television programs a year, ranging from independent to mainstream productions. He has also consulted for a number of film festivals, including Los Angeles, Hawaii, San Francisco, Berlin and Venice, among others.
"The Sundance Film Festival is a wonderful festival," Gilmore said during an interview in the Salt Lake offices of the Sundance Institute. "It has an exceedingly good reputation and it is certainly one of the five most important festivals in the United States. It is the major film festival for American independent cinema."
He has been with the Sundance Institute since April and he will be involved in various programs there, but his primary function is to work with competition programmer Alberto Garcia in setting up the independent competition for the festival and to work on "sidebar" events. All of which he sees as very much a hands-on position.
"Last year Al did the competition with Tony's cooperation and I'm working with him essentially in the same way, perhaps a bit more than what Tony did. I'll probably see more films than Tony did.
"It's a supervision kind of relationship, programming and slotting the sidebars, working with Cinda (Holt, festival director) in terms of talking and planning the administrative aspects of the festival. I've been an administrator for many years. I'm not one to see the films, present the schedule and walk away from it - more the opposite."
Though institute events are held at Sundance in Provo Canyon and the festival is in Park City each year, Gilmore will be headquartered at the institute's Los Angeles office.
"It's pretty difficult to program out of here (Salt Lake City), just in terms of the range of people that come through (Los Angeles) and the range of things you can see there, it really is the film capital."
The festival changes are quite subtle, Gilmore says, but he feels they will have quite an impact on the festival in terms of variety and convenience.
"In some ways it's been a four-day festival repeated twice, the first half less populated than the last half. We're trying to deal with that by extending the programming and moving opening night to Thursday - I can't think of another major film festival that starts on Friday night. It will give people an opportunity to get up for another full day of programming."
The structure of the festival is pretty much the same, however, with half being devoted to competition films and half to sidebar programs.
Among events secured for the '91 festival thus far are:
- A tribute to director Robert Altman, to include a retrospective of his films ("Nashville," "M*A*S*H," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"), recent TV productions ("Tanner '88," written by "Doonesbury's" Garry Trudeau) and the Utah premiere of his latest film, "Vincent and Theo," about Vincent van Gogh.
- A tribute to the late Michael Powell, the influential British director who died this year, best known for "The Red Shoes." Gilmore says, "His work was almost ahead of its time - it's almost still ahead of its time - the kind of experimental work he did that was full of luxuriant images, really beautiful."
- A program of new Japanese cinema. "It's quite accomplished, a range of different things that are coming out of Japanese culture today."
- New and recent Mexican films will be the focus of a "small, but interesting program."
- Other international films will also be shown, including work by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, whose "Ariel" just opened in New York.
And Gilmore said he hopes to have Robert Redford at the festival this year as the 10th anniversary of the Sundance Institute is celebrated. "Redford will be there if he's not involved in a film." (Last year during the festival Redford was in the Dominican Republic shooting "Havana," scheduled for release this Christmas.)
The Sundance Film Festival is one of the few that industry insiders attend in significant numbers, Gilmore said, adding that he hopes Utah audiences will continue to embrace it as well.
"It's a film festival where I hope people will make discoveries."