No livestreaming at Sundance (huh?)

Besides the obvious and well-known films, Sundance Film Festival also includes panels at Filmmaker Lodge and special multi-media installations at New Frontier. Today I nearly missed out on a panel on indie film distribution at the Lodge because it was over-capacity. Luckily I was first in line, so when a few people left, I got in, missing only the first ten minutes.

While I was waiting, I checked in to Twitter on my iPhone to see if anyone in the audience—or if Sundance officially—happened to be livestreaming it. If so, I could just watch it there or go back to the condo and watch it on my laptop. Not only was it not livestreamed, but doing so is prohibited without the written permission of the Sundance Press Office.

Working in the theaters, part of my job is to keep an eye out for people recording the films during screenings. Some filmmakers even bring in night-vision goggles for this purpose and inform us if they see anyone. It’s not common, but has happened now and again over the years. This is to prevent piracy and is obvious and understandable.

The panels, on the other hand are public and free. Livestreaming would allow others to see them, even when they are full-up. There would be no loss of revenue for Sundance and, by including a global audience, would increase the value and reach of the Sundance brand. If the information in the panels is worth putting together in the first place, it’s worth spreading around as much as possible.

A few years ago, livestreaming was a fairly expensive and high-tech affair. Today, anyone with a smartphone and a streaming app (Ustream.tv seems to be the most common) can broadcast anything directly to the internet and save a recording for viewing later.

Coming from Occupy Oakland, where everything is livestreamed by multiple cameras, this ban on livestreaming of public, free events seems backwards. It’s almost amusing in light of this year’s New Frontier motto: “Future Normal: the integration of humanity and media technology.” Perhaps they should start with “present normal.” I truly can’t figure out what they are afraid of.

A big talk later in the day today, featuring Robert Redford and many other industry big wigs, was livestreamed on the Sundance site. So, why not the others? And if Sundance doesn’t have the resources, why not let all the citizen-streamers out there do it for them? These panels have been videotaped for as long as I’ve been coming to this festival (eight years), but those tapes have not been made accessible. That’s downright anachronistic in this day and age of Youtube instant uploads.

I put out some tweets today about the subject which were retweeted to some 10,000 people, many of whom are here at Sundance. Hopefully it’ll get someone’s attention. If you’re at all connected to people who might be at the festival or who are into film and would like to see these panels, consider putting it out on your Twitter. Just ask “Why doesn’t #Sundance allow livestreaming of panels? #anachronistic” Or something like that.

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