Rushfield: The Bela-Scott Shuffle at 6900 Feet
Postcards from Sundance! The mood, movies and processing the big news from back home
Sundance is back!
In many ways, it feels like Sundance has regressed to its primordial state — pre-Sex, Lies and Videotape, when it was still the U.S. Film Festival featuring noble, salt-of-the-earth filmmakers doing earnest features about Important and Overlooked Topics, while theatrical releases from the sector that made $2 million were considered wild, runaway success stories.
If you read the transcript of the opening day press conference, that's where you'd think you were anyway. The big news out of the conference was that Redford would not be attending this year. The meaning of that was left for Redfordologists to decipher. Still he was there in spirit, with festival bigwigs talking lots about underserved communities, neglected stories — all good — but, as always, precious little lip service on advancing filmmaking and finding pathways for independent films to reach large audiences. And make money.
As if to illustrate that point, about halfway through the conference, texts lit up with the news about the (cue trumpets) Netflix leadership shake-up. The contrast between the Sundance aerie and the reality of the modern day entertainment industrial complex couldn't have been starker as the festival officials on stage continued to tout their venerable offerings and the reporters in the audience toggled between texts and Slacks about the Netflix news.
The most glaring question mark: the elevations of Bela Bajaria and Scott Stuber seemed, at first glance, to be just grander titles with the same responsibilities.
Messages from Netflix employees and the Netflix-affiliated soon indicated however that internally the announcement had included the news that Film Boss Scott (new title: Chairman of Netflix Films) would now be reporting to TV Boss Bela — now Chief Content Officer (a title to make the faithful of Sundance tremble).
As reporters reached out in the hours that followed, Netflix refused to comment on any reporting structure, as is their policy on reporting structure questions.
Yet, a few early thoughts flying around Park City from the news: