XR technology is changing the Sundance Film Festival for good.

This Year’s Sundance Film Festival is all-virtual.


This Year’s Sundance Film Festival is all virtual due to the spread of COVID-19.

It’s Sundance week, but few if any filmmakers or media pros are trekking to Park City, Utah. This Year’s Sundance Film Festival is all virtual due to the spread of COVID-19. Our smartphones are festival movie screens.

Sundance filmmakers and their fans may think that an all-digital Sundance is a one-time affair due to a health crisis. As an experienced Sundance reporter, I’m convinced that a virtual Sundance was inevitable. It’s been a steady build since I wrote the Fast Company article Live-Streaming Doc, “Life Itself” and The Evolution of Sundance and Crowdfunding Films, and the QUARTZ article This Year’s Sundance Film Festival uses your body as a movie screen.’

XR storytelling projects via the New Frontier program continue to transform Sundance into a virtual experience. Interactive works like the Dance Trail app, a virtual dance activation, and The Book of Distance, a family history activation from artist Randall Okita, introduce augmented reality storytelling to global audiences.

Satellite venues from the Sidewalk Film Center in Birmingham to Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum bring Sundance screenings to audiences outside Park City. Artists choose from various crowdfunding platforms to finance their movies and streaming platforms to connect with audiences. Virtual film markets and premieres are the remaining links in an all-digital Sundance journey.

‘All Light, Everywhere,’ an exploration of the growing impact of surveillance tech, debuts at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Year after year, as the festival’s VR cinema and media art programs grow, Sundance becomes more online and less onsite. The latest in XR tech and online event software looks to pivot the Sundance Festival into the virtual space for good.

A custom-built platform allows Sundance 2021 attendees to buy tickets and stream premieres similar to how we’ve been watching movies throughout the time of COVID-19.

Virtual attendees will experience panels and talks in the Festival Village and network at the Artist Lounge. The goal is to recreate virtually the experience of running into industry pals on Main Street and sharing festival buzz with fellow Sundance fans at a festival shuttle stop. After a year of online brainstorms and virtual summits, it’s exciting to watch Sundance Film Festival leaders complete the digital makeover and establish new benchmarks in interactive programming.

I know I’ll miss the in-person camaraderie of media colleagues and friends that launch their creative years at Sundance. Still, I value the growing accessibility of a virtual Sundance Film Festival with artists, audiences, and media pros sharing the same virtual spaces. A virtual Sundance is a sustainable festival that uses resources efficiently and provides affordable entry points for emerging filmmakers.

A virtual Sundance is also an opportunity to change the entertainment industry and impact how artists will build and share stories during and after COVID-19.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 20 to February 3, 2021. Click here to learn How to Fest and join the Sundance community.

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