Sundance Cancels Plans for New Frontier Program at 2023 Competition

The pageant can even not host digital social environments because it returns to in-person experiences, however the way forward for New Frontier is unclear.

Sundance has canceled plans for its New Frontier program on the 2023 pageant, the boundary-pushing part that has showcased experimental new works for 15 years. Throughout that point, New Frontier anticipated industry-wide curiosity within the metaverse and different rising applied sciences whereas catalyzing the curation of creativity in VR and AR at festivals world wide.

The 2023 pageant additionally won’t host its digital social area or the web venue referred to as The Spaceship, the place badgeholders can work together as avatars and watch showcased works.

Because the pageant prepares to carry its first in-person version in two years, New Frontier was by no means a part of these in-person plans. As a substitute, the pageant deliberate it as an solely digital occasion and has been accepting submissions for months. In October, artists who submitted initiatives acquired a discover from New Frontier chief curator Shari Frilot informing them that they’d be reimbursed for submission charges.

“We wish to let that New Frontier is presently selecting to take time to mirror upon the wealthy learnings gained over the previous two years as we consider the shifts within the media panorama to grasp how greatest to serve our group of artists and our audiences,” Frilot wrote. “Accordingly, we won’t provide an exhibition for this 12 months’s Competition.”

The word, which additionally went to the New Frontier alumni group, advised that this system can be reinvented. “We deeply respect your understanding and willingness to carry area for this era of reimagination,” Frilot wrote. “As all the time, we purpose to proceed to spend money on, and have interaction with, our inventive group, and we hope that you may be open to hitch us in dialogue and collaboration throughout this era of incubation and reimagination.”

A Sundance consultant mentioned the backtracking is unrelated to price range cuts. Frilot, who had no additional remark, has been touring to different festivals in current months to evaluate the emerging-media group. After establishing herself as a filmmaker within the early ’90s, Frilot joined Sundance within the early aughts and launched the New Frontier program on the pageant in 2007. At the moment, it was referred to as “New Frontier on Essential” and targeted on digital set up work. Over time, it integrated a variety of  works that embody reside performances and interactive experiences in addition to digital actuality initiatives.

The 2012 presentation of recent media artist Nonny de la Peña’s “Starvation in Los Angeles” impressed her intern, Palmer Fortunate, to create a prototype for the Oculus Rift headset, which was finally acquired by Fb for $1 billion and laid the muse for the longer term route of the corporate, now referred to as Meta. By 2016, New Frontier showcased greater than 30 VR initiatives. It additionally launched the New Frontier lab program, which helped develop initiatives in new media from established filmmakers resembling Roger Ross Williams and Josephine Decker. (The lab program was scuttled in 2021 amid different pandemic-related cutbacks.)

The {industry} impression of New Frontier programming led main expertise firms resembling Google and Intel to scout for expertise at Sundance, not in contrast to the best way brokers uncover rising filmmakers. Nonetheless, Frilot instructed IndieWire in January that she was reticent to let this system change into too commercialized.

“I’ve seen loads of works and applied sciences being purchased by firms,” she mentioned. “Generally, that makes me unhappy. I’ve undoubtedly seen filmmakers make their first characteristic after which they climb up and get chewed up within the studio system, and also you see the identical factor occurring with New Frontier visions who create these miraculous improvements in storytelling. It turns them into workhorses.”

Whereas it by no means generated as a lot media consideration because the extra acquainted points of Sundance programming, New Frontier turned a launchpad in its personal proper. Former filmmaker Chris Milk credited Frilot with validating his early VR work earlier than he made a transfer into the product area and developed the extremely worthwhile VR exercise app Supernatural (Meta initially acquired the app for $400 million earlier than the Federal Commerce Fee blocked the deal in July).

Different New Frontier initiatives that discovered their footing embody Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s and a number of other reside interactive documentary works from celebrated filmmaker Sam Inexperienced, whose “32 Sounds” opened the part this 12 months. “I really feel prefer it’s in some ways the inventive coronary heart of the pageant,” Inexperienced wrote IndieWire by e mail. “New Frontier undoubtedly rose to the event the previous two years — 2021 and 2022 — when the pageant principally was New Frontiers!”

A still from 7 Pounds by Sam Green, an official selection of the New Frontier program at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Sam Inexperienced’s “32 Sounds”


Like others in the neighborhood, he heard from Frilot concerning the choice. “I completely assist her in taking a pause in the beginning ‘goes again to regular,’” he wrote. “The world and the movie panorama have modified profoundly, and I feel what Shari desires to do is to take a few deep breaths and work out what a post-pandemic New Frontiers ought to seem like. I’ll miss it this 12 months however am excited to see what it’s going to change into. … I’m certain no matter Shari goals up as the following iteration of New Frontier will probably be dazzling and sensible and important.”

Initiatives that angled for a New Frontier launch might flip to among the different new media applications at festivals like SXSW and Venice. Even Cannes has felt the consequences of Sundance’s VR programming, as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s VR work “Carne y Area” (impressed partly by de la Peña’s work) premiered at Cannes in 2017. The pageant’s Marché du Movie launched Cannes XR in 2019, and its director, Guillaume Esmiol, took over planning for your entire Cannes market this 12 months. All of these developments hint again to New Frontier.

Whereas Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg struggles to make his firm a number one entity of the metaverse, New Frontier created a dependable area for the incubation of recent applied sciences, no matter how the enterprise behaves.

The scuttling of the New Frontier digital program falls in keeping with selections by a number of main festivals to maneuver away from unique on-line choices. Along with ending its 3D social hub and The Spaceship, Sundance will not host Zoom-based rooms created by the social platform OhYay; that firm introduced over the summer time it might shut down on the finish of the 12 months.

Not like festivals resembling Toronto and New York, Sundance will keep digital entry to its movie program. Whereas the majority of the lineup will obtain unique in-person screenings through the first weekend, the complete competitors program will probably be obtainable on-line to badgeholders and ticket consumers beginning January 24. On the 2021 pageant, Sundance reported that viewership was practically 3 times larger than it was on the 2020 bodily version, with 600,000 viewers views throughout 50 U.S. states and 120 international locations. Up to now two years, a $25 Explorers move supplied attendees with entry to New Frontier; in 2023, it’s going to solely present on-line entry to the shorts and episodic applications.

In January, VR filmmaker Lynette Wallworth spoke to IndieWire concerning the impression of New Frontier on her profession after she was chosen for a VR residency in 2016. “What Shari was making an attempt to do was to deliver artists collectively so we might proceed a trajectory that may not in any other case exist,” she mentioned. “It’s a seamless difficulty of this subject, the variety round who’s truly creating and experiencing the expertise. That’s why I’m so wedded to Sundance by way of what they assist.”

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