17 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- Digital coverage of the Sundance Film Festival has reached new heights this year, with a new YouTube Sundance Channel Video Blog Festival, shorts for sale on iTunes, official blogs from the network and fest sponsors, an avatar community on Second Life, offerings from MySpace and countless independent Web sites covering the fest.

Through its first collaboration with the Sundance Channel, YouTube will post daily videos from Four Eyed Monsters directors Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, who developed their autobiographical feature after meeting online. The pair will interview filmmakers and travel to screenings, panels and parties around Park City.

"They provide a unique perspective of Sundance as filmmakers and chronicle from the festivalgoer perspective as well," said Christopher Barry, vp digital media and business strategy at the Sundance Channel.

Another unique new venture taken by Sundance Channel is creating an "island" on Second Life, a virtual environment where computer users engage with each other as Sims-style avatars. After downloading the free Second Life software and registering, visitors can attend screenings and virtual parties.

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Lynn Hershman-Leeson will host an invitation-only screening of her ecological docu feature Strange Culture, co-hosted by an online avatar of Tilda Swinton, on her own Neware island. A limited number of Second Life members can attend a Q&A about the film, hosted by notable community avatars, Jan. 22. The film premieres in actual reality Friday at Sundance.

Hershman-Leeson said the idea came shortly after Sundance programr Shari Frilot let her know Culture was accepted at the fest. "She's involved in New Frontiers, which specializes in new technology and experimental cinema," Hershman-Leeson said. "Sundance is one of the only festivals that really acknowledges the shifts in nontraditional filmmaking."

John Cooper, who has led Sundance in new directions as director of programming, looked to filmmakers to see what was next for the festival. "They wanted to sell their films and brand them as Sundance," he said. "There's so much content out there that it creates such a need for a filter."

This led to a deal with the fest and channel to sell 32 short films at Apple's iTunes Store for $1.99 each. The films also will stream for free on Sundance's Web site along with 14 others from this year's selection.

Along with bringing Sundance films to people's homes, the Web offers a multitude of ways for anyone to get an insider's view.

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