The Sundance Film Festival ranks near the top of my list of "events I never want to attend, ever," right between the Winter X Games and "The View: Live at Budokan." The artistes and auteurs, the flogging of obsessively branded vodka and sunglasses, the look-everybody-I'm-in-Sundance-and-Bob-Redford-(that's-what-friends-call-him-you-know)-sez-hi! hangers-on. ... Seriously, just sign me up for 10 days in a cold-war gulag or the Fenway bleachers instead.In the festival's wake, we're usually treated to reviews and recaps aplenty, not to mention an avalanche of uplifting films about sexual dysfunction. In recent years, cable's Sundance Channel has delivered semi-serious-minded video, while Entertainment Weekly and The Salt Lake Tribune, among others, have dutifully chronicled the collision of celebrity and commerce. That has always seemed more than enough, especially given how few of the festival's entries will actually be seen by the viewing public. Web standout
Alas, where there are celebrities in stylish winterwear, there are bored cubicle colonists willing to track their every gurgle. And so a wealth of online content has sprung up around this year's Sundance fest, which concludes on Sunday. Most of it is easily enough ignored -- if a toothy attention whore armed with a digital-video camcorder gets buried in a snow drift, does anyone notice? -- but one program caught my attention, by virtue of both its parentage and peculiarity: "24 Hours @ Sundance," an around-the-clock scavenger hunt of sorts that streamed in real time last weekend. The game charged five "social-media mavens" -- their description, not mine -- with a host of dopey tasks, ranging from collecting celebrity autographs to conducting faux red-carpet interviews. All of the adventures were documented and plopped onto the web; contestants earned points for each successful endeavor and the winner received a shiny virtual chalice, or something. Producers included mobile-video thingie Qik and Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Media, with Kutcher himself serving as co-host alongside Digg dude Kevin Rose. Result: annoying
Predictably, the end result was a big ol' heap of annoying, with the contestants trying way too hard to live up to the quirk of the premise. This might've been where "24 Hours" went astray: the aforementioned mix of oversharers and underthinkers fromKonsole Kingz (hip-hop gaming), Geek Entertainment TV(twitchy technology bits) and Nonsociety (your guess is as good as mine) seemed less interested in entertaining viewers than they did in promoting themselves. "Surreal Life"-level celebrities would've been a better choice for the assignment. Heaven knows they would've pimped themselves out cheaply for a chance to bask in the Sundance spotlight.
Also, even minimally adventurous marketers should want to ally themselves with content like "24 Hours." Not only will the placements come cheap, but they'll serve as their own best advocate: I don't think much of the "24 Hours" videos themselves, but I'm impressed by the audio and video quality of the handsets that were used to shoot them (Nokias? Er, this should probably have been made clearer). Several brands receive a nice rub from the project, including Nikon (the unfortunately named Coolpix cameras were used in several of the tasks) and Ray Ban (which hosted the festival's even more unfortunately named Ray Ban Rock Bar, featured in one of the activities). Maybe I've whiffed in devoting 800-odd words to web piffle like "24 Hours @ Sundance," given both its limited reach and the minimal effort that went into its creation. But as silly and half-assed as the first iteration of "24 Hours" may have been, on-the-fly web programming boasts a ton of potential for online trawlers and marketers alike. You watch: Within six months, one such program/contest/broadcast/execution/whatever will catch on. And when it does, 72,000 others will follow in short order. Brace yourself for the inevitable.