Sundance 2017 trends

Our video editor Sara Hughes shares filmmaking trends she spotted at Sundance this year — sure to be seen in ad campaigns and mainstream projects near you soon enough.

Shot on 16mm (or at least made to look like it)

Several films have that grainy, warm, ’70s/80s/90s look. However, many directors confessed they couldn’t afford to shoot on film, so they shot digitally but used a vintage lens and made it look grainier in post-production.

The ’70s are back, in a big way

That ’70s vibe is everywhere: in films’ typography, music, fashion, general aesthetics. Fashion is decidedly thrift store, and not just something new made to look old, but legit old — clashing tacky patterns, big collars, flared pants.

You even see it in the kinds of shots, like long shots or extreme closeups. Many mimic 1970s Woody Allen films, with long two-shots (camera locked, two people walking far way). And fast zooms — usually used for comedic effect — are now being used in dramatic movies, including Person to Person and L.A. Times.


Brigsby Bear has a ’70s vibe going on in its fashion and music. Image courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Personal stories

Most of the films I saw are based on the life of the director or writer, in a definite trend of films based on real life rather than fiction. Like The Big Sick, a comedy based on the relationship of screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Or L.A. Times, director Michelle Morgan’s love letter to Los Angeles and its residents.

VR still huge … huger

People are putting millions of dollars into VR shorts and full-length films. I’m not sure how long this trend will last, but the past two years at Sundance, they’ve stressed this point. Shari Frilot, chief curator of the New Frontier program, told No Film School, “VR has exploded in the last year since the 2016 festival. There’s a whole industry and set of expectations and very specific interest in the medium.” You can see more about Dear Angelica below. Other amazing VR projects I saw were Miyubi and Out of Exile.

Power to the women

There was lots of emphasis on all the female directors and crew and movies that had no men working on them behind the scenes. Probably not coincidentally, female-oriented potty humor abounded. Used to be, other than Bridesmaids, that realm was reserved for men. Great examples of this are Landline, Lemon, Patti Cake$, and XX.


While the ’70s reigned, other trends spotted are more of the times: films about Tinder/hook-up culture, lots of protest films, and films that are unabashed in their intellectual pretension. Keep your eye out for these movies — and for their influence on advertising and marketing.


Header image: Clip by Mirko Pernjakovic

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