That Sundance Esteem
A new viewing option streams from a respected source.
For a brand that already had a film festival, a television network and an institute, a streaming service seemed like a logical extension.
“People have an idea what Sundance is when they hear it,” says George Schmalz, curator of the Sundance Now streaming service. “We try to honor that and stay true to the original Sundance vision when programming, acquiring and curating content.”
The business evolved from Sundance’s Doc Club. At the suggestion of Doc Club subscribers who wanted more options, narrative films and select TV series were added to an already robust lineup of documentaries.
As curator, Schmalz is constantly seeking new content and ways to highlight classic titles from the vast Sundance catalog. He adds anywhere from 20 to 30 or more titles per month, some from the vaults and others newly licensed.
Content includes original programs like the short-film documentary series Take Five, which premiered last year, and acquisitions ranging from award-winning documentaries like Brothers and Off the Rails to the French spy series The Bureau. One of its newest titles is the premium series Always Shine.
While Schmalz curates special collections for the site — a lighter example being “That’s Action,” comprising Asian and European action films — guest curators have become a big draw.
“We have guest curators like Jonathan Demme, Danny Glover, Mackenzie Davis, the Duplass brothers….” Schmalz says. “We share our catalog with them and ask them to pick their top five or six films — or they can choose as many as they like. Then we ask them to talk about why they selected these films, why they’re important to them.”
The decision to transform Doc Club into Sundance Now has been a success.
“We’ve seen our numbers quadruple over the last 12 months,” Schmalz says. “Hopefully that continues to keep growing.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 4, 2017