Just as we drove into Park City on Wednesday afternoon, the first flakes of snow were starting to fall, and now, as I prepare to get a few hours sleep on a very, very early Friday morning, we've seen that snow and a fair amount of sleet pile up quickly.  And if there's snow, then as far as this Los Angeles resident is concerned, it is time for Sundance.

Now that my year is built around film festivals, I'm starting to really enjoy the way each festival has its own clear identity.  Sundance is not SXSW which is not Cannes which is not Toronto which clearly is not Fantastic Fest.  Those five festivals give me milestones by which to measure my year now, and so for me, Sundance means the film year is starting from a clean slate, and my first impressions of what sort of year in movies lies ahead start here.  This is where I test the wind, read the tea leaves, and dig in for the first real challenge on each new calendar.

I've come to grow quite fond of Sundance overall.  I like their mix of films, I like the way they break things down and the different categories, and I like the taste they show as programmers.  As with most film festivals, what they program is entirely dependent on what's ready, what's available, and how things time out, and what Sundance has going for it is that it's such a major milestone for filmmakers to show something here that people will intentionally set their post-production schedules on movies around the submission dates for Sundance. 

After all, this is where many filmmakers what their films to be introduced to the world.  It carries a cache that cannot be overstated or denied.  If you get a film into Sundance, you've made it through a pretty tough gauntlet, and you should be proud.  No matter what else happens with your movie, you've had this experience, and that means something.

I get asked frequently what this festival is like and what Cannes is like and overall what it's like to be at a film festival.  I think people have very different ideas about what a festival is like from day to day than what is true, and if you follow various reviewers and writers online and see them talking about going to parties or running around from screening to event to event to screening, then you might get one sense of things, but the daily experience… well, that's harder to convey in print.

To that end, I'm going to try something a little different here this year, and if it works, we may be doing this at each of the festivals.  I've always felt that the only way my coverage has any value to you as readers, especially in an age where there are so many outlets where you can read the same basic coverage, is that I have to make it personal and almost experiential if I hope to make this coverage special at all.  HitFix has a great video team these days, and both Alex and Michiel are here with us, armed with their cameras and lights and editing software, and so in addition to all of our interviews, I wanted to bring you some video content designed to make you feel like you're getting the nuts and bolts version of what Sundance is.

This morning's is just a warm-up, but you'll see both Devin Faraci and James Rocchi for a moment here.  Friday's the first full day of the festival, and I've got four movies on the schedule.  Expect more of this tomorrow, and I'm going to do my best to get a wide array of material captured here so you guys feel like you're on this trip as well.

Hope you enjoy, and let me know what more you'd want as the week plays out.