Maybe they should’ve just avoided the topic altogether. Failure took on a very real form today at the Sundance Film Festival’s Free Fail series. A video clip of financier and Open Society Foundations founder George Soros failed to appear onscreen about 15 minutes into the heavily attended panel at Park City’s Egyptian Theater. After the clip was set up by Open Society president Chris Stone, the panel — which included festival founder Robert Redford, director and Sundance alumni Jill Soloway, creativity researcher Charles Limb, and author Dave Eggers — all turned to look at the screen. Nothing showed up. After nearly 20 seconds, with the panelists looking off-stage and Sundance staff running up and down the side aisles, the lights went up and the discussion went on sans clip.
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Later, it looked as though history was going to repeat itself. “I don’t know if our videos are working, but I have a clip to show,” Limb said. The lights then went up, then went pitch black, and there was nothing for 10 seconds except audio of a clip that wasn’t there. The video finally came on afterward. Later in the session, the original Soros clip — him talking about the role failure played in his success and society — was finally, anticlimactically, shown.
Aside from that, later in the session a droll Redford drew a big laugh from the crowd when he replied “I’m not big on awards,” in response to a remark from an audience member about how awards can blind us to the real failures that are a part of life. The response was clearly a reference to the actor’s snub on Oscar nomination morning last week for his performance in All Is Lost .
Today’s panel was moderated by Sarah Lewis author of the upcoming The Rise: Creativity, The Gift Of Failure, And The Search For Mastery. Other Free Fail panels today include a cooking contest with Fylnn McGarry of Hell’s Kitchen and Cupcake Wars, and a session with the Rockettes. “This came out of our 30th anniversary and not take it too seriously and have fun with something,” festival director John Cooper told the Egyptian audience.
As an example of that, a special screening of 1996’s Wes Anderson movie Bottle Rocket with Owen Wilson in attendance is also planned for tonight. While Anderson’s short on which Bottle Rocket was based made it into the 1994 Sundance fest, the feature wasn’t selected. Cooper had said in this year’s opening press conference that the oversight was a failure on Sundance’s part and Bottle Rocket’s inclusion today was an effort to correct it nearly 20 years later.