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6 ways Dropbox helped Sundance filmmakers make great films – faster

Filmmakers, producers and production designers share their go-to hacks for using Dropbox products to make movie magic.
Egyptian Theatre at Sundance Film Festival with Festival.Sundance.Org on Marquee
Photo by Stephen Speckman. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

More than half the feature films in the 2023 Sundance Film Festival relied on Dropbox. And not just for the cloud storage and sharing functions you know and love, either; directors were using our video editing tool, Replay, and loving it. Producers employed Dropbox Sign to eliminate paperwork headaches. Even production designers were sharing pre-production images back and forth to prep for that crucial on-set time.

Those are just a few of the things we learned from filmmakers in our Edit Suite as we celebrated seven years of sponsoring the renowned independent film festival. Here are the other pro film-making tips we gleaned. (Quiet on set!)

1. Editing made easier with Replay

Miserable after her family moves to a small town, teenage aspiring journalist Itsy befriends Calvin, her strange, space-obsessed neighbour who believes his parents were abducted by aliens, and joins him on his journey to find them.

The best video editing tools make both editing and commenting on the edits a cinch. Jake Van Wagoner, Utah-based director of Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out, told our friends at the ‘Work in Progress’ blog that he and his Los Angeles editor loved Dropbox Replay for getting on the same page. “The film was playing while we were watching it together and we could pause, type in a note and she knew right where we were at and what we were talking about. That feature, to me, is insane.”

2. Avoid paperwork problems

Zach Kuperstein and Jordan Drake Power Signal interview Sundance 2023

Jordan Drake, producer of Power Signal, says that “being able to transition a workflow over to everything being digital is a staggering improvement in the efficiency and the efficacy from a production perspective” – and that Dropbox Sign has played a huge role in making paperwork painless.

“When you realise things don’t have to be physically signed, you can play a lot of catchup.” He also appreciates Dropbox Sign’s legitimacy, so he doesn’t feel like he’s taking shortcuts that he’d regret later. The product “verifies the authenticity of the person who’s signing; there’s a legal backing there,” he says. “I don’t feel that [I’m] circumnavigating a best practice.”

3. Master async, bicoastal schedules

Mark DiCristofaro Pretty Baby interview Sundance 2023

The buzzed-about documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is “a heavily archival doc,” says co-producer Mark DiCristofaro, who relied on Dropbox enormously “to make sure that we are archiving everything, cataloguing it [and] have a very specific way of record-keeping and knowing the source of material.”

DiCristofaro also appreciates the power of Dropbox to make bicoastal, async work a breeze: “When you have people working on a project from LA and New York, you rely on Dropbox to be that central focal point for all the archival material and our logs and our clearances … we couldn’t do it without it.”

4. Sort the old from the new

Dropbox has particular allure for the documentary – and retro-minded – filmmaker set. Director Sophie Barthes told Work in Progress that though her new film The Pod Generation is “futuristic … for all the reproduction, we used old footage from a Swedish film from the ’80s. So it’s like retro vintage science fiction!” Faced with “hours and hours of footage of archives,” she relied heavily on Dropbox “as our main source of sharing images and all the files we had for the film.”

5. Sync up your pre-production team

Rob Riutta Fremont interview Sundance 2023

Don’t rely on a text thread that could easily get deleted when it comes to something as crucial as scouting or pre-production imagery. Rob Riutta, the production designer for Fremont, told us, “In the movie we used Dropbox to get photos of the location to everybody on the team. We would set up folders [and] the graphics artist and myself would send ideas and drafts back and forth looking in that folder. It was used quite often [for] collaboration.”

6. Solve that casting problem

In a Mexican border town plagued by neglect, corruption and violence, a frustrated teacher (Eugenio Derbez) tries a radical new method to break through his students’ apathy and unlock their curiosity, their potential … and maybe even their genius. Based on a true story.

Chris Zalla couldn’t sleep. The director of the buzzy drama Radical, which opened the whole festival, couldn’t find his “Paloma” – the pre-teen co-star to act alongside Lupe, the film’s other star kid.

“We auditioned 400 or 500 children, at least. The girl who plays Lupe in the movie was amazing. But [no one] else we were auditioning could hold a candle to her. There was this [problem]: we can’t find Paloma.”

At three in the morning, tossing and turning, he turned to Dropbox – his production hub.

“The casting directors had this huge file,” he recalls, “like, their ‘also ran’ file.” He started poking around. Boom: “Holy sh*t!” I woke up my wife [and said] “You’ve got to see this. It’s [Paloma]!”


There you go. What can’t Dropbox do for your film? If fretting about an ever-dwindling storage supply is keeping you from doing your best creative work, set that qualm aside with us. We’ve got five terabytes and up, just waiting for you. Then it’s off to the races.

Take your films to the next level.

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