I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to empty my email accounts of literally hundreds of Sundance press releases and party invitations. Hiring festival PR isn’t cheap, and if the restoration of overflowing hype, costly swag, and long lines are any indication, I’d say the economy is roaring back. However, when it comes to this year’s crop of 120 indie premieres dreaming of a lucrative pick-up to recoup costs, buyers are no longer letting Park City’s thin Wasatch Mountain air addle their business sense. At Sundance 2011, six figures is the new seven figures.

The thin air induces more than light-headedness. Reaching Park City Friday night at 1:30 a.m. (delayed New York takeoff), my laptop was D.O.A. from altitude sickness. The screen glowed but the drive failed to mount. Believe it or not, not enough air density for the read/write heads to float on. Not the end of the world: when I reach sea level again, I know the laptop will boot as if nothing ever happened. How do I know? It also fails to start up when I fly.

Granted, the drive is delicate. Which is why I’ve been experimenting with an external Intel solid-state drive back in New York (but I digress). I couldn’t help thinking about the advantages of SSDs as I encountered three ARRI reps in the lightly falling snow in the parking lot near the Holiday Village festival theaters, Franz Wieser, An Tran, and Guenter Noesner, with an ARRI Alexa slung over his shoulder, who were shooting a short drama with writer/director Aloura Charles. Alexa, of course, captures HD to Apple ProRes on Sony SxS cards, which are solid-state flash memory. ARRI’s idea is to edit/finish overnight and display the results tomorrow at the New York Lounge on Main Street, where ARRI has a booth showcasing its PL-mount Alexa. Only a few feet, I might add, from a stack of fresh New York bagels flown in daily, available free courtesy of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development.

Guenther Noesner of ARRI (with Alexa) and writer/director Aloura Charles

Of two films I managed to see today, Miranda July’s The Future was lensed with a RED One (underlit and muddy, not a compliment), and the Swedish documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, was filmed with standard 16mm, mostly black-and-white. That’s because it was assembled from a trove of footage that languished in a Swedish basement for 30 years, the collective work of 28 Swedish documentary cinematographers who traveled to America during those tumultuous years to film key people and events in the Black Power movement of the time. If for no other reason, see this evocative film for its virtual lexicon of 1960’s-era cinema verite shooting styles. In this time of facile video shooting, it’s easy to forget how much art and drama a single long, uncut, masterful verite-style shot could pack in.