The Sundance Film Festival always kicks things off with a press conference that includes Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford, Executive Director Keri Putnam and Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper and moderated with Barbara Chai, head of arts and culture coverage at Dow Jones Media Group and the editor of MarketWatch Entertainment. Always being proud of their attention to diversity, indie filmmakers and women, this year Sundance has 38% female directors and 32% directors of color. With panels, VR, New Frontier, documentaries, shorts and features from all over the world, there is much to be seen and enjoyed.
As usual, no stone was left unturned from #MeToo to Fake News to #TimesUp to Harvey Weinstein. But, at the heart of the conference is always the reminder for is founder, Robert Redford about the festivals true mission and origins. “The idea for Sundance was to create a lab process for independent filmmakers. I could see and feel there were other stories to tell that were risky and independent and thought how we could create a mechanism for these stories to be told. That’s how it started.” “We needed a space for artists to see each others’ work, so I brought the exhibition point to Park City at The Egyptian in 1975. It took awhile to catch on and once it did it caught fire.”
Addressing the #MeToo Movement , Executive Director Keri Putnam shared “What it’s doing is bringing more opportunity for women and allowing them to have a stronger voice and to be heard. I’m really excited by it. I think the role for men right now would be to listen. It’s a time of change that can lead to a new conversation.” “This movement has caused a really different energy to happen and we are not going backwards from here. I’m really excited about that. I think when we talk about the media field and Sundance we are talking about the media and what we value. Do you see yourself represented on the screen? I think it’s all worth fighting for.”
In regards to ‘fake news’, “Journalism is a big deal for me and is our means of getting to the truth. In this climate it’s getting harder and harder. One moment that happened changed the course of what I’m thinking. I met with Woodward and Bernstein (the subjects of the film “All The President’s Men”) about making a film NOT about the downfall of the Nixon Administration, but focusing on the two journalists. I realized that’s the way to approach journalism…look at who’s telling the story and how they are telling the story. I see our role at the festival as journalism that tries to get to the truth against all odds.”
Every year, the question is always asked if Redford has plans to move Sundance out of Park City, “No. This is where it started and if Park City changes we will go with it and honor our birthplace. Rather than leave, we are staying, so we can still claim Park City as our festival home.”
Of course, over the years Sundance has become a hot spot for studio execs to come and poach potential films, as was the case with renowned now humiliated producer Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein Company cornered the market on these films. Now, with the demise of the corporation and its founder…where does that leave Sundance and the financing game? “Harvey Weinstein was a moment and time and he’s not gonna stop the show. People like Harvey would only come to the festival to cherry pick what they want for their own use under the auspices of supporting the festival. He wasn’t alone…there were many and we weren’t involved in that. Our purpose was to make sure we were showing the work of the artists.” remarked Redford and John Cooper reinforced that sentiment by adding, “We’re past Harvey Weinstein at this point…we’re on to change.”
The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 18-28 in Park City, Utah. For more information, schedules, tickets, etc. you can log onto www.sundance.org