The Invisible Digital Ninjas Who Made This Happen

The Invisible Digital Ninjas Who Made This Happen

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Robert Redford Built This Site.  His adventurism and intelligence and curiosity have always pushed us ahead into these areas with a supporting and generous spirit.  He has sat through countless site demos, heated debates, PowerPoints and meetings over the years in the pursuit of these ideas.  We all thank him.

In order to truly credit all the people involved in this launch, you’d have to go all the way back to 1999.  That’s when John Cooper and Trevor Groth and Shari Frilot hatched up plans for the very first Sundance Online Film Festival.

Years of quiet experimenting occurred: showing films online, captivating conversation around the subjects of our times and how artists could think about these amazing new tools we’d been given.

That was our first step into the unknown, when Internet video played in four formats across 56kbps and we still all stood in awe.  Ian Calderon (a founding member of the Institute) kept at us, telling us constantly what a rocket ship of media opportunity it would be for our artists.

The Institute deepened it’s commitment to digital media, holding advisory meetings at the Presidio in San Francisco with online gurus and alumni artists.  They energized and pushed us to do even more, faster.  Among those early gatherings were Mika Salmi and Tiffany Shlain and Joyce Deep.  DeepBlu Studios' Amye Osti had been building the online sites with us for years.  Without the generous help of John Warnock and Adobe Systems in those days, we couldn’t have done it.  Vitalstream donated the first hosting.  The year was 2004.

Redford, John Cooper and Jill Miller always made sure we were investing in our future and allowed us to run with many schemes, knowing how important and relevant our online community could become.

Web Developer Nathan Hemenway styled the sites back then and handled Flash Video for hundreds of short films that Mike Plante, Todd Luoto, Roberta Munroe and Nazgol Zand curated.  Shari Frilot hunted online for innovative storytelling and mixed media.  We featured all of it as fast as we could.  We embarked on self-distribution for shorts the following Festival season with iTunes, Netflix and Xbox.  Our team rolled five deep; our web coordinator had to augment her part time job with us by working at Chili's Restaurant.  We often stayed up really late working on all this.  We visited Amazon and IMDB in Seattle; iTunes and Netflix gave us considerable support.  The year was 2007.

We kept pushing, using and adopting social media and our incredible archive of artists to create thousands of episodes of original and inspiring content.  With the help of developer Blue State Digital and consultations with Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless other companies – we could not have ridden the waves.  Key voices in our chatter were Sara Pollack, Glenn Bulycz, Jon Fougner, Christian Gaines, Jon Reiss, Mike Mohan and Bob Moczydlowsky.  We visited Facebook and Twitter in "The Bay."  The year was 2009.

We had designed and redesigned websites, we had experimented constantly, we had built apps, live-streamed, UGC’d, Wiki’d, broke early Facebook rules, crashed codes, launched early cell phone films, won Webbys, learned lessons, tried it all as carefully and thoughtfully as possible.  For you.

But it truly wasn't until the leadership of Keri Putnam that the organization could accomplish this complex and original initiative.  She has accelerated, defined and led our way.

We held a secret convening in Los Angeles at the Avalon Hotel with trusted advisors to refine and test our plans.  In attendance were Ted Sarandos, Wendy Levy, Ted Hope, Peter Broderick, Cara Mertes, Michelle Satter, and Reid Carolin among others.  Katie Kennedy helped craft our earliest strategy and reached out to our partners to expand our collaborations; she has contributed greatly to every part of this project.

Our Board of Directors gave us the greenlight to start making plans in October of last year.  We hired Chris Horton to join us and handle our production.  Sharon Swart came as an Editorial Advisor to this site.  The Bertha Foundation infused us with the support needed to grow quickly and ramp up online.

Sundance Institute’s staff on this launch was supported by many people, but chief among them are Amy McGee from our Alumni Department and Justin Simmons, Mark Poncelet and James Gragg from our technology side.  Bridgette Bates, Tanya DeAngelis, Jennifer Pentes, Morgan Vidakovich, and Nate VonZumwalt gave countless hours of creative and editorial support.  Jessica Buzzard was our ally and contributor.  Internally, we are all just the Dot Org Team.

Last but not least is Roger Tinch (@tinch), a man so creative and talented and dedicated that he has won the deep respect of all who’ve worked with him.  His influence and work is all over this site.

I think tonight of all these people and more who are threads in the fiber of what's just been born, and I thank them.  You can now use this platform to access the most independently conceived and original suite of tools today.  You are connected to the waves.

The year is 2012.  We're still staying up late.  #ArtistServices.