For most of us fall brings a chill in the air and the anticipation of the holidays. But for the team at Sundance Institute that pulls together our annual Film Festival, fall is all about sifting through thousands of films and readying the theatres of Utah for the guests and screenings of the Festival in January.
I’m excited about the changes that John Cooper and I have discussed over the past several months. . . A new documentary premiere section that’s a nod to the continued evolution of nonfiction film. A Festival opening that isn’t focused on a single film but includes docs and narratives by U.S. and international filmmakers, along with a program of shorts. A new location for New Frontier that’s a sort of campus for truly innovative work that blurs boundaries of film, art, and technology. I’m also excited about one thing that isn’t new at all: the chance to experience the creativity and craft of storytellers from all over the world. My favorite moments of the Festival are those I spend in the theatres.
With anticipation for the Festival now at its height I’m reminded that too few people are aware that the Festival is but one part of Sundance Institute, the nonprofit that presents the Film Festival and a range of year-round programs. The Institute’s mission is to support independent artists in the development of their new work and to connect that work to audiences around the world. As a nonprofit, we’re free to identify, support, and present film and theatre projects based upon their creative merits rather than their market potential.
Ondi Timoner and Redford at 2010 Directors Lab. Photo by Fred Hayes.
I started the Institute to give artists the space and time to craft their stories. We started with Labs – workshops designed to challenge each artist to find and refine their own unique voice; to offer support to emerging artists from those who were accomplished in their fields. Over the past 30 years, we’ve evolved to offer Labs for directors, screenwriters, editors, documentarians, producers, composers, and theatre artists. We provide grants and individualized creative support. Our commitment is to be present at every critical point throughout the creative process, including the point where an artist’s work meets its audience for the first time. The Festival is one way we achieve this, and we’re always looking for others.