John Cooper and Trevor Groth Talk NEXT WEEKEND

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In recent years, one has needed to look no further than the NEXT <=> section of the Sundance Film Festival to witness the vitality of independent film. That’s where, in NEXT’s four-year existence, films with a penchant for innovative storytelling and a blatant disregard for boundaries have premiered at the Festival. Now that renegade filmmaking spirit is coming to Los Angeles.

NEXT WEEKEND, a four-day  film festival in Los Angeles featuring screenings, panels, parties, and filmmaker workshops will take place August 8-11, 2013, at Sundance Cinemas and additional venues throughout the city. The event is an extension of the NEXT <=> section at the Sundance Film Festival, which showcases stylistically adventurous films that take a bold approach to storytelling. Over one summer weekend, L.A. film lovers have the chance to see eight yet-to-be-released feature films and engage with filmmakers, cast, and crew.

Below, Festival Director John Cooper and Director of Programming Trevor Groth dish on the genesis of NEXT WEEKEND and their almost voracious desire to expand the audience for independent film. Click here to view the NEXT WEEKEND program guide.

What was the impetus for creating NEXT WEEKEND?

John Cooper: We’ve been talking about this for a long time, because wanted to do something in Los Angeles that would celebrate the success we’ve seen with the NEXT <=> section of our Festival in Utah. When the Sundance Cinemas opened here last summer, it reinforced the feeling that this was the appropriate time for NEXT WEEKEND.

At its core, NEXT WEEKEND is really about expanding the audience for independent film, and expanding the types of films that reach these audiences. And I think in some ways we’re looking to expand upon our own ideas of what a film festival can be. We’ve been doing our Festival in Utah really successfully for a long time, so it’s thrilling for us to think in this new way.

On a larger scale, what makes this the right moment in independent film for a festival such as this one?

Trevor Groth: Independent film production and distribution has gone through some pretty significant changes in the past few years. There are so many new options for financing, production, and distribution, and that has pushed independent filmmaking to be much more of a collaborative and community experience. That shift really lends itself to this event, in that it’s a showcase of films that are operating outside of the conventional track of films.

Why is Los Angeles a fitting host town for this festival?

JC: In August a few years ago, we hosted an event in downtown LA just to see what audiences we could bring out. The tone felt right—it was fun, it was summer, and it felt good to be out of parkas and in our T-shirts with our Sundance community. Los Angeles is also home to roughly half of Sundance Institute’s employees, so many of us consider this town our home.

TG: We think audiences in Los Angeles will respond to this type of film. The NEXT <=>  section has really developed over the last four years and taken on a strong identity in Park City. We think it’s something that can gain traction outside of Utah as well.

Who are some of the mavericks of NEXT <=> filmmaking, and which artists do you identify as having informed this section of the Festival and NEXT WEEKEND?

JC: We’ve been showing NEXT <=>-type films throughout our history. I even think a filmmaker like John Waters (whose film Hairspray we showed in 1988) would fit that idea. Also Craig Zobel (Compliance), the Duplass Brothers (Cyrus, The Puffy Chair), and the Zellner Brothers (Goliath). Lynn Shelton (Humpday) is another director whom I think of as a precursor to this program.

Where in LA can audiences see NEXT WEEKEND screenings?

TG: Our hub will be the Sundance Cinemas, which we love. And we also wanted to be inclusive of the other film and cultural organizations in LA that work here year-round, so we’re co-hosting screenings at the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre; Cinefamily; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA); and the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television at the Billy Wilder Theatre at the Hammer Museum.

Where will the films in this program be culled from?

TG: The programming is going to be comprised of films that played at the Sundance Film Festival, but also films of a like-minded attitude from other spring and summer festivals, as well as some new films. We hope that a new film event in Los Angeles will encourage film lovers to get out and embrace opportunities to celebrate independent film.