By Shira Rockowitz, Director, Producing & Artist Support, Feature Film Program
What strategic steps should I take to make my project a reality?
How do I find an attorney and determine that person is the right fit?
How can I build healthy financial habits to manage cash flow when my income sources are fluid?
These are just some of the myriad concerns that face the creative entrepreneur. While questions abound, accessing this information can often be difficult even in the most auspicious circumstances. It can be uncomfortable to ask for help. I frequently think about Effie Brown’s sage advice from her 2020 Sundance Film Festival Producers Celebration Keynote, “Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” Brilliant words that are easier said than done.
It often feels like everyone has their act together and there isn’t a safe space to ask questions. Sometimes we don’t even know what questions to ask or where to begin. Compounded by the intensity and rigor of the creative process, it’s easy to feel lonely and overwhelmed.
Confronted with this challenge, last spring Sundance Institute’s Artist Programs introduced a new pilot track, Sundance ELEVATE. The goal: Unify support for artists across disciplines (participating in our Labs, Intensives, and granting programs) and provide new professional development–specific learning opportunities during their year of primary programmatic activity.
With a focus on helping artists advance individual projects and build a career, we defined “professional development” as essential tools, tactics, and resources to develop self-confidence, increase practical business and financial knowledge, and engage potential creative and strategic partners.
Recognizing that each Sundance Artist Program (Artist Accelerator, Catalyst, Documentary Film, Episodic, Equity, Impact & Belonging, Feature Film, Ignite, Indigenous, Producers Program, and Women at Sundance) offers their constituents bespoke support, we conducted an internal audit to identify the biggest gaps in our work.
It was critical to make ELEVATE programming and resources available to all of our artists during their year of primary support. Wherever possible, we committed to hosting programs on Sundance Collab, the Institute’s global digital community and learning platform, to ensure broader access, while also creating more intimate digital spaces for sensitive conversations, typically focused on financial wellness and sustainability.
Aligned with Sundance on the value of professional development opportunities for indie filmmakers, we were thrilled to welcome MUBI as the presenting sponsor of Sundance ELEVATE. MUBI generously also gifted our current Institute-supported artists with a free three-month subscription to their streaming service. And just last month, we teamed up with MUBI to host a live conversation on Sundance Collab focused on production and distribution in the age of streaming. Now, more than a year into this pilot, we have achieved several exciting milestones: To date, ELEVATE, presented by MUBI, has supported over 500 artists.
The Track includes a monthly newsletter highlighting upcoming private webinars and Sundance Collab programming (Sundance-supported artists receive free, year-long access), virtual touchpoints with the Sundance Artist Program team, and on-demand learning opportunities through a library of curated resources on topics like entrepreneurship, securing funding, business affairs & legal literacy, navigating representation, developing a personal brand, and pitching.
Additionally, we hosted four private webinars focused on Financial Wellness, Tax Basics for Artists, The Artist-Attorney Relationship, and an informational session with SAGindie.
As we head into year two of Sundance ELEVATE, we continue to experiment, refine, and expand programming, with active, ongoing input from our artist community. We look forward to continuing this critical work together to create safe spaces for important questions.