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John Cooper Talks Programing Process, Digital Distribution, and His Favorite Films of 2012

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On the heels of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival program announcement, Festival Director John Cooper hosted a Reddit ‘AMA’ (Ask Me Anything) session for film fans and other users. Below are just a sample of the questions Cooper responded to, click here for the full conversation.  

Jayprofeen: With no star power usually, more modest budgets, and with so many film schools churning out these guys: how important is to wait on a final deliverable for submission rather than making the deadline with a Work in Progress (temp sound, color, etc)?

SundanceFest (John Cooper): Hard question! You have to know your own product to know how far along it is. In some ways it’s a necessary evil (we watch a lot of films in rough cut) so that’s not it, I think I’m saying trust your own instincts.

Salacious: What movie was the hardest choice you have ever had to make on whether to include or exclude it?

SundanceFest: Probably one of the first choices I ever made, it was for Paris is Burning. I was young and I hadn’t done it before, and it paid off well.

Jimornana: Hey John, Hope you’re well. What do you think about the role of sound in movies?

SundanceFest: Sound is more and more important in this digital age, and we’re excited to have a partnership with Dolby – they give our artists real help when it comes to prepping their masters for the Festival.

bre_stump: How do you become a festival programmer?

SundanceFest: Our fest programmers come from all backgrounds, really diverse. The key requirements are passion for film, love of discussing films, and a lot of stamina.

Tinytooraph: The Internet and other direct-to-consumer technology is obviously presenting some challenges to the “traditional” model of film distribution. What do you think the future of film distribution will be? And more specific to you: What role do you see film festivals playing in this future?

SundanceFest: I don’t think it’s a challenge for filmmakers, I think it’s a solution. The more opportunities for them, the better. I believe there are audiences for all of our films out there.

Festivals? Our role is to find those films.

Larinsullivan: Hi Cooper! Saw Trevor’s tweet and thought I’d head over and check it out. My question – how has the Sundance Programmer’s job and the festival overall changed in the last 8-10 years, since the advent of all this digital and online technology?

SundanceFest: More artists making films, that’s the biggest. Also more rough cuts … digital also speeds up the process. Technically, the quality of films has improved a lot.

chrisclayton1234: Hi John. I just wanted to say, thank you so much for bringing Sundance to London this year, I can’t wait to see the selections for next year! (Fingers crossed for Upstream Color)

A pretty obvious question you must get asked a lot, but because it’s been such an incredible year for film, what have been some of your favourite films of 2012?

SundanceFest: Thanks for the note on London – we had a great time there, seriously fun. It’s satisfying to see Chasing Ice and The Sessions and Beasts of the Southern Wild doing so well.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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