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A Note from Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam

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To our Sundance community —

After 10 deeply rewarding years, I have decided that it is the right time for me to step down as CEO of the Sundance Institute. Leading this incredible organization through a volatile era in media with the help of such a passionate and talented group of colleagues, artists, audiences, board members, partners, friends, and donors has been one of the greatest joys of my life. As I work with the team and the Board of Trustees to prepare for my departure at the end of this summer, I am confident that Sundance is thriving and poised to begin a transformative new era.

I could not be prouder of all we’ve accomplished together over this last decade. With your support, the Sundance Institute has cultivated a vibrant worldwide community of fiercely independent artists. We’ve created innovative online platforms like Sundance Co//ab, a digital community of over one million users that’s free and open to all. We’ve diversified the disciplines in which we work, catalyzed financing for scores of projects, and supported entrepreneurial pathways to distribution. At the same time, we’ve strengthened our long-held commitment to amplifying historically underrepresented voices and provided a launch pad for an incredible array of culture-shifting artists. Thanks to the dedication and generosity of this community, the Institute stands today as an innovative and resilient organization at the intersection of arts and media, supporting more artists and reaching a bigger audience than ever before.

I am incredibly grateful to Robert Redford and the Sundance Board for their support and friendship, as well as their collaboration in planning my transition. The Board of Trustees has formed a search committee to identify Sundance Institute’s next chief executive in the coming months, co-chaired by board chair Pat Mitchell and vice chair Ebs Burnough. I will continue in my role through August 31, 2021.

I will always cherish the memory of my first summer at the labs, taking a chairlift ride with Bob as he showed me the beautiful landscape of Mount Timpanogos and told me the story of his founding vision for the Institute. That summer I took part in my first Director’s Lab at the iconic Sundance Mountain Resort, spent time with artists in the Owl Bar (which became a favorite haunt), marveled at the generosity of the advisors, and was awed by the extraordinary care and professionalism of the Sundance team. Every year since then, my time spent at the labs meeting the extraordinary new cohorts of artists has been a highlight of my work. And as a longtime attendee, I discovered there’s nothing quite like experiencing the Sundance Film Festival from the inside. The moments spent with filmmakers in greenrooms before their premieres, the talent and energy of the team working behind the scenes, the late nights and early mornings, and the excitement of launching culture-shifting artists and projects will stay with me forever.

I am extremely proud to have been part of the Sundance team — never more than over this last year, despite all its challenges. Thanks to the adventurous spirit of our artists and audiences, the 2021 Sundance Festival was a resounding success. Through our newly built online platform and partner screens across the country, people from all 50 states and 120 countries — the largest audience in Sundance history — were able to take part in an inspiring program that showcased a majority of first-time feature filmmakers and films made independently.

None of this would have been possible without our extraordinary partners and donors. It’s hard to capture in words just how much it has meant to me to have the support of such a diverse group of people and organizations who believe in Sundance’s mission and are deeply committed to sharing their resources, talent, and expertise — not to mention their own passions and communities — in order to support independent media and the artists at the heart of everything we do.

This year’s Festival was a powerful reminder that storytelling can not only entertain us — it can shine a light on the full range of human experiences, convey deeper truths, and shift our perspectives. Storytelling can spark empathy and bring us together when we feel isolated and alone. In an era when the media is dominated by a handful of powerful companies, audiences are served up entertainment that distracts or affirms their world views, and the value of art is often reduced to its bottom line, supporting independent creators is a transformative act. That’s why Sundance’s mission is so vital — and so urgent.

I’m excited to explore my next chapter over the coming months, pursuing new adventures and opportunities. Most of all, I look forward to being part of this community of supporters cheering on the Sundance Institute and its important work for years to come.

With gratitude,

Keri

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