COVID-19 UPDATE

Reimagining the future together

In these tumultuous times, artists have been on our minds, along with all of our friends and colleagues in arts, entertainment, and media whose jobs and organizations have been hard hit by the pandemic and accompanying economic instability.

We are inspired by everyone who is using this time of fear and uncertainty to find meaning in the form of poems, stories, essays, images, and ideas. The scale and urgency of this challenge are extraordinary, but so are the resilience, generosity, and community we have seen from our global community of artists. If we can approach this moment with that spirit, and listen to those who embody it, we can weather this crisis with our humanity intact and reimagine a future where we are more connected than ever before.

It’s clear from talking to artists and colleagues at nonprofits and in business that this moment calls for innovation, flexibility, and collaboration. Like many organizations, we at Sundance have spent the last weeks adapting to these circumstances that are so far beyond our control: transitioning teams to remote work, rethinking upcoming events, and preparing to weather the economic impact on our work, our community, and independent film and performing arts writ large. We wanted to share an update on where we are right now, and will continue to communicate going forward.

  • We have made the decision to reimagine the 58 live programs we had planned through August 2020. While these events will no longer be in-person gatherings, one thing that will never change is our core mission of lifting up artists and independent voices. Among the programs affected are the 2020 season of summer Labs, which have been running each year since 1981 at our home at the Sundance Resort in Utah and, in the case of our Film Music Program, at Skywalker Ranch. This decision also applies to our full slate of planned workshops and intensives. The Sundance Film Festivals in London and Hong Kong have been postponed, with new dates for those live programs still pending.
  • We will adapt most of our programs to offer meaningful and uninterrupted support through our digital platform for artists, Sundance Co//ab. We are grateful to our funders, partners, and amazing staff for their creativity and collaboration in determining the best way forward for each program. It was exciting to see our first adapted live program, on the subject of making and launching a short film, on Sundance Co//ab last Friday. Supported by the Knight Foundation, and originally planned for an audience of 120 in San Jose, California, more than 1,600 people from all over the world registered to participate in its online iteration.
  • We have opened Sundance Co//ab’s webinars, member Q&As, and masterclasses, previously available only to paid members, to anyone who is interested, at no cost. Sundance Co//ab provides timely resources, opportunities, feedback, intimate learning sessions, and larger-scale live group interactive experiences. We will continue to provide programming, working together with nearly 50 nonprofit and creative community partner organizations and alumni to serve and benefit independent artists.

    We are excited about the potential to gather independent creators on Sundance Co//ab at a time when many are in need of community, mentorship, inspiration, and collective action. We’re happy to report that artists are already taking advantage of these resources: Prior to this crisis, Sundance Co//ab reached more than 250,000 creators (including serving nearly 35,000 free members) across over 150 countries around the world each month. In the last two weeks, sign-ups have nearly doubled. We invite all of you to visit Sundance Co//ab and appreciate any feedback you may have.
  • We will deepen and expand our core work of supporting artists in new ways. We recognize that individual artists will need strategic advice and direct financial support, and as we manage the fiscal challenges, we have preserved and set aside a fund for artist support, and are working now to determine how best to provide assistance in this challenging moment. Our staff program leads will share the specifics directly with artists in their communities, with approaches tailored to meet the needs of the artists.
  • Coalition-Building: In collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, we are expanding and accelerating a previously-planned initiative around field sustainability to meet urgent needs that have been raised by artists and peer arts organizations. Through the Arts Endowment, we are launching biweekly virtual field meetings starting this week dedicated to addressing these timely problems. We'll back this with an open platform to be launched in the coming days to collate shared resources, communication tools, and hubs to keep artists and organizations connected, such as this Sundance Co//ab collection of Resources We Love.

    In addition, our joint initiative with the Arts Endowment includes a national research committee to gather and conduct relevant, actionable studies and data collection, particularly regarding the economic and social impact of the coronavirus on artists. This builds on the incredible work led by the Arts Endowment as part of their ongoing support of field research and convenings.
  • Collective Action: As we prepare for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, we recognize the seismic shifts that are already happening in our field, and the fact that bold, fresh thinking is required. We are in conversations with other film festivals and nonprofits to share ideas, and to ensure that we’re eliminating duplicative, expensive efforts and working as collectively and efficiently as possible to support the filmmakers whose Festival premieres and releases didn’t happen this spring, and those whose films are in suspended states of production. We will strive to adapt to new challenges as we go, knowing that, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Finding our way through this situation as individuals and organizations -- and as a field -- is difficult, but it is also an opportunity to recognize and draw strength from the fact that we are all in this together. I have never been prouder to work with such a passionate, dedicated, and creative team of colleagues. We are committed to collective action and impact, to a spirit of experimentation, and to the very hard work ahead maintaining the health and vitality of Sundance and its mission in the face of this adversity.

More than 80 years ago, Bertholt Brecht asked and answered a question that has been on many of our minds these last several weeks:

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.

We know many of you in our larger community, along with others around the world, are facing similar challenges, and we stand with you. We are immensely grateful for your support, and we look forward to the singing that will no doubt emerge from these dark times.

Keri