July 30, 2016 by Laura Gomez


“Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” — Robert Redford, President and Founder

Robert Redford founded the Sundance Institute in 1981 to foster independence, risk-taking, and new voices in American film. That year, ten emerging filmmakers were invited to Sundance Resort in the mountains of Utah, where they worked with leading writers, directors, and actors to develop their original independent projects.

Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre and new media to create and thrive.

Robert Redford, President and Founder

Robert Redford is somewhat of an anomaly in the entertainment industry. Though he has been world-famous for some 30 years, he remains a highly private individual. He is an ardent conservationist and environmentalist, a man who stands for social responsibility and political involvement and an artist and businessman who is a staunch supporter of uncompromised creative expression. His passion remains to make films of substance and social/cultural relevance, as well as to encourage others to express themselves through the arts.

He is recognized the world over for the roles he has played and the projects he has directed or produced throughout a distinguished stage and film career. Believing that it is the unexpected and uncommon, which ultimately enlivens the cultural ecology of a society, Redford has nurtured more than a generation of innovative voices in independent film through his non-profit Sundance Institute and Film Festival. Harvard Business Review observed, “Sundance has become to Hollywood what Silicon Valley has been to the high-tech industry.” His life-long passion for nature and issues of justice has resulted in Redford being widely acknowledged as a highly effective and dedicated political and environmental activist.

Artist programs offer support across multiple disciplines through a series of Labs, grants, mentorships and workshops, providing storytellers with the resources to create and share their stories with the world. The Sundance Film Festival and a series of festivals, screenings and events invite audiences to discover the new work and original voices, and to join a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild , Fruitvale Station , Sin Nombre , The Invisible War,The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home.

Executive Director Keri Putnam oversees all programs of the Institute, which has offices in Park City, Utah, Los Angeles and New York City.

Founded in 1985 and takes place in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. Approximately 200 featurelength and short films are selected each year. For the 2016 Festival, 12,793 film submissions from 120 countries were received. The Festival also presents panels, music programming and the New Frontier exhibition of new media work.

Notable films introduced at the Festival include The Birth of a Nation , Whiplash , Boyhood , Rich Hill , Beasts of the Southern Wild , Fruitvale Station , Little Miss Sunshine , sex, lies, and videotape , Reservoir Dogs , Hedwig and the Angry Inch , An Inconvenient Truth , Precious and Napoleon Dynamite.

Thousands of people each year attend the Institute’s other events:
*Sundance Film Festival: London (June)
*Sundance NEXT FEST in Los Angeles (August)
*Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong (September)

The Institute tours packages of short films from the Sundance Film Festival to art house theaters, museums, colleges and general event spaces across the country, providing rare opportunities for audiences to see short films on the big screen.

As a champion and curator of independent stories for the stage and screen, Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive.

Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences. Through its programs, the Institute seeks to discover, support, and inspire independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work.

They believe that a story driven by an individual, authentic voice can awaken new ideas that have the power to delight and entertain, push creative boundaries, spark new levels of empathy and understanding, and even lead to social change. They support independent storytellers and advance the impact of their work in the world.

Today, their staff of 150 employees works from offices in Park City, Los Angeles, and New York City to provide 24 residential labs, grants exceeding $2.5 million, and ongoing mentorships that support more than 350 artists each year. Each January, Sundance Film Festival introduces a global audience to groundbreaking work and emerging talent in independent film. More than 50 other public programs connect artists with audiences to present original voices, inspire new ideas, and create community around independent storytelling.

Institute supported
Titles are available on top digital platforms and retailers such as Netflix and iTunes through the support of the Institute’s Artist Services program.Titles include Citizenfour, Detropia,Upstream Color, BURN,Bones Brigade,Western and Particle Fever .

More than 6,000 Utah residents enjoy free outdoor screenings in the summer months through the Institute’s Utah Summer Series.

The Film Forward and Ignite programs bring screenings and conversations to campuses, libraries, community centers, local arts organizations and other venues in regions across the U.S. annually. LABS- Each year the Institute’s residential Labs support more than 200 independent artists working in film, theatre, new media and episodic content (TV/online). The Institute covers the cost of each artist’s travel, lodging, meals and Lab activities. Each Lab ranges from four to 24 days, and approximately half take place in the summer. Each artist is given critique, mentorship and support to realize his or her creative vision, in an environment where risktaking is encouraged.

The Institute annually receives more than 6,500 submissions to its Labs. In 2015, the Institute hoste d 24 residential Labs across the U.S. and internationally. After seeding Labs in Brazil, Mexico, Central Europe and around East Africa, the Institute currently hosts Labs in Jordan, Turkey, India, China, Japan and Morocco.

Notable films supported by the Institute’s Labs include Reservoir Dogs , Boys Don’t Cry , Trouble the Water , Sin Nombre , Requiem for a Dream,Half Nelson,The Queen of Versailles,Beasts of the Southern Wild and Fruitvale Station .

Plays and musicals supported by the Institute’s Labs include the two most recent Tony Award winners for Best Musical, Fun Home and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,as well as ToasT, Appropriate, Circle Mirror Transformation, An Iliad, The Lily’s Revenge, The Good Negro, The Light in the Piazza, Passing Strange, Stuck Elevator, Spring Awakening, Laramie Project and I Am My Own Wife .

Open to all artists, and held around the country, workshops offer participants premium resources and expert advice on topics ranging from screenwriting to digital distribution. These intensive versions of our Lab experience provide opportunities for artists to be inspired in their storytelling and empowered to advance their projects to the next phase.

In 2015, the Institute hosted 11 selective workshops and 12 public workshops on topics including Theatre, Documentary Filmmaking and Screenwriting intensives, Innovative Distribution and Marketing, and Financial Skills and Networking.

The Institute grants more than $2.5 million to independent artists and their projects each year.
The Institute annually receives more than 1,500 grant submissions.
Notable films supported by the Institute’s grant programs include Rich Hill, Powerless, Chuck Norris v. Communism, Best of Enemies, The Square, 3½ Minutes,Ten Bullets,The Look of Silence,Cartel Land,(T)error, CITIZENFOUR, The Witch, Birth of a Nation and War Story .

The World Cinema competitions at Sundance are dedicated to the discovery of new films and new voices from around the world.
Celebrating independence, creativity and risk-taking, the Sundance Film Festival plays a vital role in identifying emerging international talent and connecting them with audiences and industry in the United States.

The culmination of the Sundance Film Festival is the Awards Ceremony. The competition juries, comprised of individuals from the worldwide film community with original and diverse points of view, select films from both the documentary and dramatic categories to receive a range of awards. Decided by Festivalgoers’ ballots, Audience Awards are bestowed upon films in each of the Festival’s four competition categories.

The Awards Ceremonies were live streamed and you can still watch them on our YouTube channel. Sundance Film Festival Closing Night Awards Ceremony or the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Awards Ceremony.

Images: ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’