The official beginning of the Sundance Film Festival, in my mind, doesn't start until Robert Redford holds his press conference at the Egyptian Theater on Main St. This is the third year of covering this festival and each year, the press conference gets bigger and bigger. Robert Redford, John Cooper, Carrie Putnam, and Sean Means, the day's mediator, spoke to a packed theater. Press from all over the world attended this conference, both big and small. Of course, the first topic of business was the oversight of the Academy to nominate Redford or his film ALL IS LOST. His response after allowing the boos from audience to die down was that Sundance is more important to him. He is very proud of his independent film and it conforms to why we are here [at Sundance]. It gave him a chance to go back to his roots, but unfortunately it did not cross over to the mainstream and into the more commercial parts of the film industry. He reiterated that Hollywood is a business and he has nothing but respect for it. ALL IS LOST suffered from little to no distribution. Was he upset about not being nominated? No. He was just happy to be able to do this film because it was independent. Concluding this topic he firmly stated with a smile on his face, "I'm fine."
Yes, Robert Redford is truly fine as this year marks the 30th anniversary of this film festival. What started not as a retaliation to Hollywood, but an add on, continues to be at the forefront in helping filmmakers realize their dreams: to tell a story through film. Mr. Redford stated that the product speaks for itself. Many of those recipients of Golden Globes [this year] have come through Sundance and that is more satisfying than anything. Redford added, "We've done something right and good."
In 1980, Redford saw a need for a filmmaker workshop. At that time, there was no place for these emerging filmmakers to showcase their films. This was the start to Sundance. It was meant to be a community; a place for filmmakers to safely create and find out who they were and what they could do. Looking back just two months ago, Redford was honored with a tribute by the state of Utah. "That was a surprise!" he said. It was also an honor, but an unexpected one. 30 years ago when Redford created this space and gave filmmakers a voice and a platform for that voice, he had no idea where it would go. Now here we are 30 years later. Yes, Mr. Redford could have done this in LA or NY, reasonable choices, but he wanted "...to make it weird." In essence, he thought, let's throw a film festival in Utah in the middle of winter and see what happens. We have seen what happens and it's all good!
Discussing the goals and mission of the Sundance Film Festival a little further, Mr. Redford stated that independent film is at the mercy of distribution. "It's our hope but not our business for making money," said Redford. Mr. Cooper supported Redford by adding that films such as BLACKFISH, helped to change awareness and that's even more important than the dollar. In addition, because our film world is changing, more independent films are being seen by a greater audience. Sundance supports artists, creatively, and helps guide them in how to navigate the distribution process. Their department called "Artist's Services" does just that.
The audience was then allowed to ask several questions having to do with other aspects of this years's festival including the special architectural feature developed with technology. Check back for photos of this amazing spectacle of combining art with technology. Redford's festival will always be cutting edge and unique as he and his crew are at the forefront and in touch with what filmmakers are doing and what they need.
Sundance not only gives first time filmmakers chances, but smaller film critics the opportunity to do exactly what the larger media outlets do. I am living proof of that. As I stood next to photographers at the red carpet from NYC and sat next to reporters from Variety magazine, for the first time, I was not intimidated, but felt lucky to be a part of this experience. Sundance truly is for everyone. Thank you, Mr. Redford.