The Sundance film festival is an annual event held every January in Park City, Utah. Founded by actor Robert Redford, the festival was named after his character in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The festival is designed to promote and showcase American and International independent films. It is run as part of the Sundance institute.
The Sundance Institute is a non profit organization that aims to help filmmakers enhance their talents. The Institute runs labs year round that have the resources to develop artistic talent. Many film makers, including Quentin Tarantino, have taken their early films to the Sundance Institute labs to workshop.
The Sundance Institute originated in 1981 with the intention of focusing on independent film. It has had a checkered history. Many filmmakers love the institute, but others feel it runs by its own guidelines and does not adhere to the true spirit of independent film. Although Robert Redford described the institute as a collaborative effort, many people claim that he was in charge and always had the final word.
Nevertheless, the film festival is enormously helpful for many independent filmmakers. It is a place to screen films that the major studios would not otherwise touch. The end result is that the major studios often pay millions for films that receive good word of mouth from Sundance.
Many major studios send their producers to the festival in hopes of finding the next major film talent. If a film is not bought by a producer, the filmmaker can take advantage of the resources of the Sundance Institute to help develop it. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the film that is thought to have renewed public interest in independent film, was first shown at the Sundance film festival.
During the 1990s, independent film enjoyed a comeback in popularity. Million dollar deals were made after viewings at the Sundance festival. The major studios realized that big money could be made with relatively little outlay. These sorts of deals were said to be the creative death of independent films, but Sundance is still the first point of call for the independent filmmaker.
The institute’s labs are dedicated specifically to the filmmaker. Scriptwriters, film music composers and directors have found the Sundance labs invaluable to the creative process. Filmmakers from around the world are drawn to the Institute for its creative atmosphere and business networking opportunities. What started off as a small collaborative project is now one of the world’s largest and most important film festivals.