Held each January in Park City Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is probably the best known of the US film festival circuit. Founded in 1978 by Actor and Director Robert Redford, along with the head of his Wildwood production company Sterling Van Wagenen, John Earle and Cirina Hampton Catania; who saw it as the perfect opportunity to attract more filmmakers to Utah and provide a venue for Independent American films.
In its first run, the Film Festival screened A Street Car Named Desire, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, The Sweet Smell of Success, and Deliverance. During the 80s and 90s, it became known as a low profile venue for small budget films. Successful Sundance premiers have launched the careers of Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, 1993), Kevin Smith (Clerks, 1993), Paul Thomas Anderson (Hard Eight, 1996), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, 1992), Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise, 1985) and Darren Aronofsky (Pi, 1998).
In 1981, Redford and his dedicated team opened the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help independent filmmakers, playwrights, and musicians develop their artistic talents through a series of programs, grants and funds. Artistic programs offered include Feature Film, Documentary, Theater, Native Film, Film Music, Producing, and Short Film. The Institute holds their programs throughout the year in Park City Utah, Massachusetts, and East Africa. They also offer jobs and internships at their business offices located in Los Angeles, New York City and, of course, in Park City Utah.
Programs at the Sundance Institute mix a hands-on workshop environment with mentorship from accomplished industry professionals. Since its inception, it has given over $5.2 million in funds for over 175 projects. It remains the only independent filmmaking institute that offers a program specializing in film music composition.
Over the years, Sundance has gone from a low-key venue, to an all-out Hollywood extravaganza, complete with paparazzi fanfare and a kind of lobbying through luxury lounges offered to both Stars and the more affluent public by companies not affiliated with the festival. Since 2007, festival organizers have tried to downplay this trend by launching a Focus on the Film campaign, a sentiment at the heart of the festival and Institute’s overall mission. In 1996, Redford launched the Sundance Channel, making access to Independent cinema available to an even wider audience.
The Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival continue to be a driving force in the discovery of new talent in not only the filmmaking world, but in theatre and music as well. In addition to the wonderful, film filled vacation attending the festival would bring; it could very be the start of a wonderful career in the movie industry.
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