Sundance is Hip, Red State Fuss Overblown, and 6 Other Talking Points From Robert Redford & Co.
Among the topics at hand today as Robert Redford held court in Park City, Utah to open the 2011 Sundance Film Festival: The Sundance Institute's commitment to artists, their plans for global domination, how the fest is getting with the times (Twitter!), and of course, Kevin Smith's Red State. Because even in a wide-ranging convo about the storied indie mecca that Redford built, Smith's attention-grabbing, not-screening-for-press Christian homosexual murder pic had to steal the spotlight. Highlights of what Redford, festival director John Cooper, and Executive Director Keri Putnam had to say (including awkward chatter about marketing "riff raff" and rival fest Slamdance) after the jump.
1. The history of Sundance. All of it.
Filmmaker-environmentalist-philanthropist and (yes, even at age 74) still-hottie Robert Redford opened the press conference with a trip down memory lane to when the Sundance Film Festival began "on a shoestring" as a way to connect artists with audiences outside of the commercial marketplace. Fast forward three decades and Sundance is a huge celebrity-infested affair, but Redford and Co. remain dedicated to their founding vision while looking to expand, as evidenced by power phrases like "championing artists" and "creating opportunities."
2. Future Sundance will traffic in orphans.
With the rise of indie film funding and distribution tools like Kickstarter and VOD, smaller filmmakers have more opportunities to get their films seen. The folks at Sundance are already expanding their reach and support across the globe with screening programs, the Sundance Channel, and the recently announced JustFilms initiative dedicating $50 million to fund documentaries, but Redford hinted that the next step for Sundance will be finding a home for the "orphan" films that have played fests and languished unseen without distribution deals.
3. Redford's still got it. And he's not dead yet.
More of an observation for the Robert Redford fans out there: Bob's still a fox. Clad in a black bomber jacket and jeans, the septuagenarian held the theater of journalists enthralled and waved off speculation of his impending retirement. "I have not thought about retiring," he said. "I'm gonna die... but I'm not retiring."
4. Sundance is totes plugged in, you guys.
Second-year festival director John Cooper made special efforts to let the world know that Sundance has joined the 21st century. We're talking Twitter, YouTube, even a downloadable app for Androids and not just iPhones, y'all! They even live-streamed the press conference on the interwebs and will do 15 more live-streams during the festival. Power phrase du jour: "Exploring space."
5. Sundance is going global with Obamapower, bitches!
That's right. The Sundance Institute is heading to far-off corners of the globe with President Obama to show our foreign brothers and sisters what America is all about. That means that moviegoers in places like Tunisia will see films like Debra Granik's Winter's Bone and instantly know us as a people.
6. Sundance is totally not commercial. Down with marketing scum!
Cooper got real for a second to slag the "ambush marketers" who for years now have invaded Park City to pimp their wares on the sidewalk and in A-lister gifting suites, diminishing Sundance's indie cred: "I fear that this constant situation of ambush marketers are back. I like to call them riff raff."
After describing a low point years ago when he walked into a corporate sponsors' product suite and felt the "dead air" of its artlessness, Redford addressed critics who accuse Sundance of being too commercial. "We're doing it the same way we always did... our job is to provide, not to necessarily decide."
7. Slamdance? Totally not a parasite.
Did Redford accidentally insult the rival Slamdance Film Festival years ago? Responding to one journalist's recollection that he'd called the rival super indie fest (which takes place in the same town in the same week) a "parasite," Redford dismissed his own off-the-cuff remark, but explained that he'd probably said it because Slamdance tends to play films that couldn't get into Sundance. And also because it sucks previous indie film mojo from the Sundance jugular. (That part was more implied, I'll admit.) Redford closed the subject on a friendly note: "The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. I wish them well."
8. The fuss over Kevin Smith's Red State is overblown.
Finally, someone said it! Addressing reports that a bunch of extremist Christian crazies are planning to picket Kevin Smith's Red State -- a film which Smith has banned press from seeing, except for in the comfort of his own home and by invitation -- Cooper waved the fuss off AND spoiled Red State in one fell swoop. "Oddly enough, [the Westboro Baptist Church] is also protesting another film," Cooper explained. [They're set to picket this year's Grand Jury Prize winner, whichever movie that happens to be.]