One of Utah’s trademarks is the Sundance Film Festival, an annual independent film festival that takes place in Park City and Salt Lake City and garnered over 70,000 attendees last year – many of which include high profile actors, directors, and producers. With the Institute founded in 1981, Sundance was founded as a low-budget festival to give attention to independent filmmakers, and will now be approaching its 40th year in operation. The festival was also designed to bring filmmaking to Utah, which is has successfully done.
By 1988, the festival was screening almost 100 films. Once the festival started gaining momentum and popularity, it had to be selective on the films it was able to showcase. In the early 2000s, the festival was getting thousands of film submissions, with roughly 200 slots available. In 2017, the festival received over 13,000 submissions, and screened 181 one of those.
Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Film Festival, is a familiar name to fans of classic western films. He starred alongside Paul Newman in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, naming the festival after his own character in the film – the Sundance Kid. This film launched Redford into stardom because of its overwhelming success. Redford, with the help of Sterling Van Wagenen, Cirina Hampton Catania, and John Earle, started the legacy known as the Sundance Film Festival on the towering slopes of the Wasatch front.
The festival is now a way for indie films to become successful box-office hits, and for some, that’s exactly what they fear. With the wildfire-like popularity and success of the film festival, for the past ten years, Redford, voiced his opinion that he feared with the festival’s mainstream presence, it has been losing the element that made it special for so long. Festival organizers have since been attempting to curb activities, like luxury lounges and other aspects of the festival that drew in big celebrities and hoards of paparazzi, drawing away from the main importance of the film festival – celebrating indie filmmaking as an art.
This influx of popularity isn’t slowing down, either. From 2016 to 2017, attendance jumped from 46,660, to 71,600. Staff numbers keep growing, and the festival now as offices in Park City, New York City, and Los Angeles to be able to reach filmmakers all across the U.S. The festival also is an funnel for $3.28 million in grants to reach the artists that contribute to Sundance, and provides public workshops from experts to inform and educate artists and filmmakers on many topics involving the short filmmaking industry. It has given rise to many influential filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, and films such as The Blair Witch Project, Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, and Supersize Me.
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival will be taking place from January 18-28 this year, and will take place across Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance. This year’s lineup of films can be found at Sundance’s website here. Tickets to the event can be found here.