As the iconic Sundance film festival comes to London, we catch up with Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, the non-for-profit organisation that develops and champions independent filmmakers who show their work at the festival each year. Quentin Tarantino famously got his big break when Reservoir Dogs premiered there in 1992, so who knows who this year’s Sundance London might unearth…
Tell us a little bit about the Sundance Institute and your involvement with the festival
Sundance Institute is a year-round resource that supports independent filmmakers and theatre artists. The festival is perhaps the most visible example of how we raise the profile of their films - some of which they may have completed with the help of the institute at workshops and writers’ labs. In fact, Sundance has a record of discovering amazing films from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, to Lee Daniels’ Precious.
Why have you decided to bring the festival to London now?
To us, London was the logical choice as a destination to host the festival outside of the US We have supported UK and European films throughout our history and British films like An Education, Tyrannosaur, Hideous Kinky and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels all premiered at the Utah festival. So we’ve got a great connection to the industry here.
What are your top tips for women trying to break in to the film industry?
1. Do your research. Determine which part of the industry would best suit you – do you want to make films, produce them, market films, or write scripts? Identify who has the job you aspire to. Volunteer for film festivals to get a sense of that side of the industry.
2. If you are studying, do as many internships as you can. Meet people, learn what they do.
3. Be as focused as possible, be willing to work your way up and be open to learning and growing along the way.
4. Don't be shy about seeking mentors. You will be surprised how generous people are if you have done your homework, show passion and ask them to share their insights.
5. Most importantly, learn to write well and see a lot of films.
Keri’s top five films of all time
The Graduate (1967) One of the first classic movies of the ‘60s I discovered. I owned it in high school and can't count how many times I've seen it.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) I love many comedies of this era. This one is so silly and yet sophisticated – I love that combination.
The Candidate (1972) Of course, this was a prime performance by Robert Redford (who happens to be my boss). To me the smart satire of this film, as well as the relevant topic, were groundbreaking then and remain relevant now.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) I love the irreverence, the style and the gorgeous look of this movie.
The Godfather (1972) What is there to add? It’s a classic.