Robert Redford Sundance London Interview
Robert Redford Sundance London Interview
Sundance London hit the O2 for the last weekend in April 2012. Bringing with it 27 film screenings, 17 musical acts and numerous actors, musicians and directors from the industries. Speaking before the festival began, Robert Redford, founder of the original Sundance festival in Utah, and John Cooper, the festival director, spoke about bringing their ethos all the way to London, how it felt to have royal support and why technology can sometimes take things in the wrong direction.
The first question, is the obvious one. Quite simply, why are you here? Why have you decided to come to London with Sundance? Why here, why now?

Robert Redford

Two things came together. We were invited to come to O2 and secondly, it was a desire of ours to move international but we wanted to be careful about that. The festival had grown to such a degree that we wanted to move internationally. The lab programmes at Sundance had gone international in many, many countries and so the question was, 'Can we take the full bloom of what the labs were about to another country?' I was reluctant to do that for a while because I didn’t want growth to just be about growth – it had to have some meaning to it.

So I was reluctant to go out until time was really ready and it felt like it was. We decided that if we take a scaled-down version of what we do in the mountains in Utah to another country upon invitation, it would be a good thing. We would scale it down and bring sort of the alchemy of what we do at Sundance and just see how it was received. That’s why we’re here.
John, we can see why the O2 wanted you, but what sold you on the O2 as a venue?

John Cooper

I think really the facilities themselves. That whole notion of creating community – that's something we like and if we're going to mix music into it, we wanted the music venues close to the film venues, the projection, the quality of the cinemas here. That’s first and foremost for our filmmakers of course. You start with great facilities and great films and the community part takes on itself. I just love that I don’t have to drive between venues. Once you get inside, you can walk between things and that’s kind of what it was: to form a place where we can create dialogue as well. A big part of what Sundance is is creating dialogue – not just between ourselves, but also between the audiences.

Robert Redford

We should be so lucky to have a theatre like this. It’s really incredible.
It’s a lot bigger than anything in Park City, isn’t it? One of the big venues, I think, is a high school, isn’t it?

John Cooper

Yeah. The small venues could be in a ballroom in a hotel.

Robert Redford

Or a library, converted.
This is specifically the London Film and Music Festival. I know music is strongly on the periphery of the Park City Sundance Film Festival, but this time it's really centre stage and almost equal to the film content. What was the thinking behind that?

Robert Redford

Well, I think one of the things we do is to look ahead, as we design our programmes and we think about who we are and what we want to do and the way we want to do it. I see the future as a hybrid. You see certain things coalescing that were separate before so we try to show that in our festival.

For example, for many years there was a section of the festival where we just showed new equipment from Sony and other manufacturers in a room. I looked at it and I realise that there was something dead about it. Like a bunch of robots in a room – there was no life to it. I realised that what was missing was the art connecting to the people. So we decided to convert that into what we called the New Frontier, where we showed technology in its most advanced form working with artists and the product. That was really exciting and it brought life into it and so that was the first hybrid that we got.

Next we have the lab programme, which was where everything started at Sundance back in 1980. We started with film and theatre and then it progressed to music and documentaries and producing. And suddenly music and film look like that might be the new hybrid. The importance of film to music and music to film is powerful. Since that hybrid was on the horizon, we wanted to show that and bring our music composers lab here and bring music with film here to show that connection growing stronger and stronger.
What were the criteria for choosing the films that came over to London? I think there's 22 altogether.

John Cooper

We decided we wanted to show them straight out of the festival that we just had. We also decided that we wanted to bring American films over. And then we wanted to really represent the work that we do. There are many facets to the Sundance Film Festival, many different types of films, not just big films. We wanted to make sure there were documentaries and feature films and shorts programmes to represent everything that we do, both the experimental and the accessible films. We basically wanted to give everybody the taste of that and it’s very exciting for us to see how the audiences respond to these films.
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