John Cooper steps aside at Sundance

Festival director to take up emeritus director role after next year's edition

by Amber Wilkinson

John Cooper, centre, with Keri Putnam and festival founder Robert Redford
John Cooper, centre, with Keri Putnam and festival founder Robert Redford Photo: © 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Spencer C. Amonwatvorakul
Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper is to move to a newly created emeritus director role after next year's edition of the festival.

The move comes after he has notched up three decades on the festival staff, including 11 as the director.

The Sundance Institute says his new role will focus on special projects and overseeing the 40th anniversary of the Institute, to be celebrated in 2021. The search for his replacement will be led by the Institute’s CEO, Keri Putnam.

Way back in 2010, in his first year in the top job, he Eye For Film: "I always feel rebellious. I'm a closet rebel I think. I like to look like I'm not a rebel but then I do things that are rebellious."

During a period when festivals have been springing up around the globe, Cooper has kept the festival relevant, with sections dedicated to short films, along with the NEXT, New Frontier and Documentary Premieres all being created under his watch.

He has also overseen the creation of Sundance Industry Office and the youth-focused Sundance Ignite Program, as well as early development of the Arthouse Convergence.

Cooper said: “This journey has been exhilarating. I’ve been lucky to find my perfect job. l always had the founding principles, passed down by Robert Redford, to guide me. I attribute any success I have had to being part of an amazing staff (past and present) who strive together to help storytellers follow their dreams and launch careers. I’ve got such confidence and pride in the team, and am excited by all that the future holds. I look forward to remaining a part of this fantastic organisation in my new role, and creating a seamless transition for new Festival leadership.”

Putnam added: “Cooper’s contributions are immeasurably large and he will be missed in this role...but then again, he will be right down the hall in this new capacity. He’ll lend his vision and experience to key projects, as we build towards our 40th anniversary celebration and look ahead to the coming decades of supporting independent creativity.”

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