11:30 a. M. PDT 03/25/2021
The executive has led the nonprofit arts organization for more than ten years.
Keri Putnam will step down as executive director of the Sundance Institute before the end of the year, after a decade in the nonprofit arts and media organization.
“I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished over the past decade, especially over the past year, and it felt like the right time to try a new chapter and also for the organization,” Putnam said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Putnam, who first attended the famous festival in 1992, joined the Sundance Institute after a long career in production, which included holding senior positions at HBO Films and serving as president of production at Miramax. A central focus of the executive’s past decade has been to spearhead efforts to bring more diversity to the Sundance fold and, by extension, to the independent film space, which has long been overwhelmingly white and masculine. As Putnam explains, one of the main attractions of the job was “the paper [Sundance] he played in launching artists that would not have been prioritized by the commercial system. “
A program launched under Putnam’s purview was Sundance Catalyst, which aims to forge relationships between independent investors and filmmakers and, over the past eight years, has raised $ 40 million in equity investments and grants. Other new efforts included a grant to diversify the critics covering the Park City festival, as well as a 2012 partnership with USC’s director of the Annenberg Inclusions Initiative, Dr. Stacy Smith, and Women in Film to study the barriers faced by artists who identify as women. The latter led to the launch of the Women at Sundance program, which helped Sundance achieve gender parity in its programs. In the 2021 iteration of the Sundance Film Festival, female directors made up exactly 50 percent of the festival’s roster, while 51 percent of the filmmakers were people of color.
“I had been coming to Sundance since 1992. I loved the institute and for a long time understood the impact on launching talents and careers. By 2010 I was well established in doing that job, but I was also struggling, along with the rest of the industry. , a hugely changing field, “says Putnam. For Sundance, the 2010s saw the rise of streamers in the independent space and the globalization that had long been a part of the studio system, which had begun to seep into independent film business models.
Putnam and his team established satellite festivals in London and Hong Kong, as well as the institute’s filmmaker lab programs in Mexico, East Africa and the Middle East, among other places.
“As a fierce supporter of independent creators, Keri has been instrumental in moving the Institute through a decade of transformation, while maintaining a laser focus on Sundance’s mission to preserve, discover, incubate and advance independent art in all its forms. Sundance Institute founder and president Robert Redford said in a statement. “We cannot overstate her impact, and we thank Keri for her invaluable service in support of independent artists.”
“Under Keri’s leadership, Sundance forged new partnerships in the industry and beyond,” Sundance Institute Chairman Pat Mitchell said in a statement. “As a result, the Institute is stronger than ever and stands ready to seize this exciting time to continue its invaluable work on behalf of independent artists in the United States and around the world.” Mitchell and Vice President Ebs Burnough will lead the search committee. for Putnam’s replacement, which Mitchell noted will come at the end of the fiscal year.
Putnam also oversaw the expansion of the Sundance Institute’s global footprint, bringing Sundance to artists and audiences beyond Utah with festivals in London and Hong Kong and lab programs not just in US cities but in Mexico, East Africa. , Middle East and beyond.
Putnam’s departure means that the 2021 iteration of the famous festival, the first Sundance to take place exclusively online due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19, will be its last. She says the feat is “one of the most challenging things I’ve ever worked on and one of the proudest moments I’ve ever been a part of.” The online festival also acted as the first for the festival’s new director, Tabitha Jackson, who took over from John Cooper after his 11 years in office.
When asked what’s next, Putnam lists several possibilities, including a return to development and production or a tenure in artistic and cultural work. “I really want to explore,” he says. “It’s such a dynamic time on the field that once you start listening a little and exploring, the answer will open up.”