Robert Redford Sundance Distrubution
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Topper says fest's job is to bring new voices into the world

Robert Redford defended the roots of the Sundance Film Festival during the opening day press conference Thursday, saying it’s not the responsibility of the fest to provide distribution for independent cinema, but rather be a launch pad for filmmakers.

“We have nothing to do with distribution,” Redford said. “Our job and our role are to create a space and platform to bring new voices to the world.”

The health of the independent film business was a topic at the forefront during the press conference, with declining box office returns for indies offset by the growing number of distribution platforms.

To that point, Redford said Sundance, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, consistently has been willing to support change in the industry.

“To me change is inevitable,” Redford said. “You either resist it or you try to turn it into as much of a positive as possible.

“We’ve made our adjustments to accommodate the new distribution,” Redford added.

Joining Redford on the panel were fest programmer John Cooper and Keri Putnam, executive director for the Sundance Institute.

Cooper said he feels the increased number of distribution platforms including VOD and digital streaming is giving films a greater opportunity to be seen.

Putnam agreed, though she added: “Getting films seen is something we believe in, but we’re more of a learning organization.”

As the face of Sundance, Redford said the festival has managed to weather rough times over the past 30 years. “We’ve certainly hit spots along the road that looked pretty grim.”

Still, his advice to other festivals looking to have similar longevity is pretty straight-forward.

“Don’t even try,” Redford said. “What everyone else wants to do is their own business, and I wish them well.”

As for the filmmakers, Redford said it will always be the mission of Sundance to be a community of artistic vision. But when it comes to distribution, he said: “It’s our hope. It’s not our business.”

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