Robert Redford and Sundance London Interview
Robert Redford and Sundance London Interview
After the tremendous success of the inaugural Sundance London last April, president and founder Robert Redford returns with John Cooper, the festival director, and Alex Hill, the chief financial officer of AEG Europe, which owns the Sundance London venue The O2, to discuss their decision to host a second Sundance London film festival, their reasoning for incorporating both film and music into the festival and the current state of independent cinema as a whole.
This year is the second Sundance London. Looking back, how did last year go for each of you? What did you learn from that inaugural event last April?

Robert Redford

Well, last year when we came here, it was the first time that Sundance ventured out of its home base in Utah in the United States. We came because we were invited, basically, and we thought that rather than come in a big way, it would be wiser and more practical to come in a smaller way. And rather than come in for a week, we would come in for just a few days and it was kind of like a toe in the water experiment. We did not know how it was going to go, we did not know how we might be received, and so that’s how it started last year.

We said, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes and if it goes well, then we may come back if we’re asked’. Because I don’t think Sundance would ever insert itself or push itself in any other place so we would come if we were asked to see how it goes and if it doesn’t work, we wouldn’t do it again and if it does, we would. So it went well for us and I guess Alex can speak for himself, but we’ve been asked back a second year and we’re happy to be here.

John Cooper

I think, in terms of what worked last year, I really felt that what impressed my whole team that comes with me here, is that the notion of how receptive the audiences were and how in the Q&A’s – because we bring all our filmmakers with us to the events – there’s a lot of interaction, that’s what makes the festival festive. The reactions from the audiences were, I think, foremost in our minds when we decided to come back, and then talking with the filmmakers, they had a really amazing time here.

Basically, because of the facilities – obviously, the projection is kind of amazing – and then just the real experience with the audiences and the meeting of new audiences and the notion that films can travel outside the American borders. I think that was what was exciting for us.

Alex Hill

To be honest, I don’t think there’s much more to add but I think, from our point of view, you always think that you’re putting together a really great festival and you’re working with a great partner and you think you’re going to put it all together really, really well, but you really don’t know until you see the reaction of the audience and last year, we saw that it really, really worked. And that’s the main thing: to put on a great event for the fan and for the consumer. So, I think that was the key thing for us and we’re really pleased that it worked and we think it’s great that it’s coming back a second time. And the other thing was that what we did know was that people didn’t really like the weather last year, so we’ve brought the lovely sun with us this time, so we’ve hopefully learned from that as well.
Mr. Redford, Sundance London is as much about music as it is about film. From your point of view, why is it as important for you to shine a light on music talent with Sundance as it is to shine a light on new film talent?

Robert Redford

Music and film have become more and more integrated over the last few years and because Sundance is about floating the change, we believe change is inevitable and so therefore we treat it positively and we float with it. I know some people maybe are afraid of change and they react against it, but we see it as positive. And so one of the changes that has taken place outside of technology and film coming more and more together, is music and film, and rather than just be a background or a backup to a film as in the old days, it’s become more integrated to the point that sometimes, music is the film. So, because of that, we wanted to take our lab programs and bring that forward. So we have a music lab, along with a documentary lab and then our film lab, so they kind of co-exist around the merging that’s going on around the market.

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Content updated: 19/04/2019 23:22

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