The lineup for the second annual Sundance London Film and Music Festival was released yesterday, full details of the features playing can be found here.
The festival Directors have outdone themselves this year, building on the success of the inaugural event in 2012. There are a number of UK and International premieres as well as a chorus of new voices and the ethos of the Park City festival has traveled very well across the pond.
On the occasion of the lineup being revealed we took some time out with John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival and Trevor Groth, Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival to get a feel for their thinking when they compiled the festival programme as well as their take on the independent cinema scene in the UK and the US.
Our interview with John and Trevor is below, the responses are marked with the initials of who it should be attributed to.
Congratulations on the success of Sundance London. Were there any moments which surprised you about bringing the festival to London?
JC: With Sundance London last year, we had a sense of what we wanted the festival to be, but because it was our first time hosting a public event in London and our first time giving music an equal platform as film, we weren’t entirely sure how it would be received. We were thrilled that audiences showed up, and we were even more encouraged to see how engaged they were with the work we presented. For me, it proved that good stories are universal.
The choice of films for Sundance London last year seemed deliberately varied. Is that the case again with this year’s line-up?
JC: There are a few different strands of programming within the festival. Our main film programme is focused entirely on American independent film, so while the topics each addresses may vary, there’s a unity in the alternative approaches they take. By rounding that out with our Special Event, UK Spotlight and short films, we aim to represent the diversity of work the independent film community is producing at this point in time.
What’s your main objective when selecting films to play at Sundance London – is it to be deliberately diverse, or to showcase a number of new talents, for example?
TG: Our goal with the Sundance London film programme is to offer a snapshot of the work we show at our Festival in Utah, with an emphasis on American independent film. That means presenting a mix of documentaries, narratives and shorts, including some that tie in to common themes we saw at our Festival in Utah. And because we want Sundance London to be a fun and lively experience, we’re also looking for films that will build energy and momentum and lend themselves well to the shared experience of a film festival.
We’re used to seeing films which premiere at Sundance go on to launch careers both in front of and behind the camera. Which names should we be looking out for in Sundance London 2013?
TG: There are so many talented filmmakers represented in the Sundance London film programme that I think audiences will have a difficult time picking their favorite. I hope we will continue to see great work from all of them, especially the first-time feature filmmakers joining us: Steve Hoover (Blood Brother), Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer), Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier (The Moo Man) Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk With Me) and Peaches (Peaches Does Herself).
Does the success of Searching for Sugar Man and The Imposter allow for a stronger foundation on which to promote more documentaries?
JC: Sundance Institute has long been a major supporter of documentaries, and that’s largely a credit to our President & Founder Robert Redford. We offer funding and creative support through our Documentary Film Program as well as a platform for showing documentaries to audiences through our festivals and other initiatives. Many of the documentaries we showed last year had great success, and we hope that encourages audiences to continue seeking out great new documentaries.
How much did the audience reaction to last year’s festival dictate how you drew up this year’s offering?
TG: We did a lot of listening and observing at last year’s Sundance London because we really wanted to see how audiences responded to the programme. Our goal for Sundance London is the same this year as it was last year, but having done it once before, I would say we maybe have a better sense of how to achieve that. For example, we saw how eager audiences were to interact with filmmakers, so our panels, Q&As and even the common areas for attendees this year are responsive to that.
How does the independent film scene in the U.S. differ from the UK?
JC: There’s certainly a wealth of filmmaking talent in both regions, and I think there’s less of a difference now than there was 10 or 15 years ago, since technology allows us to share media across great distances more easily. What I love about independent film, regardless of where it’s produced, is that even when it presents a unique character in an unfamiliar situation, there’s something in how that story is told that is relatable by anyone in the audience.
Sundance London runs from the 25th to the 28th of April and is held at London’s O2 arena.