You may not think of Utah as a major place for the film industry to premiere new titles, but the Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest and most influential film festivals in the world. Independent American and international films are showcased at this festival every January.
Beginning in 1978 when it was called the Utah/U.S. Film Festival, this yearly event was founded by Sterling Van Wagenen, an American film producer who worked with the Utah Film Commission to begin a festival that would highlight the potential of independent films and increase Utah's visibility in the film world, with the hope of attracting more filmmakers to the state.
The festival started to take off in 1981 when Hollywood superstar Robert Redford began to get involved. That year he founded the Sundance Institute, the non-profit organization that actively works to support independent movies. Redford's name, in addition to the financial and artistic support that the Institute provides, was instrumental in helping independent filmmakers get their projects funded and noticed by the film industry at the Sundance Festival.
Officially operating as the "Sundance Film Festival" since 1985, the festival has grown into an internationally renowned platform for film. Many of the best names in film got their start from being featured at Sundance. Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith, all owe their success to the recognition they received from Sundance. Quentin Tarantino's classic early film Reservoir Dogs was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992 and was immediately a huge hit with audiences and was nominated for the festival's grand prize. Other notable films that were featured at Sundance include The Blair Witch Project, Zach Braff's Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, and Napoleon Dynamite.
The festival has however seen its share of controversy in recent years. What began as a festival to showcase smaller independent movies has, some argue, been taken over by the Hollywood elite. By the early 2000s, bigger budget movies were being shown at Sundance, and many smaller studios, and filmmakers with smaller budgets felt like Sundance was no longer the place for them. In response, Sundance now runs an event called "Next Weekend" in Los Angeles, which aims to put the spotlight on smaller, more experimental films.
The Sundance Festival itself is held in Salt Lake City, Park City and Ogden. If you will be in the Salt Lake City area in January, you can purchase tickets and get more information about the festival by visiting the Sundance website.
InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.