About the NEA

Sundance Institute Nurtures "Indie" Films


People line up for tickets under the marquee of a theater which reads sundance Film Festival

The Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah is home to the Sundance Film Festival, attended by over 20,000 people each year.

1981Independent films - originally conceived as an alternative to Hollywood's big-budget blockbusters - are now so successful they've even been adopted by Tinseltown's major studios. In large part, moviegoers have the Sundance Institute to thank for the increasing variety of their cinematic options. The Sundance Institute was begun in 1979 by renowned actor Robert Redford, who gathered a group of colleagues and friends in Utah to discuss new ways to enhance the artistic vitality of American film. The result was the Sundance Institute, dedicated to the support and development of emerging screenwriters and directors and to the national and international exhibition of new, independent dramatic and documentary films. In addition to sponsoring the annual Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Institute offers artistic development programs in documentary film, feature film, film music, and theater. Sundance has transformed the movie industry by bringing to public view a much wider range of artistic vision, voice and expression. By creating unprecedented partnerships between established filmmakers and emerging talents, the institute has powerfully impacted the creation of new film markets. The Arts Endowment has supported the institute since its initial four-week workshop and seminar for independent filmmakers held in 1981. "Our very beginning was due in large part to the support of the NEA," Redford recalls. "The Arts Endowment has played a key role in encouraging organizations like the Sundance Institute to grow and expand its influence, not only through financial support, but, more significantly, through consistently articulating the importance of the arts and the artist in our society. It's hard to imagine the arts in this country without the NEA as a rallying point, a promoter of independent thinking artists, and a symbol of what we hope to be." Many past participants of the institute's feature film program have gone on to produce critically-acclaimed works. These include Quentin Tarantino, who made Reservoir Dogs; Paul T. Anderson, creator of Hard Eight; and Kimberly Peirce, whose film Boys Don't Cry won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. They, in turn, return often to the labs in a mentoring capacity, to provide creative support to new filmmakers. The artists and films supported by the Sundance Institute are the recipients of numerous Oscar, Emmy and international film festival awards. The Sundance Institute has been a strong supporter of documentary filmmaking as well, screening such Academy Award-winning films as Born into Brothels, The Times of Harvey Milk, American Dream, and Hoop Dreams at the festival.