The Sundance Institute is throwing its support and name recognition behind online crowdfunding source Kickstarter with a three-year deal to serve as the program's creative funding collaborator.
Starting this spring, all Institute artists and alumni -- and that includes lab participants, grant recipients and festival filmmakers -- can place their projects on Kickstarter.com with Sundance branding and social media support.
Facebook will be another program component. Earlier this week at the Sundance Film Festival, Facebook led the first in a series of hands-on workshops for Institute alumni. During these workshops, artists received training on free tools and apps for social engagement, education in the types of pages and profiles they can utilize and insight into Facebook's advertising opportunities.
To execute the program, the Sundance Institute has hired Cinetic Media veteran Christopher Horton as associate director of filmmaker services. Horton, who will relocate to Los Angeles, will work closely with Sundance director of digital initiatives Joseph Beyer and associate director of development Katie Kennedy along with the institute’s program directors.
Further development will include access to an array of third-party digital distribution platforms backed by Sundance Institute promotional support. The Institute is also exploring opportunities for theatrical exhibition in collaboration with organizations such as Sundance Cinemas and members of the national Art House Project.
Putnam stressed that the initiative is consistent with the Institute's status as a nonprofit entity and its mission statement, which states that the "Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences." This includes, Putnam said, helping filmmakers connect with audiences throughout the life of their projects from production through release.
The collaboration launched this week at the festival with alumni workshops conducted by Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler.
"[These initiatives] are completely artist-led, so individuals will decide for themselves how to use these various services," Putnam said. "They're not one size fits all."
While Sundance has benefited from a robust acquisitions market this year, Putnam noted that isn't the story for every film. "We're thrilled that artists are being professionally acquired and it's great for the overall film ecosystem," she said. "But what about the films that are not acquired and are among the ones we think as an organization are among the best out there? How can we use our name and knowledge to help? We don't want to be a distributor and it's not what we are going to do, but I thought, 'Why don't we be a conduit and lend our trademark?'"
According to Kickstarter, more than 350,000 people have pledged over $30 million to Kickstarter projects since its launch in spring 2009.