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The Influence

Sundance is the biggest brand in independent film, but its movies face the same challenges: How do filmmakers get themselves seen? That's the driving force behind the Sundance Institute's Artist Services program.

And, as Putnam, Beyer, and Horton readily admit: Sundance doesn't have all the answers. However, the core mission of Artist Services -- which offers all Sundance Institute alums with the infrastructure to support funding, distribution and marketing  -- is figuring it out. "It was launched not as a business but as a program," said Putnam, who cites the sponsorship of the Bertha Foundation as being key to the program's development. "We wanted to get involved in a space that's transforming quickly."

While much of that transformation is in the digital realm, Sundance recognizes that it's the entire ecosystem that's demanding examination. "We're doing a lot of R&D in the theatrical space," said Horton. "We're starting to examine how consumers and audiences see movies in all of their spaces."

Since its launch at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Artist Services has helped its filmmakers raise $4.5 million on Kickstarter and overseen the release of over a dozen titles. Added Beyer, "Each and every film is a unique trajectory. Sometimes it's just about closure -- it's dynamic, because every film takes its own course. But we haven't had a challenge we haven't been able to meet."

Biggest Success

"Realizing we've evolved this to a place we can open it to other nonprofits -- IFP, San Francisco Film Society, Cinereach," said Putnam. "We're able to qualify some more films and get great minds from other organizations. We're working together rather than competing."

Biggest Disappointment

Sometimes the progress doesn't happen fast enough. "I'd always imagined that we could move into cable, VOD, theatrical," said Putnam. "It's proved quite challenging."

Horton added, “I asked Heidi and Rachel (Ewing and Grady, the filmmakers of Detropia) once if they had any regrets about distributing Detropia on their own. They said ‘None whatsoever, we’re so glad we chose to do it this way and it was the right thing to do. We just don’t know if we’d do it again.’ That shows just how much work and dedication is required.”

Biggest Challenge

Figuring out how to make the thousands of indie films produced each year more accessible to users. "It's incredible that it's still so difficult," said Beyer. "The way that films can be distributed has changed so radically and there's still no consumer-friendly way to find them. I'm surprised that there's no innovation."

What's Next

It's a long list. There's increasing education around nontheatrical distribution, better integration with more partners, redoing the website and figuring out how they might create a digital replication of Sundance Institute workshops.

The Survey
My Biggest Career Break...
Finding my way to HBO when I was new to the business, and being able to grow with the company, learn on the job, and build lifelong relationships with mentors, peers and talent.
Best Filmmaker Working Today...
A Guilty Pleasure Movie...
"Caddyshack." There, I've said it.
My First Job...
Assistant to VP of HBO Original Programming, New York
The age that Keri got her first job
Attended this year by Keri
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Keri has been to the Sundance Film Festival
The Survey
My Biggest Career Break...
Meeting John Cooper, no doubt about it -- that moment changed my life.
Best Filmmaker Working Today...
I'm a Carruth/Malick/Reygadas Man.
A Guilty Pleasure Movie...
If you put a link to "The Social Network" within my eyesight I simply can't stop watching it again. Everyone wants to invent something and change the world. There's a little Zuck in all of us.
My First Job...
Performing insane acts of magical wizardry, letting people pet my rabbit and making balloon animals at children's birthday parties. I made some serious bank.
Attended this year by Joseph
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Joseph has been to the Sundance Film Festival
The Survey
My Biggest Career Break...
Getting laid off from Miramax in 2002 and starting with John Sloss a week later; later getting the Sundance gig in January, 2011.
Best Filmmaker Working Today...
P.T. Anderson and Quentin Tarantino.
A Guilty Pleasure Movie...
"Independence Day"
My First Job...
I started out in the Business Legal Affairs Dept at Miramax in September, 2000, three months after graduating college. It was a big company at the time, and the only place I could get a job without connections. Starting in business and legal gave me a great background on deal structure and was an invaluable asset throughout my career.
The age that Chris got his first job
Attended this year by Chris
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Chris has been to the Sundance Film Festival