The independent film industry has been uniquely affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Important film festivals where indie filmmakers screen their films and make career-starting connections have been canceled, while educational programs and events have been postponed or moved online.

We as a community are in uncharted territory, but the Sundance Institute, being one of (if not the) biggest names in indie film, has laid out their plan on how it will navigate the new challenges posed by COVID-19.

Sundance Institute CEO and executive director Keri Putnam send out a list of things Sundance is doing to "reimagine the future." 

Let's go over each item:

58 live programs will no longer be in-person gatherings

All of the live programs, workshops, and intensives Sundance had planned through August 2020 will not take place in-person, including the 2020 Summer Labs. Furthermore, London and Hong Kong Sundance Film Festivals have been postponed. Dates still pending.

Most programs will be adapted for Sundance Co//ab

Sundance will be taking advantage of its digital platform Sundance Co//ab to offer select programs online. In fact, its Short Film Session, which was originally planned to take place in San Jose, CA for 120 participants, launched online to over 1600 people from all parts of the world.

Webinars, member Q&As, and masterclasses are now free for anyone through Sundance Co//ab

These events used to only be available to paid members, but the Sundance Institute has opened these events up to anyone who wants to participate at no cost. This is proving to be a major boon to filmmakers, with reports coming in that sign-ups have doubled. Putnam says, "We are excited about the potential to gather independent creators on Sundance Co//ab at a time when many are in need of community, mentorship, inspiration, and collective action."

A fund to support artists will be created

According to the Sundance Institute says it will "deepen and expand" its support of artists, setting aside a special fund that will go to support them. "We recognize that individual artists will need strategic advice and direct financial support," Putnam says. "[We] are working now to determine how best to provide assistance in this challenging moment."


The Sundance Institute has collaborated with the National Endowment for the Arts to expand and accelerate a "field sustainability" initiative that had been planned before the crisis. Its purpose is to "meet urgent needs that have been raised by artists and peer arts organizations" through biweekly virtual field meetings that will be kicking off this week. The Sundance Institute will be launching an open platform in the next few days complete with communication tools, resources, and hubs that will help connect filmmakers with organizations.

Communicating with other film festivals about 2021

In hopes of avoiding even more logistic and financial mayhem, the Sundance Institute will be working with other film festivals and nonprofits as they prepare for the 2021 festival season. "We are in conversations with other film festivals and nonprofits to share ideas," explains Putnam, "and to ensure that we’re eliminating duplicative, expensive efforts and working as collectively and efficiently as possible to support the filmmakers whose Festival premieres and releases didn’t happen this spring, and those whose films are in suspended states of production."

To read Putnam's full letter, head on over to the Sundance Institute's website.

Source: Sundance Institute