Sundance names John Cooper festival director

Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:03am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday named veteran John Cooper as its new director, signaling the top U.S. gathering for independent movies remains on a even keel in choppy economic waters.

In his new position, Cooper will oversee strategic growth, online initiatives and festival partnerships along with leading the festival's programing, among his duties.

He had previously been the festival's director of film programing as well as director of creative development for the Sundance Institute, which he joined in 1989. The institute was founded by actor Robert Redford to support independent film.

In the past, Cooper helped promote cutting-edge art and video at the festival, boosted its Web presence and helped get short films distributed via iTunes and other Web services.

He replaces Geoffrey Gilmore, who last month left Sundance after 19 years as festival director.

Cooper told Reuters the recession and rapidly changing technology present major challenges ahead. Independent producers are finding it ever harder to fund movies and more people are going to the Web for their entertainment.

"It forces you to rethink things going into the future, not so much what Sundance is ... but what all film festivals may be like," he said.

Cooper did not yet know exactly how he and Sundance might adapt, but said he was open to new ideas.   Continued...