“It didn’t always happen – Bryan Singer was maybe the first, but even he had a string of independent films leading up to his massive studio work,” said Groth about Sundance being a launching pad for lesser known filmmakers to go on to work on big budget features.
“Now it’s happening so quickly, and I just think it’s the success of them. Christopher Nolan, from Memento onwards, was just a huge trajectory,” he added. Nolan went on to direct major hits including The Dark Knight, Inception, Man of Steel and Interstellar.
Groth said the studios are not looking to festivals like Sundance to pluck talent, since generally they don’t like to take chances on completely unknown talent. Many of the participants at Sundance – while unknown – still have a verifiable track record. “I think the success of them has emboldened the studios to take that little bit of chance, saying, this guy could be the next…”
In addition to the successful film directors who rose up through the film festival, Groth said there is also now a steady pipeline of people going through the Sundance Institute’s directing and writing labs who are also getting a lot of top studio and television jobs.
He also speaks about how the festival has expanded internationally and to other U.S. cities, and this growth is expected to continue. But the expansion of Sundance over the years has not changed the quality of the festival, which Groth said still manages to be diverse and engaging every year.
“Even programming the Park City festival stays fresh because it’s a new crop of films every year, and I get such a jolt of energy from all of those films. And the creativity that’s happening out there in the independent area right now – between documentaries and narratives – it’s exhilarating.”
Watch the full interview to hear more about the Sundance Institute’s lab programs for aspiring filmmakers and what it’s like working with the festival’s founder, actor/producer Robert Redford.
As Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival, Trevor Groth supervises the Programming staff, collaborates with the Director of the Festival on strategic planning and oversees the selection process for both films and jury members. He also programs film and music for Sundance London and oversees the Sundance Institute’s ShortsLabs.
Groth’s first job in film was as a development assistant for the Sundance Institute in 1992. He joined the programming staff a year later and has worked there ever since. During that time, along with programming at Sundance, he has been a consultant for numerous international festivals and film organizations including Artisan Entertainment, Australian Film Institute, IFILM and the Off-Plus Camera Film Festival in Krakow. From 2001-2009 he served as Artistic Director for the CineVegas Film Festival. Working closely with Dennis Hopper, who was Chair of the Creative Advisory Board, he shaped the festival into one of the most distinctive and “dangerous” film festivals in the world. In 2009 he was one of ten festival directors asked to contribute to the Phaidon Press publication Take 100: The Future of Film: 100 New Directors.