A Few Questions for Sundance's New Leader

Earlier this week John Cooper was chosen to lead one of the country's most prominent film festivals. Cooper tells Advocate.com about his new post.

BY Kyle Buchanan

March 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

So how did it go down?It happened pretty quick. It was pretty much just one conversation. I did like that all the conversations were, "This is not a job interview," but of course, it all kind of was. Even when Redford came into the office and said, "This isn't a job interview," it was like, OK then, what is it? [ Laughs ] But it was really just to create some formality around the switch, I think.

Obviously, having you as the director of the festival is a great thing for Sundance as far as continuity. But I'm curious....is there anything unique you feel you can bring to this job -- that may take it in new directions?I'm going to look at everything, especially staffing and workload. People keep saying, "What are you going to do now?" and I'm kind of planning on listening for a while. I'm going to listen not only to the industry -- which is in its own form of chaos -- and the press corps, but also the filmmaking community. I want to see where things are going, especially in the low-budget arena. There seems to be a lot of growth there. Am I babbling yet?

No, not at all. Have you had to do a lot of these interviews today?No, actually. It's really funny...this guy from the New York Post called me...

Lou Lumenick?Yeah. He was like, "I'm on vacation, but I have to write about this," and he called me a mensch and said I picked up him and his daughter at a bar and drove them somewhere...I always pick up people at Sundance, so it's not shocking to me, but it was such a funny, personal approach to it. It was very sweet, I loved it.

You know that Lumenick once hit Roger Ebert with a binder at a festival.I just found that out! I had to make sure, "Who is this guy? Like, is he just someone I thought was cute once?" [ Laughs ] I was kind of curious.

What's the biggest challenge for Sundance right now? You mentioned the economic crisis...certainly, there were a lot less people at Sundance this year because of that.I know, and I don't know if we're at the end of that. I can see where a lot of people can't afford to come, but there are a lot of ways that people can come to Sundance for cheap. As far as changes being made to Sundance, though, I think that any changes made because of the economic crisis would be the right changes to make anyway.

Tags: film

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