(Above: John Cooper at the “Beyond Sundance” panel in 2022)
We have had the great joy and honor to be working with John Cooper, former Director of Sundance. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Enjoy!
BendFilm: First, John can you just tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got involved
with Film and Sundance, and what you are doing now?
John Cooper: That is a big question with a long answer (but I will try and keep
it short). By a series of “fateful accidents” I was invited to the
Sundance Institute labs as a volunteer…and instinctually, I went.
I was invited back the next summer and given a job, a real job.
That job transitioned into an entry-level position with festival
programming and I moved up from there. My time lasted for 3
decades the last decade as Director of the Festival. I was drawn
to the challenge of building something great that had authenticity
and integrity, which I call an “ independent spirit”. In short–I had
been chasing a place in the theater and found a home at
Sundance. Today I am mostly retired but still consult on projects I
BF: Do you have a favorite memory from working with Sundance, maybe a film or
JC: I have many amazing memories of the talent I interacted with. I
came in contact with so many rising stars but was also in a
position to help them. There are very few directors working today
that I didn’t meet. But my best memories are of sharing creative
times in the trenches with like-minded staff who believed in the
same things as I did.
BF: Why do you think film festivals in general and ones like ours are important? Why
do you think people should come?
JC: The most important thing they do is amplify great stories whether
to launch them into the marketplace or create awareness. They
also create community in an industry that can be very insular
even narcissistic at times. I think of them as serving the same
purpose as art museums and libraries in a community.
BF: Did you have a standout film from the 2022 BendFilm Festival?
JC: CLOSE directed by Lukas Dhont
BF: If you were to try and sell the idea of the Bend Film Fest to someone who had no
clue what it was, what would you say? Why should they come?
JC: Funny you should ask that because in the last few months of
consulting with Bend Film, that is precisely what I needed to
do countless times.
First- Bend festival does so many things right, including creating
an Inviting and inclusive experience, great taste in programming,
fun original spirit with a logical and realistic concept for growth.
Second- Bend is a location surrounded with natural beauty and
with fun establishments and venues, a generous audience
Third Bend has a signature attitude of relevance mixed with
irreverence. The time of year is an added bonus and where it sits
on the world calendar of film events works in its favor.
BF: It is our 20th year! Are you planning on coming to the festival this year?
JC: Yes, I will be coming this year!