Another Day, Another Storytelling Initiative (This Time from Sundance)

It's safe to say that the "art of storytelling" is all the rage across various sectors in the arts space. 

All the way back in February of 2014, we theorized that storytelling may be the next big funding opportunity in the museum space. Since then, we've looked at many intriguing storytelling initiatives in journalism, higher ed, and, not surprisingly, the film sector.

The Sundance Institute is among those funders who's deeply invested in the power of storytelling. 

Sundance recently awarded over $1 million to documentary projects and artists at the forefront of "global nonfiction storytelling," whose subjects and forms "reflect the inclusive range of the institute's mission."

Through its Art of Nonfiction Initiative, Sundance provides targeted creative and financial support for filmmakers or projects "exploring inventive artistic practice in documentary story, craft and form."

Check out the full list of winners here.

Sundance has funded works through various stages, including development, production, post-production and "impact," which Sundance characterizes as a stage "designed to develop a project's audience engagement campaigns." Grantees also include New Frontier projects—recently profiled here—which support innovators on new story platforms like virtual reality.

Now, let's zoom out and view the initiative from a more contextual perspective, shall we?

You'll notice that in the introductory sentence, I put the word "storytelling" in quotes. That was intentional. After all, what's the difference between, say, "storytelling," "documentaries" and "nonfiction?" Luckily for you, I won't bore you with an exposition on semantics. Rather, I'd simply call attention to a branding component at play here. 

Much like the evocative "artist as activist" trope has spread like wildfire across the visual arts space, the word "storytelling" can carry more intrigue and depth compared to a bland term like "documentaries." Based on the spate of new storytelling initiatives we've seen across the past 12 months, funders seems to grasp this. The term captures the imagination of the podcast-loving general public.

In other words, why "shoot a documentary" when you can "tell a story?"

It's a subtle descriptive distinction, but the evidence speaks for itself. Organizations should take the hint. Storytelling, from a programing perspective, will only continue to grow in breadth and popularity. The term itself is pretty cool, too. Use it early and often.