Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute

TITLE:  Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS:  Feature film, documentary, film music, Native American and indigenous films

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Putnam's experience in big budget blockbusters as well as indie films provides a great balance in Sundance's grant making.

PROFILE: Keri Putnam is the Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, where she oversees just about every one of their programs, including the Feature Film Program, Documentary Film Program, the Sundance Film Festival, their Film Music Program, their Theatre Program, and their Native Film Program. Putnam is also responsible for "expanding the Institute's international work, initiating strategic partnerships, cultivating relationships with foundations and corporate sponsors, and growing the Institute's annual operating budget."

Though it may sound like she has a lot on her plate, Putnam is quite at home with her responsibilities and has the background to prove it. Prior to joining Sundance in 2010, Putnam served as president of production for Miramax, and before that she was Executive Vice President for HBO Films, where she was responsible for the development and production of films for both cable and theatrical distribution.

Putnam is also a Harvard grad where she studied theatre. She then went on to work for Williamstown Theater Festival, McCarter Theater, Arena Stage, and the ART, among many others, before moving on to HBO and beyond.

At Sundance, Putnam quickly established herself as an integral player in the realm of grantmaking for film. One of the programs Putnam is quite proud of is the Film Forward initiative. The program is described as "an international touring program designed to enhance greater cultural understanding, collaboration and dialogue around the globe by engaging audiences through the exhibition of films, workshops and conversations with filmmakers."

In a recent NEA interview (one of the program's partners), Putnam elaborated: "I think Film Forward is a perfect illustration of how the arts can fill the role of expanding people's minds, as well as their hearts.  Because you have stories that you can engage with on the basis of the themes they deal with and the issues that they raise. But you're also engaging with them as you do with any great story, on a personal emotional level. And you have an opportunity to talk to the storyteller directly."

Expanding the connection of filmmaker and the audience, especially globally, is a recurring theme with Putnam and with Sundance as a whole. They also take great care in fostering projects throughout the life of the process, and for supporting diversity in filmmaking. 

Their Feature Film Program Fund offers over a dozen different grants and fellowships, ranging between around $5,000 and $10,000, including the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship and the Time Warner Storytelling Grant. All grant recipients receive year round creative and strategic support from Sundance's Feature Film staff and access to one of their Feature Film Program Labs. Sundance's Documentary Film Program also offers a number of grant opportunities in different areas. The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grants funds to between 45 to 55 projects a year with amounts ranging between $20,000 and $50,000.

Putnam's connections in the world of film production and distribution run deep, so she is definitely a strong asset to the organization. With these programs and new initiatives like their partnership with Kickstarter that Putnam was also instrumental in, Sundance is constantly expanding the ways it can help filmmakers see their projects become reality.


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