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)

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."

Her Sundance bio shares: 

Keri Putnam is the Executive Director of the non-profit Sundance Institute whose mission is to discover and develop independent artists and introduce audiences to their new work. Putnam oversees the Institute’s annual Sundance Film Festival, as well as its year-round programs to creatively, financially and strategically support storytelling artists around the world through signature residential labs, workshops, direct granting, strategic and educational resources, and ongoing mentorship. Since joining the Sundance Institute in 2010, Putnam has launched international Festivals and Labs in countries including China, India, the UK and Morocco, initiated new programs to support artists working in episodic content, new media, and short-forms, launched an expanded creative producing initiative to support finance, marketing and distribution of independent work, and built several new initiatives to foster outreach and diversity in independent film, including the Women at Sundance program.

Prior to joining Sundance, Putnam was President of Production at Miramax films, a division of the Walt Disney Company, where she oversaw Acquisitions, Development, Production, Post-Production and Production Finance and made or acquired films including The Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, Stephen Frears’ The Queen, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland and Julian Schnabel’sDiving Bell and the Butterfly . During her 4-year tenure at the company, Miramax films were recognized with 34 Academy Award nominations and 7 wins.

Putnam spent the first 15 years of her career at HBO, starting as an assistant in original programming and ending as EVP of movies and mini-series overseeing the creative team in this area. She supervised production of 48 films and mini-series, which collectively were nominated or won over 50 Emmy Awards, as well as numerous Peabody Awards, Golden Globes and other honors. She was also a key leadership team member in building and launching a theatrical division called Picturehouse in partnership with New Line Cinema that made and released several acclaimed films including Maria Full of GraceAmerican Splendor, and Gus van Sant’s Cannes Palme D’or winner Elephant.


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Sally Jo Fifer, Independent Television Service (ITVS)

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Cable and public television programming; new media

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

PROFILE: Sally Jo Fifer is President and CEO of Independent Television Service (ITVS), the leading provider of independently produced programs for the PBS network. ITVS helps fund, present, and promote award-winning documentaries and dramas on cable and public television stations, as well as "innovative new media projects on the web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens."

Her Center for Cultural Innovation bio shares:

Sally Jo Fifer is President and CEO of Independent Television Service (ITVS), the leading provider of independently produced programs for PBS. Since 1991, ITVS has funded and presented more than 500 shows for public television—shows that explore complex issues, represent diverse communities, and express points-of-view seldom seen on television.  Sally oversees ITVS’s core operations which include funding, production management, distribution, promotion, and outreach services. She is also Executive Producer of Independent Lens, a 29-week national series for PBS.  Prior to taking the helm at ITVS, she spent nine years as the executive director of Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC). She is the co-editor with Doug Hall of Illuminating Video, a widely used textbook on video art. She has received fellowships for executive training from Stanford and Harvard Business Schools, her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and M.A. from Stanford University.

Kathy Im, MacArthur Foundation

TITLE: Director of Journalism and Media

FUNDING AREAS: Documentaries, radio, television, nonprofit journalism, media

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

PROFILE: Im is the Director of Journalism and Media at the MacArthur Foundation. Her foundation bio shares: 

Kathy oversees investments in the Foundation’s Journalism and Media program, which supports the foremost institutions of public service journalism, documentary storytelling, and participatory civic media. During her tenure, MacArthur has contributed to numerous impactful and award-winning investigative reports, and important innovations in the production and distribution of nonfiction media. In the Fall of 2014, Kathy took a sabbatical from the Foundation to be a Visiting Fellow at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. At MIT, she explored the intersection of interactive documentaries and digital journalism, and laid the groundwork for new collaborations between interactive media makers and major news organizations. She is the co-author of “Unrestricted funding vital for journalism,” published by the American Press Institute in 2016, a member of the Peabody Board of Jurors, and the board of Media Impact Funders.

At MacArthur, Kathy has also managed or contributed to a number of special initiatives, including the Foundation’s work on gun violence prevention, intellectual property in the public interest, Internet information credibility, migration, and American democracy. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kathy worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bank of America Foundation. In 2007, Kathy was named a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, a civic program for emerging leaders.

Kathy earned her bachelor's degree in government from Smith College and her master's in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago, where she was a founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Policy Review.

Ryan Harrington, Tribeca Film Institute

TITLE: Vice President, Artist Programs

FUNDING AREAS: Films and filmmakers

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

PROFILE: Ryan Harrington has been at the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) since the end of 2007, first as the Director of Documentary Programming where he helped develop, commission, and acquire feature length documentary films, and now oversees all Artist Programs as the institute's vice president.

Before Tribeca, Harrington was at A&E Television Networks for close to nine years managing production at A&E IndieFilms, the theatrical documentary arm of the network. While at A&E he championed the films American Teen, My Kid Could Paint That, and the Oscar-nominated Murderball and Jesus Camp.

TFI's artist programs provide over $2 million in annual grants for projects and filmmakers world-wide over a span of 14 different funds.

Harrington has explained how they go about the evaluation process: "TFI has a very thorough evaluation system. Everything that is submitted is looked at by a select committee of reviewers at least three times. For us, it is about two variables: the story and the filmmaker telling that story. Across the board, we look for stories that are timely, untold, thoughtful and in-depth, bolstered by a compelling visual approach. Apart from unique access and compelling character portraits, we also pay attention to who is submitting proposals for funding. While we have funded some amazing documentary veterans... we like to discover emerging artists that we believe will have long-lasting careers in the field."

He also makes it very clear that the main thing he looks for in a submission is a well told and compelling story: "There are those calling cards that I look for in every submission that makes it rise to the top of the pile. For me it's all about story, story, story. Originality, something we haven't seen before, unique access into a world we haven't seen before."

Familiarizing yourself with past projects that recieved support also goes a long way in gaining insight into what Harrington is seeking. And above all, take a risk. Harrington is definitely open. As he's said, "I don't want to limit TFI and our funds to being topic-driven or having to fill a quota - we are very open. The best part of my job is to find that gem of a submission that focuses on a topic that I never thought existed, or that I thought I would never be personally drawn to. Actually. . . I'd like to pose that same question to potential future grantees when they submit proposals. I'm ready to be surprised!"

Tweets by @ryejh