Sundance Institute names new CEO

Joana Vicente. Photo: Sundance Institute

LOS ANGELES, California, Sept. 29, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Sundance Institute has named its new CEO, it was announced Wednesday.

“The Sundance Institute Board of Trustees announced today that it has named longtime filmmaker and executive Joana Vicente as its next CEO,” said a news release. Vicente succeeds CEO Keri Putnam, who stepped down earlier this year. She joins the Sundance Institute from Toronto International Film Festival, where she spent the past three years as executive director and co-head.

“Reporting to the board, she will work with key stakeholders, including artists, funders, industry, donors, and national and international partners, and lead a year-round staff of 200 with an additional seasonal staff of 250,” the news release said. “She will oversee all areas of the Institute, including its year-round artist programs, the Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Collab, public and field-building programs, advancement, continue to advance Sundance’s historic commitment to inclusion and equity in all its work, and further the Institute’s advocacy work.”

She will begin her role at the start of November, working between the Institute’s Park City, Los Angeles, and New York City offices.

“This was a very comprehensive search to find the right person who would continue to move us forward with a vision that aligns with the founding values of the Institute’s founder, Robert Redford,” said Board of Trustees Chair Pat Mitchell and Chair-Elect Ebs Burnough, who led the Search Committee. “The world’s storytellers are more connected than ever, and Joana’s international background is vital as we look to integrate ourselves with independent artists on an even greater scale globally. She comes to Sundance as a true champion of preserving, discovering, incubating, and encouraging independent artistry in all forms. She is a prolific independent producer in her own right with deep ties to Sundance.”

Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford added: “From the day we started the Sundance Institute, we have had a very specific mission to foster independence, risk-taking, and new and diverse voices in storytelling. Throughout her entire career, it is evident that Joana shares this same uncompromising vision, and we know that she possesses a deep understanding of the evolving landscape, and can reach a new generation of independent creators working more fluidly across disciplines, communicating across borders, and engaging directly with audiences.”

Vicente has produced over 40 films, including Alex Gibney’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” Nadine Labaki’s Cannes Jury Prize–winning and Oscar-nominated film “Capernaüm,” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes.” She also founded three production companies, including the first U.S. digital production company as well as the first HD production studio in the U.S.

As the co-founder and president of Open City Films since 1994, she produced four Sundance-supported lab projects, and has had 13 features and six short films debut at the festival, including triple-winner “Three Seasons,” which won the Grand Jury Prize, Cinematography Award, and Audience Award, and “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” which won a Grand Jury Prize.

“Sundance has been an essential part of my career — I feel that I grew up as a producer with the support of the festival and the Sundance labs,” Vicente said. “It is such an extraordinary opportunity to lead an organization that has defined independent storytelling for 40 years. This opportunity combines all of my passions: film, working with storytellers throughout the world, and leading mission-driven organizations. I have always felt that Sundance was a home for me, and this opportunity makes me feel as if I am going back home.”

While at TIFF, Vicente, in collaboration with her co-head Cameron Bailey, navigated the organization through COVID-19 while spearheading a new strategic plan for the organization, the news release said. She oversaw the reorganization of TIFF with the aim to ensure a more sustainable path to long-term organizational stability, led the digital strategy and innovation for the organization, and the strategy and implementation of a fast pivot to digital for the Lightbox and hybrid for the festival. She also increased industry partnerships with a focus on partners led by or serving historically excluded communities.

Prior to TIFF, Vicente spent nearly a decade as the executive director of the not-for-profit Independent Filmmaker Project, now the Gotham Film & Media Institute, the oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers in the United States.

Vicente, who speaks several languages, received her B.A./M.A. in Philosophy from Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal, and she was selected for the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program with educational events at Harvard Business School and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has taught The Business of Film at NYU Stern School of Business.

The Sundance Institute and TIFF are working together to support a seamless leadership transition for both organizations, the news release said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here