The largest independent film festival in the United States is hosted in Utah. Sundance is held in January in a number of places in Utah such as Salt Lake City, Park City, and Ogden. The film festival showcases work from independent filmmakers from around the world and offers competitive segments for dramatic films, documentary films, feature-length and short films. Sundance Film Festival also offers non-competitive segments for newer filmmakers to showcase their work to the festival attendees.
The Sundance Film Festival began in 1978 in Salt Lake City under the name Utah or U.S. Film Festival. The original name was chosen in an effort to entice more filmmakers to the State of Utah. The festival was established by Sterling Van Wagenen who was the head of Robert Redford’s company Wildwood, and others serving on Utah’s Film Commission. Robert Redford was made a chairperson and the festival’s purpose was to showcase American films and increase awareness of filmmaking in Utah. The judges of the first festival included Gary Allison, Linwood Gale Dunn, Verna Fields, Katherine Ross, and many more big names of the time.
Sterling Van Wagenen left one year later to oversee the first year of what would soon become the Sundance Institute. In 1979, more than 60 films were screened at the Sundance Film Festival with panel judges featured well-known filmmakers from Hollywood. It wouldn’t be until 1980 that the film festival would make a profit and several factors attributed to its success. The involvement of Robert Redford as a chairman gave the festival a lot of attention since he was a Utah resident. Another positive attribution was that there was a high desire for American-made films that other festivals in the country were not succeeding. In 1984, after several years of success, the festival’s name was changed to Sundance, which is a name that everyone knows in and out of film.