By Ray Pride

Sundance Institute Names Four To Board Of Trustees, Including Jason Blum

Los Angeles — Sundance Institute announced today that Jason BlumEbs Burnough, Lynette Wallworth and Lisa-Michele Church will join the Institute’s Board of Trustees. The new Trustees bring deep experience and broad expertise spanning communications, emerging media, and film production to the Institute’s governance, and will work closely with President & Founder Robert Redford, Board Chair Pat Mitchell and Executive Director Keri Putnam.

“Jason, Ebs, Lynette and Lisa-Michele each have their own incredible wealth of knowledge of the current cultural landscape, and visionary perspectives on how to shape the work we do. We are so grateful to welcome their unique perspectives to the table,” said Pat Mitchell. “We are thrilled that they will join our Board as we constantly evolve our organization’s mission to support emerging artists around the world and connect audiences to their work.”

The new members of Sundance Institute’s Board of Trustees are:

Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, founder of Blumhouse Productions, is a three-time Academy Award®-nominated, a two-time Primetime Emmy Award and a two-time Peabody Award-winning producer. His myriad connections to Sundance Institute include producing credits include Whiplash (2014 Sundance Film Festival), How to Dance in Ohio (2015 Sundance Film Festival), The Jinx (2015 Sundance Film Festival), Get Out (2017 Sundance Film Festival) and This is Home (2018 Sundance Film Festival) as well as attending the 2016 Catalyst Forum and serving as a Directors Advisory Group member.

Blum pioneered the lucrative model of producing high-quality micro-budget films. Some of the box office record-breaking films Blum and his company, Blumhouse, are behind, include: Us and Get Out, from Jordan Peele: GlassThe Visit and Split from M. Night Shyamalan; and in October 2018, company’s Halloween posted the second-highest opening ($76 million) for a horror movie after IT. Blumhouse has also produced the highly profitable The PurgeInsidiousSinister and Paranormal Activity
franchises. Blumhouse has grossed almost $4 billion at the global box-office.

Blum’s success extends to his company’s television division, where projects include: Sharp Objects, the award-winning miniseries for HBO, starring Amy Adams and based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel; The Purge, the #1 drama on USA Network this year, from writer/director/producer James DeMonaco and based on the popular film franchise; Sacred Lies for Facebook Watch from Raelle Tucker; and Into The Dark, a first-of-its-kind 12 episode monthly horror anthology series for Hulu, among others. The company’s upcoming projects include: The Loudest Voice, the upcoming limited series for Showtime based on journalist Gabriel Sherman’s reporting on former Fox News Chief Roger Ailes with Russell Crowe as Ailes, and the recently announced Showtime limited series Good Lord Bird, from Ethan Hawke, James McBride, Mark Richard and Anthony Hemingway.

Blum serves on the Board of the Public Theater in New York and the Board of Trustees for Vassar College.

With over a decade of public policy and private sector experience, Ebs Burnough serves as Founder and President of Ebs Burnough Solutions International (EBSI). Burnough founded the firm with an eye towards providing clients with an interdisciplinary approach to marketing, communications and event production. In this capacity Burnough has worked with clients across a range of sectors including media and entertainment, technology, non-profits, fashion, government and multinational corporations.

Prior to founding EBSI, Burnough served as Director of Communications for AERIN, a global lifestyle brand founded by cosmetics entrepreneur Aerin Lauder. There he shaped the company’s image and that of its founder from inception. During his tenure there, he launched the multi-national brand creating and overseeing all public relations, corporate social responsibility and brand strategy.

Prior to joining AERIN, Burnough served as Deputy White House Social Secretary where he developed and executed hundreds of events on behalf of President and Mrs. Obama. Whether planning the G-20 Global Summit, numerous White House State Dinners, or producing “Broadway at the White House” televised on PBS, Burnough was at the center of producing and marketing high energy, high profile events on the global stage. Before joining the Obama Administration in the White House, Burnough served as a Senior Advisor to Mrs. Obama on the 2008 Presidential Campaign.

Prior to his tenure with the Obama Administration, Burnough has worked in a variety of senior level positions in legislative and electoral campaigns on behalf of elected officials and organized labor; including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, The Service Employees International Union, and Congressman Jerry Nadler. Additionally, Burnough has managed external relations for a wide range of individuals and institutions.

Lynette Wallworth is an award-winning Australian artist/filmmaker who frequently pushes the boundaries with new technologies. Her most recent works have been Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality immersive documentaries. Wallworth’s work has been shown regularly at New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival since 2009, beginning with her installation Evolution of Fearlessness. She has been a regular at New Frontier since that time, up to her most recent piece Awavena (2018 Sundance Film Festival) which also received a 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Grant and a grant through Sundance Institute’s Stories of Change Content Fund. Wallworth also received Sundance Institute New Frontier’s inaugural Virtual Reality residency which partnered her with Jaunt VR and a residency at the Technicolor Experience Center.

Wallworth’s work has shown at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the American Museum of Natural History, New York, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Smithsonian, Royal Observatory Greenwich for the London Cultural Olympiad; Auckland Triennial; Adelaide Biennial; Brighton Festival and the Vienna Festival among many others as well as film festivals including-Sundance Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, London Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival,  Glasgow Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film Festival. Her works have been presented at the UN General Congress New York, in the UN Vienna, at the Australian Parliament and at the Washington State Department.

Wallworth’s works include the interactive video installation Evolution of Fearlessness; the award winning full-dome feature Coral, with its accompanying augmented reality work; the AACTA Award-winning documentary Tender, the Emmy Award-winning virtual reality narrative Collisions, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was shown at the 2016 World Economic Forum, Davos; and her most recent XR work Awavena which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was in competition at the Venice Film Festival 2018.

Wallworth has been awarded an International Fellowship from the Arts Council England, a New Media Arts Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts, the inaugural Australian Film, Television and Radio School Creative Fellowship, the Joan and Kim Williams Documentary Fellowship and a Skoll Stories of Change/Sundance Institute Impact Fellowship. She has also been awarded a UNESCO City of Film Award, the Byron Kennedy Award for Innovation and Excellence presented by George Miller, and in 2016 she was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the year’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She has been a frequent advisor at Sundance Institute’s Labs. She is a Cultural Leader at the World Economic Forum and is a member of the World Economic Forums’ Global Future Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality.

Lisa-Michele Church, an attorney based in Salt Lake City, will join the Board of Trustees as a non-voting appointee of the Redford family. Her background spans more than 30 years of public service and private practice as an attorney and community activist. She served in the Cabinet of two Utah governors, where she advocated for issues of social justice at all levels, from helping individual families negotiate the challenges of mental illness to advocating at a national level for more effective substance abuse prevention strategies during Utah’s methamphetamine epidemic.

Her community volunteer service focuses on issues of social justice, especially for youth and women who need additional advocacy. As the President of Women Lawyers of Utah, she encouraged more women to apply for judgeships, and then was appointed by Governor Michael Leavitt to the Judicial Nominating Commission where she was able to advocate for many women appointed to the Utah courts. She worked as chair of the Family Counseling Center to provide desperately needed mental health counseling to the working poor and shored up their business and financial planning to provide ongoing sustainability to these efforts. She has served for many years on the boards that champion higher education, specifically the Dixie State University Board of Trustees and the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority. She is a first-generation college graduate and sees the importance of providing college educations for youth across all income groups in Utah. She is also passionate about bringing resources to homeless youth through service with Volunteers of America.

Her other interests include historical research about the American West and vernacular architecture. She presents to a variety of scholarly and community groups on such topics as handmade adobe brick homes, early 20th century apartment buildings, vintage roadside motels, and tourism development along the Arrowhead Highway in mid-20th century American West.

The other business, cultural and philanthropic leaders on the Institute’s Board are: Robert Redford, President & Founder; Pat Mitchell, Chair; Jeanne Donovan Fisher, Vice Chair; Geoffrey K. Sands, Vice Chair; Sean BaileyRitesh BatraKenneth ColeRyan CooglerPascal DesrochesFred Dust, Philipp EngelhornCaterina FakeRobert J. Frankenberg, Donna GruneichCindy Harrell Horn,Charles D. KingLisa KronLyn Davis LearGigi PritzkerAlejandro Ramírez MagañaAmy RedfordNadine Schiff-RosenJim Swartz and Jacki Zehner.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern WildFruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring AwakeningA Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin