The organisers of Sundance London reveal how the programme was tailored for its second edition and why the UK is a good fit. Wendy Mitchell reports

There will be no skiing, no shuttle buses going up Main Street, and no CAA party, yet the Sundance spirit will be very much alive in the UK for the second edition of Sundance London (April 25-28) at the city’s large O2 venue.

The Sundance Institute partnered with O2 owners AEG last year for the inaugural event, which Sundance director John Cooper deems a success. “We’re thrilled to be returning. We’re trying to build on the experience and community there,” he tells Screen.

“We left a lot of success last year and we want to grow that. Audiences in London seem adventurous and engaged, especially in the Q&As and panels. We also felt a lot of interest in the process of film-making, and in Sundance’s unique view of independent film-making.”

Taking the Sundance brand beyond US borders continues to be important to the organisation: “We’re always looking for how Sundance can create a greater film culture and that’s helped by engaging outside our borders,” Cooper adds.

The Feature Film programme comprises American independent films that showed at the flagship Utah festival in January, including a number of prize winners. Highlights include Lake Bell’s directorial debut In A World…, Shane Carruth’s Primer follow-up Upstream Color [pictured], killer whale documentary Blackfish, Lynn Shelton’s comedy Touchy Feely and Barbara Kopple’s documentary Running From Crazy.

‘We’re always looking for how Sundance can create a greater film culture and that’s helped by engaging outside our borders’

John Cooper, Sundance Institute

Cooper says of the selection: “We look for a diversity in style and tone - we want to bring a representation of what we just showed in Utah.”

Trevor Groth, director of programming, adds: “One of many reasons we started the festival was this notion that American independent films have a hard time travelling internationally. We wanted to dispel that myth.”

The 2013 festival will add a UK Spotlight section of four British films that premiered at Sundance in Park City in January: Jeremy Lovering’s In Fear, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look Of Love, Andy Heathcote’s The Moo Man and Nick Ryan’s The Summit.

Groth says he is “happy to have the UK Spotlight in the mix. We showed UK shorts last year, and it was great to see those film teams mixing in with the other attendees. And we had some terrific UK films in Park City this year”.

Cooper adds that Sundance has a long-standing relationship with directors such as Winterbottom, having shown six of his films over the years.

Panels will focus on screenwriting, humour and composing (see below).

In addition to the delegation of US film-makers, Sundance Institute president and founder Robert Redford will again attend Sundance London.

Music continues to be a big part of the event. Groth notes: “Robert Redford has always loved that intersection of film and music. We had our concerts and screenings that were successful, but this year we’d like to work on the back and forth, so that people go from screening to concert or concert to screening.”

Peaches will screen her film and then perform; The Eagles will be on hand for a Q&A after a documentary about them, and the Muscle Shoals documentary screening will be paired with a performance by Gregg Allman and John Paul White.

Cooper hopes to encourage audiences to stay out at the O2 longer each day by providing communal hang-out areas. “We can build on the experience,” he said.

Comedy will be big this year, with a number of comedic films screening, a British versus American comedy panel, and Jimmy Carr set to host a special Q&A with Sleepwalk With Me director Mike Birbiglia.


The Art of the Score: An Afternoon with David Arnold

A first-hand look at the composing process with Arnold and guests.

Screenwriting Flash Lab

A lively, honest and irreverent discussion with UK and American screenwriters, including Tony Grisoni and Peter Straughan. Co-presented with Bafta.

Senses of Humor/Humour: The Art of Comedy

UK and US actors, comedians and film-makers explore what’s behind American and British ‘brands’ of humour. Lake Bell and Mike Birbiglia are among the panellists. Co-presented with the BFI.