Interview: Tabitha Jackson, Sundance’s new documentary boss
Tabitha Jackson is expecting a big culture shock moving from London to Los Angeles.
"Not talking the weather all the time, that’s going to be amazing," Jackson, the new director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Fund and Program, said in a recent phone interview with The Cricket.
Jackson was hired by Sundance in mid-November, and is leaving the job of arts commissioner for Britain’s Channel 4. The following is a question-and-answer session from that interview:
So what made you interested in the job with Sundance?
Sundance is just like a global brand, that is instantly recognizable and instantly synonymous with independent filmmaking. That’s the beginning and the end of it. I was actually incredibly happy in my job at Channel 4, but this is probably the only job that I had to do — that I had to stop exactly what I was doing, to go and do this one.
How long were you at Channel 4?
Seven years. That flew by.
A big proportion of my time at Channel 4 has been in international documentaries, … but most recently I’ve been commissioning art films and working with Film 4 as well on hybrid documentary/cinematic releases as well. I think the combination of documentary and art is a nice thing to come into Sundance with.
Channel 4’s been at the forefront of experimental filmmaking since its founding, so I was really lucky to get this arts job. At the moemtn, I’m working with Film 4 on a cinema documentary with Nick Cave, so that’s a music film. I did "The Imposter," a feature doc — that’s the loosest interpretation of arts, but it was a piece of artistry, I think. … I describe what I do as "the creative expression of us now."That’s my arts mantra, and that will equally apply at Sundance, I hope.
How will your past experience guide you moving forward at Sundance?
You’re a collection of your past experiences. Channel 4 champions the independent voice. That’s incredibly important to me, in terms of storytelling, that we can retain that independence. The Channel 4 mission statement when I joined was, "Inspire change, do it first, make trouble." It’s hard to shake that off. I think it kind of goes to your bones. I’ll try not to make too much trouble, but the inspiring change and doing things first, and just enabling the best storytelling from the best storytellers, is what I hope to achieve.
Where do you see the documentary genre going in the next few years?
Oh, just a small question, then. [laughs]
I feel very optimistic about documentary at the moment, because the means of production have been democratized. You can pick up a camera, and you can edit a story, and you can broadcast a story without having to go through any gatekeepers at all.