Park City • The only way Robert Redford is leaving Sundance is feet first.
"I'm gonna die [someday], but I'm not going to retire," Redford said Thursday in answer to a reporter's question about the 74-year-old actor-director's retirement plans.
That answer got the biggest laugh at the opening press conference for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, which launches tonight in Park City.
The thought of Redford retiring had festival director John Cooper comically trying to sneak off the Egyptian Theatre stage.
But Redford took the occasion to spotlight his employees who have been working on Sundance Institute programs particularly the labs and the festival from the beginning.
He praised Cooper for rising through the ranks of Sundance, from a volunteer print runner to festival director. And, Redford added playfully: "He's only been out of prison for a month."
Redford also introduced the institute's new (since April) executive director, Keri Putnam, calling her "the person who's going to take us forward."
This is Putnam's first festival as Sundance's executive director, but she's been attending since 1992, she said.
Since taking the new job, Putnam said, she has seen firsthand that Sundance is "active all over the world, not just 10 days in January but 365 days a year."
At the press conference, Redford reiterated his emphasis on the real work of Sundance, at the labs held every year at the Provo Canyon resort that provides "a place and a space for new voices to develop."
The press conference itself was a new step for Sundance, because it was streamed live over the internet. It's one of many events at this year's festival that can be viewed via the web.
"We're pushing this festival out there with technology," Cooper said.
Sundancing the festival
Read more of the Tribune's coverage of the Sundance Film Festival at http://www.sltrib.com/sundance, read reviews and photos at http://www.sltrib.com/Blogs/sundanceblog or follow us on twitter @sundancelive.