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The 30-year anniversary was the focus of much of the discussion.
"I don’t think the mission of Sundance has changed; it exists to support the voices of artists, to get their stories told and seen," said Putnam. Over course, it has also seen a "remarkable evolution," starting with feature films, then adding documentaries, a theater program and now 18 labs that support up-and-coming artists.
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"It’s grown up," said Putnam, "but the mission has stayed the same."
To mark the festival’s three decades, which did not always enjoy today’s financial success, Cooper and the rest of the Sundance staff created this year’s Free Fail program, a series of panels and events that take place Monday, Jan. 20.
It’s an entire day that looks at "how crucial failure is to the creative process," said Cooper. "We tend to cover it up with words like ‘taking a risk.’ "
Cooper even showcased one of his mistakes: passing on the movie "Bottle Rocket," which launched the careers of director Wes Anderson and actor brothers Owen and Luke Wilson.
"It’s a great thing to introduce at our festival," he said about the failure discussion. "We certainly have hit spots along the road where things looked grim and things didn’t work. But do you let it stop you or is it a step along the road for development?"
For Sundance, it clearly was the latter. In the past five years, the festival has generated $375 million in economic activity for Utah.
A "good ending" for the story, Putnam said.
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