With the movie industry on heightened sensitivity to reports of sexual misconduct, organizers of the Sundance Film Festival are stepping up efforts to catch such behavior if it happens.
Sundance Institute managing director Betsy Wallace said organizers are working “to make sure that our festival, as every year, is safe and welcoming.”
Wallace and Keri Putnam, the institute’s executive director, met with the chief of Park City Police and the Utah Attorney General’s office for guidance.
The AG’s office is setting up a 24-hour live hotline for anyone who experiences or witnesses violations of Sundance’s code of conduct. Criminal behavior will be referred to law enforcement, Wallace said, and lesser incidents will be reported to festival officials.
This year, Sundance’s code of conduct will be more visible at venues in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort, and on the festival’s app.
In past years, it was distributed internally. The code, stressing a commitment to a festival “free of harassment, discrimination, sexism and threatening or disrespectful behavior,” includes a warning that Sundance could revoke credentials or access to events of anyone misbehaving.
The new focus on sexual misconduct sprang from accusations that surfaced in October from dozens of women against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Women accused Weinstein of harassing them, exposing himself, and in some instances raping them. (Weinstein has consistently denied the rape accusations, saying any sex was consensual.)
Weinstein made and grew his reputation at Sundance — and women alleged two incidents of sexual misconduct, one in 1997 and the other in 2008, occurred in a Park City hotel during the festival.
That news was “devastating,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, the arts nonprofit founded by Robert Redford that puts on the festival every January. “Any incident, that happens anywhere at the festival, of harassment or abuse or violence is too many.”
Festival organizers, she said, have to create a “culture of inclusion and creativity that can’t fit side by side with any culture that condones crimes or harassment or violence.”
Dan Mirvish, co-founder of the rival Slamdance Film Festival that runs alongside Sundance, compared the atmosphere at film festivals to summer camp.
“We’re away from home, we’re away from obligations,” Mirvish said. “If you’re single, it’s a great place to meet people. If you’re happily married, it’s a great place to bring a spouse. If you’re unhappily married, it’s a great place to lose your spouse and find a new one.”
That mentality can be exacerbated by night after night of parties where alcohol flows freely. (One of Sundance’s eight “leadership sponsors,” the second tier of sponsorship, is a beer label; among the 12 third-tier “sustaining sponsors” are a winery, a vodka brand and a whiskey distillery.)
“You’re literally plying people at 9,000 feet with free alcohol at every party, morning, noon and night,” Mirvish said. “Bad stuff is going to happen.”
Changing Sundance’s atmosphere won’t be a simple fix, said actor-turned-activist Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of raping her in Park City in 1997, while both were attending Sundance.
“You’ve got 96 percent male directors in the DGA,” she told a meeting of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., last week. Similar gender disparities run throughout the entertainment industry, she added.
McGowan said, “Fix that, and then you’ll have a different Sundance, won’t you?”
How to Sundance
When • Jan. 18-28
Where • Park City and venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.
Passes and ticket packages • On sale at sundance.org/festivals.
Individual tickets • $25 for the first half of the festival in Park City (Jan. 18-23), $20 for Salt Lake City screenings and for the second half in Park City (Jan. 24-28).
Information • sundance.org/festivals
— Tribune TV critic Scott D. Pierce contributed to this story.