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USC professor Arthur Knight persuades BYU film graduate Sterling Van Wagenen to create a festival celebrating independent filmmaking. Utah film commissioner John
Earle signs on as a partner and Van Wagenen convinces his cousin’s husband, Robert Redford, to be the inaugural chairman.
Utah Governor Scott Matheson announces the first U.S. Film-National Forum film festival will be held Sept. 6-12 in Salt Lake City.
An ad runs in The Hollywood Reporter soliciting independent filmmakers to submit their work to the festival.
Now named the Utah/US Film Festival, the event debuts in Salt Lake City with a lineup dominated by classic Hollywood films. Claudia Weill’s “Girlfriends” wins the $5,000 grand prize for an independent feature film.
Board member Sydney Pollack suggests moving the third festival to Park City and rescheduling it during wintertime to attract Hollywood players.
The event is reborn in Park City as the United States Film and Video Festival. More than 7,000 tickets are sold.
Robert Redford’s newly established Sundance Film Institute holds its first Filmmakers Lab in Park City.
The festival establishes a separate competition category for documentary films.
The Sundance Institute takes over sponsorship of the festival.
Tony Safford, formerly with the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., signs on as program director.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut feature “Blood Simple” wins the festival’s Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic.
“The Big Easy” becomes the first major Sundance sale after Columbia Pictures head David Puttnam agrees to acquire it for distribution.
“sex, lies, and videotape,” Steven Soderbergh’s debut feature, is honored with the festival’s first Audience Award: Dramatic. It loses the Grand Jury Prize to Nancy Savoca’s “True Love.”
Alberto Garcia, a protege of Tony Safford, is appointed the festival’s competition director.
Safford announces he is resigning as programming director and, as his last official act, renames the event the Sundance Film Festival.
Geoffrey Gilmore takes over as programming director. He remains in the position today.
Festival buzz surrounds newcomer Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” but the film loses out on the Grand Jury Prize to Alexandre Rockwell’s “In the Soup.”
Robert Rodriguez thrills the festival crowd with “El Mariachi.” The media embraces the tale of its $7,000 budget.
Kevin Smith unveils “Clerks.” The low-budget wonder ties with Boaz Yakin’s “Fresh” for the Filmmakers Trophy and is picked up by Miramax Films.
Harvey Weinstein confronts Jonathan Taplin at Mercato Mediterraneo and causes a scene by accusing the producer of cheating him out of the rights for “Shine.”
Castle Rock sets a festival record by paying $10 million for worldwide rights to “The Spitfire Grill.”
Filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez scare up $1.1 million from Artisan Entertainment for their horror film “The Blair Witch Project.” It grosses more than $140 million domestically.
Rumors swirl that Miramax has shelled out more than $10 million to acquire the comedy “Happy, Texas.” Exec Mark Gill insists the final figure is only $2.5 million.
Christopher Nolan wins the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for “Memento.” The film leaves Park City unsold, so Newmarket, its production company, opts to self-
distribute the movie.
Fox Searchlight and Warner Independent duke it out over Jared Hess’ “Napoleon Dynamite.” Searchlight emerges victorious with a last-minute bid of $3 million-plus.
Fox Searchlight sets a new Sundance sales record acquiring Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s “Little Miss Sunshine” for more than $10 million. It grosses more than $100 million worldwide.
Focus Features pays $10 million for Andrew Fleming’s “Hamlet 2.” It grosses less than $5 million worldwide.
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