Dialogue: Geoffrey Gilmore


In his almost two decades as director of the Sundance Film Festival, Geoffrey Gilmore has played a key role in its phenomenal growth and influence. This year his contributions to independent filmmaking are being honored with the inaugural Nielsen Impact Award by The Hollywood Reporter's parent company, to be presented at a reception on Jan. 19. He spoke to THR's Stephen Galloway about the festival's 2008 lineup and the changing nature of the indie world.

The Hollywood Reporter: Sundance has been very closely associated with American independent film, but this year your program seems more international.
Geoffrey Gilmore: We started developing our international competition four years ago, and it has really taken a step forward each year. There's work from countries that we have hardly ever explored, like Jordan. We also have a number of films from the Middle East and from Colombia. And we are opening with an international film, (Focus Features') "In Bruges."

THR: Why that shift in emphasis?
Gilmore: The festival every year is a platform for what is going on in the independent world. And part of what is going on is the emergence of global independence. There are a lot of personally driven stories that come not from a national film industry but from an entrepreneurial source. When films aren't financed directly by government agencies, there's a changing nature to what they are.

THR: Do you worry that Sundance has gotten more commercial?
Gilmore: I wonder what that means. If it means, do I see it as focusing on commercial work, the answer is no. I don't apologize for the fact that films get sold out of Sundance. But there are lots of sidebar events that make it seem more commercialized, and people are using that to gain visibility. That is not something, unfortunately, that we can completely control. But visibility is not what this festival is about; it is a place to discover new talent.

THR: There was talk at one point that you might leave.
Gilmore: This is my 19th year and, I must tell you, a couple of years ago I didn't know if I would stay. I was looking for another challenge. And now I feel it is the place for me. I still very much enjoy myself. I am traveling a great deal -- I went to Asia four times this year and I was in Europe nine times. I have never had a contract -- never. But they haven't pushed me out the door, and I am not planning on going anyplace.