John Cooper named head of Sundance fest

Was longtime deputy to former chief Geoff Gilmore

NEW YORK -- The Sundance Institute has looked within for Geoff Gilmore's replacement, promoting John Cooper to the role of director of its flagship film festival.

Cooper was Gilmore's longtime deputy, known for his colorful and accessible personality and eloquent descriptions of films in the fest's print guide. He most recently served as director of programming and was considered a leading candidate for the post.

The institute said Cooper also will serve as artistic director of the fest and oversee online and international initiatives, among other nonprogramming areas.

Gilmore, arguably more than any other fest director, had become inextricably associated with the festival he presided over during his 19-year tenure. In choosing Cooper, Sundance opted for continuity over what might have been a more jolting outside hire. Cooper is a 20-year veteran of the festival and has become nearly as associated with it as his predecessor.

Cooper also is known for his role in bringing the art and film worlds closer together and for digital partnerships with such entities as iTunes and Netflix.

Fest founder Robert Redford cited Cooper's background in making the hire.

"When we established the festival, it was always with two goals in mind: supporting new artists and inspiring new audiences," he said. "John Cooper has never lost sight of these goals."

Cooper noted the importance of finding new models to supplement older ones.

"Our industry is at a crossroads: Innovative technology and global accessibility are making filmmaking wildly creative, while at the same time, traditional funding and distribution models are being challenged," he said. "Never has our festival been more relevant."