This week, as Sundance Film Festival launches a virtual festival for first time, Abby talks to the festival’s director, Tabitha Jackson. After spending 25 years in non-fiction filmmaking, Tabitha moved from head of the Sundance Documentary Program into the festival chair, beating out 700 applicants, and becoming the first woman, and first person of color, to hold the job. What came next was a year of tumult and challenge, in which she unexpectedly faced the task of transforming America’s premiere film festival, normally held in scenic Park City, Utah, into an almost entirely online event. Tabitha says it forced her and her team to “reconsider the value of everything we were doing and how we were doing it because it was all threatened.” What emerged was a re-commitment to the original mission of Sundance: use the power of the Festival to direct attention to independent voices and work that may otherwise get lost in the noise. Also, Tabitha tells Abby about her traumatizing experience going to the cinema for the first time, how being British in an American institution can be to her advantage, and why she’s skeptical of flattery. Plus, the laborious process of whittling down 13,000 submissions into a program of 71 features and 50 shorts.
Director, Sundance Film Festival and Public Programming
Tabitha Jackson was appointed Director of the Sundance Film Festival in February 2020, having previously served as Director of the Documentary Film Program at Sundance Institute since 2013. Throughout her career in film and public broadcasting she has been committed to supporting the independent voice, championing the social and cultural power of artful cinema, and furthering the mission of uplifting a more expansive set of makers and forms.
Tabitha Jackson on Twitter: @Tabula4
Sundance Film Festival on Twitter: @SundanceFilmFestival