Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam Stepping Down

Matt Donnelly
·3-min read

Keri Putnam, a fixture in Hollywood thanks to her longtime shepherding of America’s preeminent film festival, is resigning her post as CEO of the Sundance Institute.

Putnam has served in the role for over a decade, guiding the organization’s numerous programs and initiatives to fund and uplift indie filmmaking and marginalized voices, as well as overseeing the annual Park City-based festival.

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“It’s been such an amazing ride. It’s been so immersive and rewarding, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done. After a decade, it’s the right time for me, for my next chapter and my next challenge,” Putnam told Variety. She will remain in the post through August, and is considering a return to the creative executive space, in which she has over two decades of experience.

“As a fierce supporter of independent creators, Keri has been instrumental in seeing the institute through a decade of transformation, while keeping a laser-focus on Sundance’s mission of preserving, discovering, incubating and encouraging independent artistry in all forms,” said festival founder Robert Redford. “We cannot overstate her impact, and we thank Keri for her invaluable service in support of independent artists.”

Sundance’s board of trustees chair Pat Mitchell and vice-chair Ebs Burnough will head up a search committee to find Putnam’s replacement.

Putnam is credited with guiding Sundance through a volatile period of media disruption, and specifically in investing in artistic development programs and contributing to a thriving indie sales market across disciplines. She spearheaded the launch of new programs to support artists seeking production, financing and distribution, including Sundance Catalyst, which raised $40 million in equity and grant investment over the past eight years.

Putnam and team mounted a fellowship to diversify critics covering Sundance, and commissioned groundbreaking research on equity and inclusion in media. Notably, her 2012 partnership with Dr. Stacy Smith and Women in Film studied the barriers facing female-identifying artists, based on Sundance Institute’s extensive applicant and acceptance data. The findings inspired the Women at Sundance program, helped the group achieve gender parity in its programs, and became the basis for ReFrame — Hollywood’s advocacy group for women in media, which Putnam co-founded.

Putnam also expanded Sundance’s global reach, bringing the institute’s artists and audiences beyond Utah with festivals in London and Hong Kong, and lab programs in Mexico, East Africa, the Middle East and beyond. In 2018, the institute launched Sundance Co//ab, a digital platform offering courses, classes, and community events, which last year counted one million users from over 150 countries.

Most recently, she oversaw Sundance’s first ever virtual edition, a necessity due to the global pandemic, which saw the largest audience for festival programming in history.

Putnam is a Harvard alum, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She’s previously served as president of production at Miramax, and began her career with a 15-year stint at HBO where she began as an assistant in original programming and finished as executive vice president of movies and mini-series.

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