Joana Vicente to take the helm of Sundance Institute as new CEO

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Longtime filmmaker and executive Joana Vicente will take the helm as the new CEO of the Sundance Institute at the beginning of November. [Courtesy photo]

Longtime filmmaker and executive Joana Vicente will take the helm as the new CEO of the Sundance Institute at the beginning of November.

She will be responsible for setting strategies for the institute that embrace the evolving future of storytelling and build on the Sundance’s record of supporting visionary artists with distinct voices in film, theater, film composing, episodic storytelling and emerging media.

Vicente succeeds CEO Keri Putnam, who stepped down earlier this year.

“From the day we started the Sundance Institute, we have had a very specific mission to foster independence, risk-taking, and new and diverse voices in storytelling,” said Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford in a statement.

“Throughout her entire career, it is evident that Joana shares this same uncompromising vision, and we know that she possesses a deep understanding of the evolving landscape, and can reach a new generation of independent creators working more fluidly across disciplines, communicating across borders, and engaging directly with audiences.”

Vicente joins the Sundance Institute from Toronto International Film Festival, where she spent the past three years as executive director and co-head.

“As a producer, I know firsthand the incredible impact Sundance has on independent artists, and I look forward to working with Bob, the Sundance Board and the amazing and dedicated teams at Sundance who continue to find new ways to discover, support, and inspire the most creative and diverse group of storytellers — not just in the United States, but all around the world,” Vicente said in a statement. “We are at a critical time for independent creators, and Sundance is poised to continue to be a beacon for storytellers throughout the world as they navigate the rough waters of our time.”

Reporting to the Sundance Institute Board of Trustees, Vicente will work with key stakeholders, including artists, funders, industry, donors, and national and international partners. She will lead a year-round staff of 200, with an additional seasonal staff of 250, according to a news release.

As the new CEO, Vicente will oversee all areas of the institute, including its year-round artist programs, the Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Collab, public and field-building programs. She will be tasked with continuing to advance Sundance’s commitment to inclusion and equity as well as the institute’s advocacy work.

Longtime filmmaker and executive Joana Vicente speaks during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. [Courtesy photo]

Selected after “a very comprehensive search,” Vicente will work between the institute’s Park City, Los Angeles and New York City offices.

“The world’s storytellers are more connected than ever, and Joana’s international background is vital as we look to integrate ourselves with independent artists on an even greater scale globally,” said Sundance Board of Trustees Chair Pat Mitchell and Chair-Elect Ebs Burnough, who led the search committee, in a joint statement.

“She comes to Sundance as a true champion of preserving, discovering, incubating, and encouraging independent artistry in all forms. She is a prolific independent producer in her own right with deep ties to Sundance. All that, combined with her history running a film festival, success in fundraising and partnerships, and her proven ability to navigate fundamental changes in technology and the ways in which audiences consume and experience content, makes us extremely confident that Joana will continue Sundance’s invaluable work on behalf of independent artists in the U.S. and around the world.”

Vicente has produced more than 40 films, including Alex Gibney’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” Nadine Labaki’s Cannes Jury Prize–winning and Oscar-nominated film “Capernaüm” and Jim Jarmusch’s acclaimed “Coffee and Cigarettes.” She also has founded three production companies, including the first U.S. digital production company as well as the first HD production studio in the U.S., and has  management experience in both not-for-profit and for-profit media ventures.

As co-founder and president of Open City Films since 1994, Vicente produced four Sundance-supported lab projects. She has had 13 features and six short films debut at the Sundance Film Festival, including triple-winner “Three Seasons,” which won the Grand Jury Prize, Cinematography Award and Audience Award, and “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” which won a Grand Jury Prize.

“Sundance has been an essential part of my career — I feel that I grew up as a producer with the support of the festival and the Sundance labs. It is such an extraordinary opportunity to lead an organization that has defined independent storytelling for 40 years,” Vicente said. “This opportunity combines all of my passions: film, working with storytellers throughout the world, and leading mission-driven organizations. I have always felt that Sundance was a home for me, and this opportunity makes me feel as if I am going back home.”

While at TIFF, Vicente and Co-Head Cameron Bailey navigated the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic while spearheading a new strategic plan for the organization. She led the strategy and implementation of a fast pivot to digital for the Lightbox and hybrid for the festival. She increased industry partnerships with a focus on partners led by or serving historically excluded communities and created the TIFF Tribute Awards, now a broadcast TV show, to recognize top festival talent.

Prior to her tenure with TIFF, Vicente spent nearly a decade as the executive director of the not-for-profit Independent Filmmaker Project (now the Gotham Film & Media Institute), the oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers in the United States.

Previously, Vicente was the co-founder and co-president, along with Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner and partner Jason Kliot, of HDNetFilms and HDNet International. She was also co-founder and co-president of Blow Up Pictures, which had digital features premiere at Sundance and other top festivals that were picked up for distribution by the likes of Focus Features, Artisan and Lionsgate.

Vicente received her bachelor of arts and master of arts in philosophy from Universidade Catoìlica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal, and she was selected for the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program with educational events at Harvard Business School and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has taught The Business of Film at NYU Stern School of Business.

-BAM

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