Senior Programmer Charlie Sextro on the hopes and joys of Sundance Movie Competition: ‘Everybody on our staff has…’

Forward of the 2023 Sundance Movie Competition, Senior Programmer Charlie Sextro sat down for a dialog with Hindustan Instances, the place he mirrored on the competition’s “first ever” hybrid mannequin, the fun of watching motion pictures as a part of the choice staff, and a number of the traits that had been discernible on this yr’s movies.

Charlie began working with the Sundance Movie Competition in 2009 because the assistant to the Director of Programming, and has programed feature-length movies for the previous six years. He additionally led programming of movie, music and comedy at Sundance NEXT Fest. Previous to Sundance, Charlie labored in publicity at Leisure Tonight, advertising at Tartan Movies U.S.A, acquisitions at Paramount Vantage and his mother’s image body gallery.

Heading into the Fest this yr in a post-Covid age, what had been your learnings from doing a hybrid mannequin of the competition?

This will likely be our first ever absolutely realized hybrid competition. The competition has been nearly completely on-line for the previous 2 years, so this yr will convey all of the learnings. One large lesson from the previous few years is to stagger the beginning of the in-person competition from the web competition, so all movies will premiere in Park Metropolis by Monday 1/23 and gained’t be obtainable to public on-line audiences till Tuesday 1/24. From an operational standpoint, it helps us put our full consideration on our in-person premiere screenings after which transfer our consideration to on-line screenings as a substitute of all that work occurring concurrently. We’ve additionally simplified the web expertise so all digital screenings are on-demand obtainable over a multi-day interval.

What had been a number of the parameters within the choice course of this yr for the Sundance Movie Competition?

We don’t put any parameters round our choice course of past a complete variety of movie slots and the sections of the competition. Past that, we watch all the films, focus on contenders as a gaggle after which see the place the programming staff’s ardour is on the finish of the method. Everybody on our staff has wildly completely different tastes and an equal say, so we hold speaking and speaking and speaking till we agree on the proper closing program.

Inform us about a number of the joys in your position as a part of the Sundance Programming staff within the present yr?

At the beginning, the enjoyment is watching nice cinema from internationally. Our love of watching, discussing and sharing motion pictures introduced us into this line of labor, and discovering new movies and filmmakers will at all times be essentially the most thrilling a part of the job.

I additionally discover pleasure in our programming conferences. In the course of the programming season, our group will get collectively for a lot of hours as soon as every week to debate movie contenders. We focus on one movie at a time, every programmer sharing their insightful ideas, and it is a profound expertise. We chortle (quite a bit) and cry (often), and it’s at all times an enriching dialog.

I’m joyful that we’ll be again screening movies in Park Metropolis and Salt Lake Metropolis for the primary time in three years. There’s an unbelievable group that comes collectively for the competition from artists to audiences to volunteers and employees, and I cannot wait to be again amongst everybody.

Do you suppose that there have been some topical traits within the movies that had been submitted to the competition? If sure, what had been they?

Now we have two characteristic movies and a brief movie protecting the battle in Ukraine by means of completely different views. Iron Butterflies seems to be at a precursor to the battle by exploring the downing of Malaysia Airways Flight 17 in 2014 over Ukraine. 20 Days in Mariupol follows journalists and residents caught in the course of a battle zone. And the quick movie Liturgy of Anti-tank Obstacles paperwork sculptors who’re repurposing their creative expertise towards the nation’s protection efforts.

Sundance is taken into account to be the launchpad for a number of the greatest documentary and non-fiction voices of the yr. Are there any pressures that contribute to the method of choice for the competition?

The most important stress we really feel is that there are at all times so many robust documentaries to think about for comparatively few slots, which makes closing selections robust. We discuss quite a bit as a staff to verify we’re making the suitable selections when choosing the ultimate program. Yearly now we have to go on many good movies. That’s an unlucky a part of the job. You possibly can’t let exterior pressures invade the programming course of as a result of it’s not possible to make everybody pleased. Our viewers comes as a result of they imagine within the curatorial voice of the competition, in order that’s what we comply with.

Shifting ahead, what are a few of your hopes for the Sundance Movie Competition within the upcoming years?

The Competition is part of the nonprofit Sundance Institute and as such the driving power of our shared mission is to contribute to the sustainability of impartial artwork and the careers of the artists behind it–when the ecosystem grows more healthy, filmmakers profit and audiences do too. We’re certainly one of a number of platforms the group places storytellers on to attain this objective, and going ahead we intend to proceed being a Competition that helps numerous voices in the identical means the Institute’s year-round work (with labs, grants, and different artist improvement initiatives) does.

The 2023 Competition will happen January 19–29, 2023, in particular person in Park Metropolis, Salt Lake Metropolis, and the Sundance Resort, together with a choice of movies obtainable on-line throughout the nation January 24–29, 2023.

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