Tabitha Jackson: Sundance’s First Female Director

Published on February 2, 2020

As of Saturday, the Sundance Film Festival has a new director. And for the first time ever, a woman holds the position.

Sundance Institute named Tabitha Jackson as the festival’s new director. She follows the outgoing director, John Cooper, who announced his departure from the position last June after 11 years. However, he will now assume the newly-created Emeritus Director role.

Jackson is not unfamiliar with the indie fest. She joined as the Director of the Documentary Film Program back in 2013 and competed against 700 candidates for her new role. She described the process as “pretty lengthy and pretty rigorous” and that Sundance Institute Founder Robert Redford was very clear in what he wanted: a commitment to independence and an embrace of change.

While she may have big shoes to fill, Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford has zero doubts about Jackson.

“I founded Sundance Institute with the clear mission of celebrating and supporting independent artists. And the festival is the platform where we can showcase their stories. As we approach our 40th anniversary, I’m pleased to have Tabitha lead us as we move into the future and meet the next generation of artists and their stories.”

In addition, Cooper believes Jackson’s vision for the festival is “ambitious and fresh, and she embodies the best of what Sundance can be.”

A Bit On Tabitha Jackson

Jackson follows in the footsteps of both Cooper and former director Geoff Gilmore, both whom are caucasian males. Not only is she the first female to hold the role of Director of the Sundance Film Festival, but she is also the first person of color to do so. And to add on to this list of firsts, Jackson also becomes the first person born outside of the United States to reign as head of the festival.

Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, watched Jackson over these last six years and said her leadership and taste made her a top candidate.

“Her authenticity, experience and perspective will serve her well in leading the festival forward as a beacon for independent artists and audiences.”

Prior to the joining the Sundance Institute, Jackson worked at Channel 4 Television in the U.K.; her main focus was to support independent and alternative voices, while finding fresh and innovative ways for storytelling. Furthermore, she served as executive producer for many of Film 4’s projects.

Jackson will work with Kim Yutani, the festival’s Director of Programming and oversee the festival’s overall vision.

She says that her new role “will be to ensure that the festival remains as effective, vital and transformational in the years going forward as it has been in the past” and to make sure that her team also has fun in doing so.

Lexi Jones is an award-winning journalist and Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Las Vegas, she covers startup brands in entertainment, internet and LGBTQ+ startup news. She is also an editor of Grit Daily's "Top 100" entrepreneur lists.

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