5. Examples of social entrepreneurship

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Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981 that actively advances the work of filmmakers and storytellers worldwide. The Institute has offices in Park City, Los Angeles, and New York City, and provides creative and financial support to emerging and aspiring filmmakers, directors, producers, film composers, screenwriters, playwrights, and theater artists through a series of Labs and Fellowships. The programs of Sundance Institute include the Sundance Film Festival, a premier platform for American and international independent film. The Sundance Institute's 1981 founding Board of Directors. Through year-round support and a series of Labs, the Feature Film Program supports emerging independent screenwriters and directors through the development of their feature film projects. For three weeks each June in Sundance, Utah, Directors Lab Fellows rehearse, shoot and edit 4-6 scenes from their screenplays under the mentorship of accomplished directors, editors, cinematographers, and actors who serve as Creative Advisors. Surrounded by seasoned professionals, yet removed from the typical pressures of production, Lab Fellows are offered a unique opportunity to see the script “on its feet,” develop skills, and take risks. In addition to the creative support offered through Labs and workshops, Sundance Institute helps independent filmmakers complete their work through various grants and fellowships. Many of these opportunities are designated for filmmakers selected to participate in the Institute's Feature Film Program.

Other special initiatives of the Institute include the Native American Initiative which facilitates the participation of Native and Indigenous artists in the Institute's artistic development programs and the Sundance Film Festival. Rooted in the recognition of a rich tradition of story telling and artistic expression by Native Americans, Sundance Institute's Native American Initiative is designed to support the development of Native and Indigenous artists and the exhibition of their work by identifying Native artists for the Institute's core programs. To date the Initiative has facilitated the participation of many Native artists into the Sundance Film Festival, the Independent Producers Conference, and the Institute's Feature Film Program. In 2008 the Initiative expanded its focus to include outreach to documentarians, theatre artists, and musicians seeking financial and creative support through the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, the Theatre Program, and the Film Music Program. As part of Sundance Institute's long tradition of supporting Native cinema, the Sundance Film Festivalprovides a world stage for compelling and innovative films by Native American and Indigenous filmmakers.


The well-known actor, director, and producer Robert Redford offers a less familiar but also illustrative case of social entrepreneurship. In the early 1980s, Redford stepped back from his successful career to reclaim space in the film industry for artists. Redford was struck by a set of opposing forces in play. He identified an inherently oppressive but stable equilibrium in the way Hollywood worked, with its business model increasingly driven by financial interests, its productions gravitating to flashy, frequently violent blockbusters, and its studio-dominated system becoming more and more centralized in controlling the way films were financed, produced, and distributed. At the same time, he noted that new technology was emerging – less cumbersome and less expensive video and digital editing equipment – that gave filmmakers the tools they needed to exert more control over their work. Seeing opportunity, Redford seized the chance to nurture this new breed of artist. First, he created the Sundance Institute to take “money out of the picture” and provide young filmmakers with space and support for developing their ideas. Next, he created the Sundance Film Festival to showcase independent filmmakers’ work. From the beginning, Redford’s value proposition focused on the emerging independent filmmaker whose talents were neither recognized nor served by the market stranglehold of the Hollywood studio system. Redford structured Sundance Institute as a nonprofit corporation, tapping his network of directors, actors, writers, and others to contribute their experience as volunteer mentors to fledgling filmmakers. He priced the Sundance Film Festival so that it appealed and was accessible to a broad audience. Twentyfive years later, Sundance is credited with ushering in the independent film movement, which today ensures that “indie” filmmakers can get their work produced and distributed, and that filmgoers have access to a whole host of options – from thoughtprovoking documentaries to edgy international work and playful animations. A new equilibrium, which even a decade ago felt tenuous, is now firmly established.