Sundance Institute’s New Acting CEO Amanda Kelso, Joana Vicente Stepping Down

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By Jak


Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente Stepping Down

Amanda Kelso, the newly appointed acting CEO of the Sundance Institute, expressed her commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability and growth of the non-profit well into the 21st century.

In a statement shared with the Sundance community and press, Kelso emphasized her deep sense of pride and humility in assuming the role of acting CEO. She sees this as a crucial moment for arts organizations, particularly for independent storytellers, and is honored to lead Sundance during such a crucial time.

Kelso repeats her belief in the transformative power of Sundance and its vital role in encouraging independent artists. She highlighted the Institute’s dedication to discovering and developing emerging talents while forging connections with audiences worldwide.

Joana Vicente sundance ceo

By organizing the Institute’s mission-based work, Kelso aims to ensure that Sundance continues to serve as a beacon for creativity and innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of independent cinema.

Joana Vicente, who joined Sundance from TIFF back in 2021, announced on Friday that she will be stepping down from her position. Amanda Kelso will be assuming her role starting in April, while Vicente will continue in an advisory capacity until June.

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Kelso brings a diverse background to her new role, with experience in both the tech industry, having worked at Google and Instagram, and a strong foundation in film and media studies, holding a degree from Columbia University. Her journey began as a production assistant on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” showcasing her early involvement in the creative realm.

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente

Kelso’s affiliation with Sundance runs deep, having served as a trustee on the Sundance Institute’s board since 2020. She also previously stepped into the role of acting CEO during the transition periods from CEOs Keri Putnam and Joana Vicente. This blend of tech expertise, film industry knowledge, and her longstanding connection with Sundance positions her well to lead the Institute into its next chapter of growth and sustainability.

Vicente will also play a role in the search for a new CEO alongside the board. However, Kelso’s intention is clear: she aims to leverage her expertise in communications and technology to enhance the organization during her interim leadership. Notably, Kelso played a crucial role in guiding Sundance through the transition to a virtual festival format in both 2021 and 2022.

In a written statement, Kelso expressed her commitment to solidifying Sundance’s position within the broader creative ecosystem. She emphasized the significance of the Institute’s support for artists, recognizing the pivotal moment in time for their work.

Kelso drew inspiration from Sundance’s founder, Robert Redford, quoting his advice: “Don’t be shy of taking risks. It can be the catalyst that propels you forward.” With this ethos of boldness and innovation, Kelso intends to steer Sundance into a dynamic future.

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente Exiting, Amanda Kelso Named Acting CEO
Image Credits to Getty Images

As Kelso conveyed her message, Vicente simultaneously shared her own with members. “As an organization, over these past years, we have sustained and expanded our support for global storytellers,” Vicente wrote. “We have discovered avenues to provide more funding opportunities for independent and creative voices. These newly launched fellowships aimed at uplifting underrepresented storytellers are making a significant impact on the careers of many.”

Sundance recently unveiled the dates for the 2025 Sundance Film Festival, scheduled to take place from January 23 to February 2.

Read the full letters from both Kelso and Vicente below:

Amanda Kelso

To the Sundance Community,

As we look to the future of the Sundance Institute, I am filled with both pride and humility as I take on the role of Acting CEO. It is an immense honor to return to lead during this pivotal time for arts organizations and, more specifically, independent storytellers. I believe in the power of Sundance and its ongoing impact in nurturing our mission-based work. This work is dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and connecting them with audiences around the world.

As a trustee of this non-profit for over four years, I have had the privilege of working closely with Joana Vicente. I first want to thank Joana for her meaningful contributions to the Institute and wish her well as she begins her next chapter.

She has been a tremendous asset to both the Institute and our global community of artists, especially during some of the industry’s most challenging times. I am appreciative that Joana will be available as an advisor to me and the board in this transition. I know she will continue to make a positive impact on this community, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

In this new role, I am keen to work closely with the Sundance leadership team, our board chair, Ebs Burnough, and my fellow trustees in the capacity of Acting CEO. I am eager to begin collaborating with the wider team on developing the next strategic plan for the Institute’s continued advancement, while both upholding Robert Redford’s vision and ensuring the Institute’s long-term sustainability and growth well into the 21st century.

I intend to bring my over 25 years of experience as a creative communications and brand leader, working in a variety of global community-focused places like Google and Instagram, to my leadership of Sundance. Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to building communities and have always admired and been inspired by the community that makes up Sundance.

At its core, this community includes a diverse array of global artists, whom the Institute has had the great privilege of helping to nurture and propel their visions forward. It also encompasses the broad audiences that gather to experience the magic of storytelling, the funders who generously support our work, the volunteers who devote their time, and, of course, the dedicated staff who have committed their careers to championing the artists and this organization.

As I jump into leadership, my goal is to further cement the place Sundance has in this greater ecosystem. We are at an important moment in time where the impact of the work we do to support artists matters enormously. In this time of transition, I am reminded of the wisdom imparted by our founder, Robert Redford, who advised, “Don’t be shy of taking risks. It can be the catalyst that propels you forward.” It is with this spirit of boldness and innovation that I plan to approach the future together.

I’m excited to be on this journey with you all, and I look forward to the impact we can have on uplifting storytellers.

Thank you,

Amanda Kelso

Dear Sundance Community from Joana Vicente

Dear Sundance Community,

After two and a half inspiring years, I have decided to begin a new chapter and will be moving on from my role as CEO of Sundance Institute.

Over the past six years, I have had the privilege of leading two of the most culturally significant organizations for independent film in North America through some of the most challenging times for our industry. This journey has been incredibly rewarding. I’m so proud of the work our Sundance team has accomplished together, championing independent storytellers and amplifying their voices. As I look ahead, I have decided that it is time to explore new opportunities and adventures while I continue my lifelong passion for supporting transformative storytelling.

The board and I are working closely on the leadership plan, and I am pleased to share that Sundance board member Amanda Kelso will be returning to oversee the organization as acting CEO. I will remain on as an advisor to Sundance through the end of June, providing support to Amanda and the board and ensuring a smooth transition for the organization’s continued success.

With great pride and respect, I look back at the significant work we have accomplished together at the Institute and the herculean task of bringing the Festival back from the pandemic – all while making the Festival more accessible by welcoming a community online. From our first pivot to a digital festival and two successful in-person hybrid festivals, we have cemented Sundance’s position as the best platform for emerging storytellers. Facing extraordinary financial and logistical headwinds coming out of COVID, we came together to find new ways to ensure that our in-person artist labs, the heart of Sundance’s mission, could continue.

As an organization, over these past years, we have been able to sustain and expand our support of global storytellers. We have found ways to offer more funding opportunities for independent and creative voices. These newly launched fellowships to uplift underrepresented storytellers are impacting the careers of so many. We have also expanded the opportunity for artists internationally, with new Festivals in Asia and the recently announced Sundance Film Festival CDMX in Mexico City. Together, we have set the Institute up for future growth and stability to continue its meaningful work supporting artists and connecting their projects with audiences worldwide.

Much of our work has been focused on our long-term strategic planning process, and I am confident Amanda is the right person for the job. I am excited to see what comes next.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be supported by Sundance as a producer, and it has been a privilege to lead this extraordinary organization, directly supporting the mission Robert Redford started over 40 years ago. I will forever be your champion and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

Warmly, Joana Vicente

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