The Sundance Institute has hired Toronto International Film Festival co-head and executive director Joana Vicente as its new CEO, replacing Keri Putnam, who is exiting after 10 influential years. Vicente’s return to the U.S. industry comes at a precarious moment for Hollywood independents still reeling from the pandemic year, with art house theatrical releases, film festivals and other indie hallmarks still searching for a clear path forward. The time Vicente spent at TIFF, where she oversaw a reorganization, a comprehensive digital strategy and innovation plan, and a gala launch, as well as two pandemic-era film festivals, make her particularly well suited to the moment. When she starts at Sundance on Nov. 1, she will lead the Institute’s year-round staff of 200, set strategies for its ongoing mission as a leading advocate for international independent artists, and for freedom of expression in film, theater, composing and emerging media.
While Vicente spent the last 3 years at TIFF, she cut her teeth in the U.S. independent film industry, where her credentials include running The Independent Filmmaker Project for a decade, producing over 40 films (docs—Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, American Swing, Gonzo, Quid Pro Quo), and co-founding and heading Open City Films where she produced four Sundance Lab projects, as well as 13 features and six shorts that debuted at the Sundance Festival. She will be stepping up to take the place of Keri Putnam, who steered Sundance through enormous changes over the past 10 years, overseeing the Institute through the industry-altering rise of streaming, and managing to keep it vibrant and influential in a rapidly and radically changing mediascape.