Part Four: Online Exclusive Interview with Director of Sundance John Cooper

Haute Living: What are the chances that this year’s winner, Winter’s Bone, experiences the same success as Precious?

John Cooper: Wouldn’t that be nice? I think that Precious was a bit of a phenomenon. If you think back to two years ago, Frozen River was the year’s winner, and its success was more in line with the success that films can get out of Sundance. It had a nice solid release, especially in the art house market, and it was also nominated for awards. Melissa Leo was nominated for an Oscar for best performance by an actress, and it was also nominated for best screenplay, which are the awards our films tend to get. Mo’Nique is nominated and will probably win this year for Precious. [Editor’s note: she did win]

Independent films allow for unique performance opportunities for actors. You are not going to get nominated for “Best Supporting Actor;” that’s usually for a movie like Avatar. Independent films are going to get overlooked. Precious was a very interesting moment, because it had everything going for it. It was a test for me so I could judge if there was still an audience out there for this kind of film. Because you never know when you are going to turn a corner and have people be like, “You know, I just don’t want to watch independent films anymore.”

HL: Is that a fear of yours?

JC: Always. I think I let it be a fear because it helps me keep the energy up. Someday we are going to skip a generation, and all of the kids out there won’t find independent films and think the only sound is YouTube, and they won’t be turned on. I remember getting turned onto the stories of films other than what was coming out of Hollywood when I was in high school. In college I was watching different types of movies. These were “adult movies,” not like porno, but movies for an adult audience, and I think that change happened to a lot of us. I just want to make sure it continues to happen and that the next generation continues to find the independent films.

HL: Do you have a favorite film from the 2010 festival?

JC: No, not really. I couldn’t even begin to pick one. I can barely even remember what we showed! I really like Winter’s Stone, the film that won, and I am glad that it won, too, because it is such a precisely made movie. It is really well done. The technique in it is amazing, and the acting is amazing. It is a dark film and isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But I like those kinds of movies in particular. I also liked an Italian movie called I am Love, which is kind of a big guilty pleasure for me because it is so beautiful. It is shot in Italy and is very fashion-y. I just liked watching it; it was like candy for me. I like different kinds of movies, which I have to because I am a programmer. It’s not about being opinionated; it’s about keeping an open mind because you have to find 20 films worth showing.

HL: Looking back at the 2010 Festival, how would you rate your success in your first year as director?

JC: I got everything out of the festival that I wanted to achieve this year. I wanted everyone to feel different this year. I wanted them to feel optimistic and different, not only about the indie film industry, but also about the festival in general and the experience. And I got that. I felt like people were pretty engaged and energized about the event, and that made me very happy. Nobody seemed to blame me too much for anything.