“There's not enough praise or admiration we can give Cooper,” proclaimed Robert Redford of exiting festival director John Cooper on the opening night of Sundance 2020 last night.
In fact, followed by a standing ovation from the well-heeled and talent packed crowd at the annual Artist at the Table dinner, the SFF founder's clearly heartfelt remarks weren't the first time that Redford praised 30-year Sundance vet Cooper on Thursday. On stage at the packed Eccles Theatre before opening night film Crip Camp screened, the Oscar winner offered “much love” to his long-time right-hand man. “At some point, the festival became his,” Redford added in what are surely to be the first of many tributes over what will be Cooper's last festival as the head honcho.
After 11 years as festival director and Redford’s public foil, Cooper announced his upcoming exit back in June last year. No replacement has been unveiled yet, but whoever gets the gig is going to be stepping into some pretty big shoes.
With Redford having pulled back as the public face of the festival last year, Sundance eschewed its traditional opening day press conference yesterday, and sent out pre-recorded videos from Cooper as you can see below, Sundance Institute chief Keri Putnam and festival programmer Kim Yutani. iftypeofjQuery=='function'jQuery; jwplayer'jwplayer_GNxvuxCF_GTHRSR56_div'.setup ;
However, Cooper sat down with me to discuss his exit, his relationship with Redford, some high points and low points and what is next for the indie film man.
DEADLINE: Clearly this last Sundance for you after over a decade as director is going to be a long goodbye from Redford and others, but what are you going to miss the most about the gig as a day-to-day job?
COOPER: That's a big one. I think the biggest thing I'm going to miss is the selection of film process, my staff, that is so passionate and intelligent and so pure to this notion we have that really supports not just these artists in particular, but that support this notion of independent cinema and how important it is to culture. I'm going to miss that intensity of us putting together a selection, you know?
I'm going to miss the audiences too, actually. I think we've built such a loyal group of supporters and people that arrive every year. I always make a joke. It's like I'm a wedding planner right now. It's a 10-day wedding, and it's big, and there are so many people, but when the audiences arrive, they revive you.
DEADLINE: How so?
COOPER: They're excited and fresh....
Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Show: The Secret History of Hollywood
Where You Can Stream It: The podcasting app of your choice.
The Pitch: The Secret History of Hollywood is the most compelling, immersive, and emotional podcast I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Each season consists of deep dives into a major Hollywood figure, tracing its subject’s rise to prominence and giving incredible insight into their home lives, painting a portrait so captivating and well-rounded that biographies or books on the subjects could only dream to achieve.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Listening: I’ve been thinking about this podcast a lot since I first stumbled across it several years ago, but I think it’s especially appropriate to recommend it right now because some of its episodes are incredibly lengthy – many clock in around an hour and a half, but some of them stretch to four, six, or even nine hours long. Yes, really. Some of you may scoff, but isn’t being in quarantine the perfect time to give a long-form podcast a chance?
Adam Roche, the voice behind the show, had no background in sound editing or sound production when he got started, but he could have fooled me: the series reminds me of an old-time radio show, complete with sound effects and Roche doing voices as he plays the people in a given scene. I realize that may sound cheesy, and it absolutely would be in less-capable hands. But trust me: Roche’s mellifluous voice and incredibly researched accounts are perfect for this type of storytelling.
The show has brought me to tears multiple times over the years, and I think a huge part of the reason for that is because of the long episode lengths. Like a great TV series you never want to end, you get to spend hours and hours with the subjects of these episodes and build emotional connections to them, so when they they experience hardships, a project goes wrong, or they lose a loved one, the results can be unexpectedly powerful.
The show has earned the attention of Hollywood vets like Peter Ramsey Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mark Gatiss Sherlock, Game of Thrones, the latter of whom lends his own terrific voice to introductions of the most recent season, which covers the prolific producer Val Lewton Cat People, The Body Snatcher, The Ghost Ship. I knew nothing about Lewton or his work before I listened to the eleven episode season, but by the end, I feel like not only do I know all about him, but I feel I’ve experienced his highs and lows right alongside him. It’s truly spellbinding stuff, and it comes with my absolute highest recommendation.
I’ve talked about the show a couple...
Stephen Williams, whose directing credits include episodes of Watchmen, The Walking Dead, Lost, and more, is set to helm Universal’s new monster movie Don’t Go in the Water. There are zero plot details at the moment, but it’s safe to assume from the monster movie distinction and the title that this is going to be some sort of aquatic horror movie – and we could always use more of those.
Variety has the scoop on Don’t Go in the Water, described simply as a “suspenseful monster movie” from director Stephen Williams. Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy is producing, along with Dan Levine for 21 Laps Entertainment, while Adam Kolbrenner will produce for Lit Entertainment Group. Adam Rodin is executive producing.
Williams directed two Watchmen episodes – “She Was Killed by Space Junk”, which featured the now-infamous giant Dr. Manhattan dildo, and “This Extraordinary Being”, one of the most memorable episodes of the series, in which Regina King’s Angela relives her grandfather’s memories via a drug trip. That episode was highly renowned for its unique visual style, so it’s great to see Williams branch out into a big movie. Save for 1995’s Soul Survivor, all his other credits are in TV.
I wish I could tell you more about the Don’t Go in the Water plot, but there simply isn’t anything to tell. However, the title certainly suggests this is some sort of aquatic horror film, and that’s a sub-genre I always enjoy. Earlier this year we saw the release of Underwater, a surprisingly fun undersea monster movie starring Kristen Stewart.
Other entries include DeepStar Six, Leviathan, Deep Rising, and more. Hell, you can even include every shark movie under that banner as well – all the Jaws flicks, The Shallows, Deep Blue Sea, and so on. The only real prerequisite is that the plot involves unlucky characters either on a boat or in some sort of underwater location being plagued by danger. It doesn’t even have to be monster-based danger. There’s Dead Calm, where the danger is Billy Zane. Hell, go ahead and include Titanic in there, I don’t care. There are no more rules anymore, folks. Anything goes these days.