Robert Redford on Sundance, his Childhood and Storytelling.

Robert Redford on Sundance, his Childhood and Storytelling.

Robert Redford

Throughout this week, I wrote a series of articles recapping things I learned from the cast and crew of Pete’s Dragon. I will be completely honest, it is extremely rare that I would spend six days talking about one film but I adored Pete’s Dragon and wanted to go out of my way to support it. If you have missed any of the previous articles or would like to read any of the three reviews that we have on the site, please check them out by clicking on any of the titles below:

Everything I learned about Bryce Dallas Howard at the ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Press Day

Pete’s Dragon Review: A Bit of Disney Magic Goes a Long Way

Wes Bentley talks ‘Pete’s Dragon’ and working with such an amazing cast.

‘Pete’s Dragon’ Review: A breathtakingly magical journey with a heart the size of a dragon

14 Things You Didn’t Know About David Lowery’s ‘Pete’s Dragon’

Pete’s Dragon Review: A Heartfelt Classic

20 Fun Facts about ‘Pete’s Dragon’s’ Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.

I am ending my Pete’s Dragon coverage by focusing on a man whom I admire greatly. Not only do I admire this man as an actor but as the founder of the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute. Robert Redford is a true Hollywood legend and icon. He is a man who came from so little and build a career starring in some of the best films of the 60s and 70s including Barefoot in the ParkButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Candidate, just to name a few. Redford now stars as Meacham in Pete’s Dragon. Redford brings so much to this character and his storytelling skills are absolutely astounding.


Before I share my in-depth conversation with Robert Redford where I share my love of Sundance with him, I wanted to first share 10 interesting facts that I learned about Redford at the press day.

  • His role as a storyteller stemmed from his childhood.
  • Redford grew up in Los Angeles in a very low income neighborhood where there wasn’t much to do.
  • Storytelling became a way to keep him alive and was part of his upbringing that he has passed down to his kids.
  • As a kid, Redford was forced to be realistic so he created stories in his head and then drew them on paper.
  • Redford took this role because he loved the idea of going back to his childhood.
  • By being the narrator and storyteller in Pete’s Dragon, Redford was able to sort of shape and tell the story in his own way about the dragon. He spent years telling that story and no one believed it but then suddenly everybody did.
  • Redford was a big fan of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Body Saints which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Now that this film is being released, Redford will be directing two other films.
  • Redford is currently working on a new film with Lowery entitled Old Man with a Gun.
  • As an actor and director, Redford always likes and embraces the idea of trying something new.

Below is my full conversation with Redford about how I love the Sundance Film Festival and his response to me telling him that.


SM: I’ve been going to Sundance for like the past 5 years

RR: Oh yeah?

SM: And I just want to thank you so much for putting that festival on and starting it, because it’s my favorite festival.

RR: Well thank you. Thank you. You know what’s weird about that? I’ll tell you a short story. When that started because I had the idea of the lab program and that would be non-profit. I’d depended on colleagues of mine, who were writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, and editors to come up and give 2, 3 weeks of their time. We couldn’t pay them anything. To help new artists come in, and go through a process where they would have to go through like a drill situation. And you’d use the divisions, you’d say, “Okay, the writers will work with these people and the directors will work with these people and so forth.”

And so I was dependent on the generosity of my colleagues. And that’s how I started. And then once we realized that we were helping them develop their skills so they could get their films made suddenly I realized this there’s nowhere to go because the mainstream studios had a relationship with the theatres, and they didn’t allow any space. So there’s nowhere to go, and that led to the idea of a festival. And I said, “Well, what if we had a festival where we could bring these people together, and they could at least show each other their work?” That’s how it was intended. And I couldn’t do it at Sundance because first of all, in those days, I didn’t have a theatre there.

SM: Wow.

And the nearest town was Park City. And so I said, well, Park City but they just had one theater, the Old Egyptian. Plus at that time there were only 4 restaurants in town. This is like–

SM: Could you imagine if it was still only? Like, now you fill up that Eccles Theater without a problem.

RR: I had never dreamed that that would happen. So when we first started, the idea was, “It’ll never work. No one cares about independent film. You’re doing it up in Utah, in Mormon country. Really – you’re really asking for it.” And so we had the one theater. And I would stand outside – we had maybe 30 films? Maybe 12 or 14 documentaries? And I was standing outside the theater trying to get people in. Like some guy outside of a strip club.

And that’s how it started. And then suddenly it took about 4 to 5 years before it survived. And then when globalization occurred in the 90’s, suddenly we were able to bring films from other countries and bring the filmmakers and the whole thing began to grow. Now, the combination of Park City, they’re in a development mode. They’re in a manic development mode. So the tension now, which is going to come down on us, is we have more films. We have 70,000 people that come to see these films.

SM: Wow.

RR: The city is shrinking, and we’re growing.

SM: Yeah. 

So you wait, you’ll see some real tension coming up in the next year. Because Park City is – Park City is very much like the mentality about development at any cost. You know, profit, development. So Park City’s developing itself almost to death. And there’s very few spaces for us, and we can’t move around. So–

SM: Do you think you may move out of Park City?

I think that’s a problem, because I can’t imagine – I think for whatever reason, people associate the festival with Park City.

SM: Yeah. 

RR: In fact, I think a lot of people think Sundance is Park City but it’s a city about 40 miles away. But I think if we moved it to Heber or some place like that, it’s going to be a problem. I don’t worry about Sundance, because we have control of that land there. And we have a fine balance, because the institute develops there. It exhibits in Park City.

So I’m dependent on Park City, I’m dependent on anything at Sundance because I can control that. So I think the future is going to be– I think Park City realizes that we bring a lot to that city in a short amount of time. And we bring more and more multitudes of people from all over and it’s kind of put it on the map. But also, we make a lot of money, bring in like $60 to $80 million into the economy.

So that’s a lot because money speaks in Utah. So the question is: how are they going to accommodate us? They’re going to have to create some space for us. They’re going to have to do something that allows us to stay. I think they realize this, I think the Mayor certainly does. So stay tuned.

Pete’s Dragon is now playing in theaters everywhere. Please check out the film in theaters and return to afterwards and share your thoughts on the film or any of the articles written for the film. We would love to hear from you and always love feedback.

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