Behind-the-Scenes Profile: Todd Luoto, Programmer/Short Films

Explain what you do for the Sundance Institute in 50 words or less.
I program the short films with five others. Every year, thousand of people submit to the festival, looking forward to playing in Utah in January, and we watch all the submissions. I think this year I watched just under 2,000 films.  The team’s total was just over 5,600 shorts. Shorts can range from 1 minute to 69, so needless to say we get a lot of diversity, sensibilities, styles and genres.

What would most people be surprised to know about Sundance?
That Britney Spears is not a regular. Nor is the Monster Energy Drink mascot. As an organization, we’re smaller than people realize…we just put on a really good show for 10 days every January, focusing on the films and the filmmaker, first and foremost.

What’s the once place everyone should visit in Park City?
The Egyptian theatre. I think that place is mythical. Even before having ever come out, I always saw pictures of it; it’s one of many images that I have always linked to the festival. Well, that and Parker Posey. Some things stick at an early age, I suppose.

If you had one piece of advice for filmmakers attending the festival for the first time, what would it be?
Have fun. Honestly, this is one place you can do that.  I know there is a lot of pressure and stress for some, but since we’re celebrating films there is no need for anyone to be unhappy.

What’s your favorite Robert Redford flick?
Hands down, Ordinary People. He was the director. I was an emotional wreck after that film, but it inspired me on so many levels.  It’s pretty brilliant!

How do you pick which shorts go in
We have to look at the shorts program as a whole. Different films work really well with different films.  There’s this inexplicable connection between many of them. Different titles will complement; various styles and sensibilities seem to mesh really well.  We like diversity. We like genre. We like good filmmaking and unique voices. One can do anything with a short… the only restriction is the run time.

Are their any countries who stand out for putting out exceptional work right now?
It’s hard to say. International films always are really well done, and this year it’s well represented across the field. European films seems to be the most abundant, although there was a number of really solid Australian submissions this year.