Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
PARK CITY, Utah - Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford was looking forward and backward Thursday at the opening of this year's 11-day gathering.
He spoke of adapting as well as maintaining the original intention of the indie-film forum he launched in 1985.
"It all boils down to a single thing: change," he said in a press conference at the Egyptian Theater, on the city's quaint Main Street. "We always have to be on the ball and think about what's coming. But as we go forward and adapt to change, we also go along with our original purpose - to identify and support new voices."
For those who wonder whether the event has become too Hollywood-centric, Redford has an answer: "It's not meant to be commercial, it's meant to be diverse. But the nice thing about it is we're still here, and diversity has proved to be commercial."
And to those locals who brace for the onslaught of thousands of visitors from all over the world into what amounts to a small town, his response is equally clear-cut: The fest is a huge financial boon that pours "$80 million into the local economy in 10 days. That's pretty good."
He may act locally, but Redford has long been thinking globally, and the films at the festival reflect that, coming from 32 countries. Recently he launched a Sundance component in London, after having been invited to take American films over the pond in what Redford calls "a cultural exchange."
And, while he acknowledged a personal passion for documentaries, the festival and accompanying Sundance Institute have expanded beyond films to music and theater.
Redford also announced that he's dipping back into his own artistic roots. "I've been supporting independent film for 30 years, but no one approaches me to be in them."
But that changed last year. He recently played a part in All Is Lost, a gritty drama by director J.C. Chandor that is due out later this year and centers on one man's efforts to survive when left adrift at sea. Redford called his part a "non-speaking role."
Chandor wrote the dialogue-free film specifically for Redford, who has not acted much in recent years.
"I've got skin in the game now and probably have to develop a thicker hide," Redford said.
In 2010, Redford also made The Conspirator on a tight budget, so he understands some of the constraints of indie filmmaking.
"Basically I'm now swimming in the same stream as the filmmakers we support," Redford said. "And that is a good thing."