Sundance Institute 2008: Bob Byington to Receive Annenberg Film Fellowship Program

February 13, 2008–Sundance Institute has announced Bob Byington as the newest filmmaker to receive support through the Annenberg Film Fellowship Program, created in 2004 to identify and foster a new generation of leading film artists. Based in Austin, Byington is currently in pre-production on his upcoming feature HARMONY AND ME.

Through the grant, Sundance Institute also arranged for creative mentorship sessions with screenwriters Joan Tewkesbury (NASHVILLE), Jim Taylor (SIDEWAYS), and John Gatins (DREAMER: INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY) to help Byington shape the screenplay in the final stage before production.

“We are thrilled that we are able to provide key financial and creative support to Bob at this crucial juncture in the development of his new project,” said Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Feature Film Program. “The Annenberg Film Fellowship program has been a critical tool in our support of truly independent, distinctive filmmakers. In this case, it's allowed us to make a real difference in moving a project we believe in forward at the most impactful moment.”

Bob Byington attended UC Santa Cruz and received an MA in American Studies from the University of Texas. His short film, SNAPDRAGON, was produced through Fox Searchlab, Fox Searchlight Pictures's directors mentorship program. OLYMPIA, Byington's first feature film, premiered at SXSW and began airing on the Sundance Channel in 2003. His new film, RSO [REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER], will be completed in March and also premieres at SXSW.

HARMONY AND ME is the story of a heartbreak in progress. The cast includes Justin Rice, Kevin Corrigan, Pat Healy, Kristen Tucker, Alex Karpovsky, Allison Latta and David Zellner. Stuart Bohart and Anish Savjani will serve as executive producers on the film, which will begin production in Austin later this year.

Created in April 2004 by a $5 million grant directed by Annenberg Foundation trustee Charles Annenberg Weingarten to the Sundance Institute, the Annenberg Film Fellows Program helps provide financial support and ongoing creative and strategic support for selected participants in Sundance Institutes Feature Film Program toward the realization of their projects. From its beginning, the Program has enjoyed notable success and momentum, supporting 27 filmmakers to date, and almost 60% of its projects are entering, or have already entered, production.

Past Sundance Institute Annenberg Fellows include: Alex Rivera, whose feature film THE SLEEP DEALER had its world premiere at 2008 Sundance Film Festival and received the Waldo Salt Screenwriters Award and Alfred P. Sloan Award; Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Taika Waititi (TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT; EAGLE VS. SHARK, released earlier this year by Miramax ), Sterlin Harjo (FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award); and Aditya Assarat (WONDERFUL TOWN, winner of the New Currents Award at the 2007 Pusan International Film Festival).

Previous Fellows currently in production include Sophie Barthes (COLD SOULS) with producer Paul Mezey (HALF NELSON) and Paul Giamatti attached to star and co-produce; and Fellows currently in post-production include Cruz Angeles (DON'T LET ME DROWN); and So Yong Kim (TREELESS MOUNTAIN) with producers Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen (OLD JOY).

Since 1981, the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program has supported more than 450 independent filmmakers whose distinctive, singular work has engaged audiences worldwide. Program staff fully embrace the unique vision of each filmmaker, encouraging a rigorous creative process with a focus on original and deeply personal storytelling. Each year, up to 25 emerging filmmakers from the U.S. and around the world participate in a year-round continuum of support which can include the Screenwriters and Directors Labs, Composers Lab, Independent Producers Conference, ongoing creative and strategic advice, significant production and post-production resources, a rough-cut screening initiative, a Screenplay Reading Series, and direct financial support through project-specific grants and artist fellowships.

In many cases, the Institute has helped the Programs fellows attach producers and talent, secure financing, and assemble other significant resources to move their projects toward production and presentation. This year marks the launch of the Creative Producing Initiative, a year-long Fellowship program for emerging independent producers, which will include a Creative Producing Lab, industry mentorship, and financial support.

Sundance Institute Feature Film Program receives major support from The Annenberg Foundation, The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts. Sundance Institute also gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance provided by John August, Directors Guild of America, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Richard LaGravenese, Christopher McQuarrie, NHK, The Cissy Patterson Foundation, SAGIndie /Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America, west for their support of Sundance Institute Feature Film Program. Sundance Institutes Feature Film Program would like to thank the following companies for their recent contributions to the 2007 Directors Lab: Avid Technology, Inc., Canon Broadcast and Communications Division, Deluxe Laboratories, Eastman Kodak Company, Microsoft, Pacific Title and Art Studio, Inc., Panavision Film and Digital Imaging, and Sony Electronics, Inc. Sundance Institute also recognizes the generous support provided by its Board of Trustees and by contributors to the Sundance Alumni and Filmmaker Fellowship Fund.

Sundance Institute

Dedicated year-round to the development of artists of independent vision and to the exhibition of their new work, Sundance Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2006. Since its inception, the Institute has grown into an internationally recognized resource for thousands of independent artists through its Sundance Film Festival and artistic development programs which provide a range of concentrated creative and financial support for directors, screenwriters, documentary filmmakers, composers, playwrights and theatre artists. The original values of independence, creative risk-taking, and discovery continue to define and guide the work of Sundance Institute, both with US artists and, increasingly, with artists from other regions of the world.

The Annenberg Foundation

Established in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg, The Annenberg Foundation provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and globally through its headquarters in Radnor, Pennsylvania and offices in Los Angeles, California. Its major program areas are education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; and animal services and the environment. In addition, the Foundation operates a number of initiatives which expand and complement these program areas. The Annenberg Foundation exists to advance the public well-being through improved communication. As the principal means of achieving this goal, the Foundation encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.