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connect / 2016

NEXT FEST: A weekend of indie film & music bringing Angelenos together in the heart of Downtown LA.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Sundance Institute

Providing free tickets and a place for Angelenos to connect through a unique summer festival fusing independent film, music, comedy & conversation in the heart of Downtown LA.

Please describe your project proposal.

An LA2050 grant would enable Sundance Institute to 1) provide 20% of NEXT FEST17 screening and event tickets free-of-charge to Los Angeles County community organizations and other community outreach programs, 2) support NEXT FEST public panels and workshops, and 3) continue NEXT DOOR, a publicly accessible outdoor community space located next to the festival and open throughout NEXT FEST. Our ticket outreach efforts will reach a broad range of Angelenos across the county.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Cultural events
  • Public/open streets gatherings
  • Public transit riders
  • Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Gateway Cities
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

Los Angeles is vast and complex, posing a unique set of challenges to individual civic and cultural participation. Revitalization of the city center is crucial to promoting diverse, cross-cultural collaboration. We believe that by providing a space for all Angelenos to connect and engage around independent storytelling, we can help make our city better.

Sundance NEXT FEST goes beyond a traditional film festival format by pairing highly anticipated films from the Sundance Film Festival with live performance, music, panels, and comedy. Presented in August 2017 at the historic United Artists Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, NEXT FEST annually reaches audiences of up to 10,000 with seven L.A. premiere film screenings over the course of three days. NEXT FEST offers unexpected juxtapositions. For example, in 2016, following the premiere of Chad Hartigan’s “Morris from America,” Sundance partnered with community youth organizations 826LA, Inner-City Arts, and Venice Arts to showcase the artistry of some of Los Angeles’ most talented youth in a talent show hosted by “Morris” star, comedian Craig Robinson.

NEXT DOOR provides an open community gathering space in the parking lot next to the Ace Hotel, where our audiences and the general public can meet over food, drink, entertainment and games. Visitors to NEXT DOOR can screen print their own NEXT FEST tote bags, play lawn and table games, and participate in a variety of activities designed to connect them to the larger NEXT FEST community via social media.

A 2009 National Endowment for the Arts study found that American adults who attend art museums, art galleries, or live arts performances are far more likely than non-attendees to vote, volunteer, or take part in community events. We believe that cultural engagement and access to independent storytelling can engender empathy, spark creativity, and promote understanding. Sundance aims to increase Angelenos’ access to cultural events by implementing a new community ticket initiative reserving 20% of NEXT FEST tickets to be distributed free-of-charge to community organizations that serve LA County residents. By centering NEXT FEST in the historic core of downtown Los Angeles, we hope to reach as many LA residents as possible. As we approach the program’s fifth summer, we are eager to build on NEXT FEST’s track record of reaching young, diverse audiences.

The Los Angeles Times noted that NEXT FEST “has become a Los Angeles summer fixture.” Over the past four years we have worked with dozens of Los Angeles organizations including BAFTA, CalArts, Ghetto Film School, Homeboy Industries, and The East Los Angeles Society of Film and Arts to find ways to collaborate during NEXT FEST and year-round. We are excited by the opportunity to be able to broaden our outreach in Los Angeles through a fully underwritten community ticket initiative and by continuing to offer a free, public space for NEXT FEST attendees and the vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

We believe NEXT FEST will be successful if we can reach and bring together more Angelenos around some of the most distinctive voices in independent film culture today. We hope that our audiences will leave entertained, challenged, and having connected in a way that is altogether unique.

Sundance Institute emphasizes documentation, benchmarking, and evaluation in all of our programs and services, and measures the success of activities through a variety of mechanisms, including: audience attendance and engagement at all events, surveys of program participants and partners, social media and website engagement, media coverage, and story reporting. The Institute also conducts extensive data collection and analysis from online, mobile, and social platforms featuring the Sundance name. All Sundance Programs are responsive to the needs of the participants: Institute staff evaluate Program activities on an ongoing basis, meet quarterly throughout the year to measure progress in reaching the established goals of our initiatives, carefully consider feedback gathered both formally and informally, and make program modifications when appropriate.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support