When memorable independent films like Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, and Clerks bubble up in conversation, their big-screen premieres at Park City’s Sundance Film Festival are likely a part of what comes to many people’s minds. The cult classic Reservoir Dogs is likewise easily identified with the festival and the Sundance Institute; in fact, Quentin Tarantino’s rare talent was first nurtured at the Sundance Directors Lab in 1991.
Now, however, with screens getting ever smaller, television and online series are generating as much buzz as their big-screen counterparts. Unsurprisingly, this trend is not lost on the Sundance Institute family. Following are three much-acclaimed original series—all of which are available to watch now—with connections to both the festival and the institute.
Westworld is HBO’s new futuristic sci-fi/Western series (much of the first season of which was filmed in southern Utah) starring Sundance veteran Ed Harris, whose character pays homage to Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger from the 1973 film, also titled Westworld, by Michael Crichton. Harris has acted in Sundance-premiering films for the past 30 years, most notably The Right Stuff (1993). He continues to give back to the Sundance Institute by serving as a creative advisor alongside Robert Redford at the Institute’s Directors and Screenwriters Labs.
Each season of the dark, contagious, psychologically thrilling, and award-winning HBO series True Detective is structured as a disparate, self-contained narrative, employing new cast ensembles and following various sets of characters and settings. Cary Joji Fukunaga, a 2006 Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Lab Fellow and 2009 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award winner for his narrative feature Sin Nombre, directed and executive-produced this series’ entire first season.
Transparent, the award-winning brainchild of Jill Soloway, is an Amazon original series inspired by Soloway’s own father coming out as transgender late in life, featuring TV’s first transgender protagonist. Soloway has written and directed two films that have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival: Una Hora Por Favora (2012) and Afternoon Delight (2013), for which she won the Directing Award. Soloway recently participated in Sundance Institute panels titled “Exploratory Detours” and “Embracing Change.”