If you've noticed fewer Hollywood megastars in this year's Sundance Film Festival lineup, you've got a good eye.
And if you've spotted more innovative films with modest budgets, again, you are uncommonly observant.
Those were among John Cooper's goals when the longtime Sundance employee took the reins and became the festival's director in March 2009.
"I was kind of brave in my foolishness," said Cooper, now preparing for his second festival as head honcho. "I was not afraid of risk, or trying things. If it doesn't work, it's only a festival, and a lot of it is about having fun, or it should be."
Cooper had been a longtime adviser to Geoffrey Gilmore, who left to head the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Sundance had gotten a little bit big and splashy, Cooper said, and he and festival founder Robert Redford wanted the festival to return to its independent film roots
"I didn't want people walking in, expecting 'Star Wars,' " Cooper said. "A lot of the films don't have recognizable stars. I wanted the festival to spur a way of thinking in the film community. We wanted people to know there is a place at Sundance for grittier, less commercial films. And in the second year, we can see it was the absolute right thing to do."
A film category created last year, NEXT <=> (the symbol translates as less equals more), has drawn many more film submissions than it did the first year. The category is for movies that give high impact on a low budget. Last year, Ogden had the NEXT <=> film "Homewreckers."
A documentary premieres category also was added to raise the status of documentaries. This year, Ogden gets the documentary premieres "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" and "Bobby Fischer Against the World," and "Project Nim" in the world documentary competition.
Sundance is a nonprofit entity, but striving to go less commercial during hard economic times did raise some eyebrows, Cooper said.
"There was a risk in it," Cooper said. "Celebrity may drive ticket sales, but here's how you work around that: You build an audience base that has a different kind of appreciation for film. And that's what we've done, especially in the state of Utah. I don't think Utahns realize what an advanced filmgoing audience they are. This a very film-savvy pocket of the world.
"If you go to screenings that are local, in Ogden and Salt Lake City, you notice the questions are very intelligent and film-centric. Then as a festival, you find sponsors that are more connected to our mission than to celebrities."
Cooper said Sundance has more power to self-direct than do many big festivals.
"A lot of European film festivals get money from tourism, and have to deliver a certain status, and have glamour events," he said. "We don't have that pressure. There is not the same big funding for festivals in America, so we can set our own course and serve the independent film community much better."