Sterling Van Wagenen

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Sterling Van Wagenen
Sterling Gray Van Wagenen

(1947-07-02) July 2, 1947 (age 72)
Utah, United States
OccupationProducer, writer, director

Sterling Gray Van Wagenen (born in Utah, United States, July 2, 1947) is an American film and stage producer, writer and director. He is a co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, and, in association with Robert Redford, he was the founding executive director of the Sundance Institute.[1][2][3][4][5] In 2019, Van Wagenen was convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to six years to life in prison.


He has directed four feature films as well as several documentaries and television episodes, and has produced over fourteen feature films, documentaries, and television series, including the Academy Award winning The Trip to Bountiful, co-produced with Horton Foote and starring Geraldine Page and John Heard. He collaborated again with Foote on Convicts, starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones.[6] In 1986 he and Foote were nominated for an Independent Spirit Award as producers of The Trip to Bountiful, and in 1987 they won a Wise Owl Award for the film. In 1992, he won a Crystal Heart Award as director of Alan and Naomi.[7]

From 1999 to 2004, Van Wagenen served as Director of the School of Film and Digital Media at the University of Central Florida. He was later Producer-in-Residence and faculty member at the University of Utah.[4][8]

Van Wagenen was the director of three films that were used in rotation from 2013 though January 2019 during the Endowment Ceremony in Latter Day Saint Temples.[9]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Marilee Jeppson, and they had six children and 20 grandchildren.[10][11] Their first child, Sarah Ella Van Wagenen, born August 17, 1973, died on March 1, 2014 from causes incident to cancer.[12]

Sexual abuse conviction and imprisonment[edit]

On January 4, 2019, The Truth & Transparency Foundation, a nonprofit group formerly known as "MormonLeaks", posted audio in which Sterling Van Wagenen holds a conversation with a man identified by the alias "David."[13] In the recording, Van Wagenen confesses to molesting the 13-year-old "David" in 1993 during a sleepover.[14] At the time, Van Wagenen confessed the incident to his Stake President and a detective. According to a police report, no charges were filed in the case because the victim's parents declined to pursue them. Van Wagenen was disfellowshipped for 2 years by the LDS Church.[15]

On April 2, 2019, Van Wagenen was charged with the felony aggravated sexual abuse, in Salt Lake City, where he was released on a $75,000 bond.[16] Van Wagenen is alleged to have molested a young girl somewhere between 2013 and 2015.[17] The Sundance Institute issued a statement, saying: "Recent reports in the press have made us aware of allegations of sexual abuse by Sterling Van Wagenen, who played a role in founding both the Festival and the Institute. He has no current connection to either entity, and hasn't since he left our Utah Advisory Board in 1993. Sundance Institute categorically denounces his behavior as described in recent reports, and we stand in solidarity with those whose brave truth-telling shines light on abusive behavior."[18]

On April 30, 2019, Van Wagenen pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.[19] He was jailed for six years to life on July 2, 2019.[20]


  1. ^ Benson, Lee (January 21, 2011). "About Utah: Utah Valley resident Sterling Van Wagenen was there before Redford". Deseret News. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  2. ^ Moore, Roger (June 12, 2011). "The Redford bio, a bit too 'authorized' for my tastes". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  3. ^ Coates, Kristen (June 11, 2019). "Becoming Sundance: The Development of America's Premiere Film Festival". The Film Stage. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Sterling G Van Wagenen (Faculty Profile)". University of Utah. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  5. ^ Eash, Candy (March 2014). "Sterling Van Wagenen (interview)". Mormon Artist. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Sterling Van Wagenen". IMDB. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Sterling Van Wagenen: Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  8. ^ Eash, Candy. "Sterling Van Wagenen (interview)". Mormon Artist. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  9. ^ McKnight, Ryan (February 4, 2019). "Director of Mormon Temple Videos and Sundance Festival Co-founder Admits to Child Molestation in Early 90s". Truth & Transparency Foundation. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "Peace Officer Crew". Peace Officer. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Margaret Blair Young: Biography". Kickstarter. Archived from the original on January 21, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  12. ^ "Sarah Ella Van Wagenen". The Salt Lake Tribune. n.d. Retrieved May 7, 2019 – via
  13. ^ "Confronting a Childhood Abuser". The New York Times. 2019-05-24. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  14. ^ Miller, Jessica (February 5, 2019). "Noted Latter-day Saint filmmaker admits to molesting boy in 1993; victim wonders why church never offered him help". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  15. ^ Forgie, Adam (February 4, 2019). "LDS temple video director, Sundance co-founder admits to child molestation, claims website". KUTV. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  16. ^ Parker, Ryan (April 11, 2019). "Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder Sterling Van Wagenen Charged With Sex Abuse". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  17. ^ Means, Sean P. (April 11, 2019). "Utah filmmaker who admitted to molesting a teen boy in 1993 now is charged with sexual abuse of a young girl". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  18. ^ Verhoeven, Beatrice (April 11, 2019). "Sundance Institute 'Denounces' Festival Co-Founder Sterling Van Wagenen's Alleged Abuse". TheWrap. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  19. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (April 30, 2019). "A Sundance Founder Pleads Guilty to Child Sex Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  20. ^ Miller, Jessica (July 2, 2019). "Sterling Van Wagenen, a Latter-day Saint filmmaker, gets six years to life for child sex abuse". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 2, 2019.

External links[edit]

Sterling Van Wagenen on IMDb