By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers
It all began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they instead started their own event - Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. 20 years later, Slamdance has become a year-round organization fostering the development of unique and innovative filmmakers. The organization now consists of the Film Festival, Screenplay Competition and Slamdance Studios. It has also created Slamdance On The Road, a traveling theatrical showcase that brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them.
The Film Festival
Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Peter Baxter are the founding forefathers who, along with co-conspirator Paul Rachman, fought for truly independent filmmakers by giving them a voice in 1995 at the very first Slamdance Film Festival. Since then, the festival takes place every January in the breathtakingly stunning, snow-capped mountains of Park City, Utah at the exact same time as the Sundance Film Festival, to provide a more authentic representation of independent filmmaking. Up-and-coming writers, directors and producers, alongside seasoned veterans and film lovers, converge for the weeklong celebration of independent cinema, realizing that Slamdance is a great place to find those next, great, visionary films.
Slamdance lives and bleeds by its mantra By Filmmakers For Filmmakers. No other film festival in the world is entirely run and organized by the creative force that can only be found in filmmakers. Slamdance adamantly supports self-governance amongst independents, and exists to deliver what filmmakers go to festivals for – a chance to show their work and a platform to launch their careers. The festival has earned a solid reputation for premiering films by first-time writers and directors working within the creative confines of limited budgets.
Festival discoveries have included directors Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister), and Lena Dunham (Girls). Slamdance also attracts renowned alumni including Larry Clark, Steven Soderbergh and Johnathan Demme.
In 2005, Slamdance screened the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, which was immediately purchased by Paramount Pictures for the largest amount ever for a feature-length documentary. At the 2007 Festival, Seth Gordon's premiere The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters became another sought after documentary and was acquired by New Line.
In 2008, Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity screened at Slamdance and was acquired by Dreamworks who then passed domestic control of the film over to Paramount. Made for only $10,000, the film went on to become number 1 at the box office, grossing $107 million domestically and $193 million worldwide.
The 2010 festival included the world premiere of Steven Soderbergh's And Everything is Going Fine, a documentary about the late actor and monologist Spalding Gray. It also saw the first, inaugural Filmmaker Summit, which invites the global filmmaking community to collectively craft a new charter for storytelling and content distribution by using new technology and media.
In 2011, Slamdance received a record number of over 5,000 submissions. After premiering at 2011 Slamdance, HBO bought Superheroes and the team that developed the Paranormal Activity franchise acquired Atrocious. The 2011 festival also saw the launch of the Student Initiative Program, a partnership with top film schools across the country to give their students and faculty a better understanding of the current realities and opportunities in independent film.
In 2012, Slamdance screened the coming-of-age comedy Bindlestiffs. It was acquired by Kevin Smith's Smodcast Pictures (partnered with Phase 4 Productions) and given a DVD and VOD release. Slamdance screened We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists, and that went on to a DRM-free DVD and VOD release, along with a theatrical run. Also that year, the new Slamdance TV launched to spotlight new festival talent, provide insight from alumni, and carry on the independent film conversation the rest of the season.
In 2013, Slamdance screened the horror film Jug Face, which was acquired by Gravitas Ventures for a VOD release. Also acquired by Gravitas were MIchael Urie's He's Way More Famous Than You, Stephen Feinartz's The Bitter Buddha, and Peter Baxter's Wild In The Streets. The Sparky Award for Narrative Feature Film went to Matt Johnson's The Dirties and the Jury Prize from Documentary went to Nicole Teeny's Bible Quiz. Audience Awards went to the feature Hank & Asha, directed by James E. Duff and the documentary My Name Is Faith directed by Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres and Tiffany Sudela-Junker.
In 2014, Slamdance celebrated its 20th festival anniversary! Notable alumni like Christopher Nolan and the Russo Brothers were there to talk about their industry experiences and give their advice to the new Slamdancers. The festival got great media attention and, as a result, many of the films were picked up for distribution. The Jury Award for Narrative Feature went to Rezeta by Fernando Frias De La Parra and for Documentary Feature to Elliot by Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau. The Audience Awards went to Copenhagen by Mark Raso (Narrative) and Kidnapped For Christ by Kate S. Logan (Documentary).
The Slamdance Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writers. Screenplays in every genre, with any budget, on any topic, from anywhere in the world are welcome to submit. One unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. The competition consists of four categories: Feature, Short, Horror and Original Teleplay/Webisode. Awards are given to the top three scripts in each category and there is also one Grand Prize for the best feature length script submitted regardless of category. Slamdance's Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition has discovered a number of talented screenwriters, including Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) and Nicole Kassell (The Woodsman).
Each year Slamdance produces the winning script from the Short Screenplay Competition into a short film and premieres it at the Festival.
In 2010, Hey Vendor, written by Christopher Hlas was directed by Sundance award winning director Matthew Harrison.
The 2011 Grand Prize winner Jug Face, written by Chad Crawford Kinkle, premiered at the 2013 festival, where it was picked up for distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2011, Dead in the Room, written by Marjory Kaptanoglu was directed by Academy® nominated filmmaker Adam Pertofsky.
The 2011 short screenplay winner Harold's Bad Day, written by RJ Buckley and directed by Slamdance alum Jordan Brady was shown at the 2012 festival.
The 2013 competition featured an exciting new Grand Prize, supported by JuntoBox Films. The winner, Butterfly Children by Melanie Schiele, received $10,000 in cash.
In January 2010, Slamdance announced a distribution partnership with Microsoft for year-round Slamdance programming on Xbox and Zune.
Slamdance President and Co-Founder Peter Baxter says, “Slamdance has a true independent identity and proven track record of unearthing great films. It’s time now to be progressive and unleash our film programs outside of the festival and directly help filmmakers find popular, worldwide audiences.”
During the weeklong film festival in 2011, select Competition Feature Films were made available via Zune’s video Marketplace and the VOD Showcase. Select films included narrative features: Modern Imbecile’s Planet World, Snow On The Bluff and The Beast Pageant; documentary features: Road Dogs and Scrapper, as well as films from previous festivals.
In 2013, Slamdance expanded its VOD business onto iTunes, Amazon, Google, Vudu and Playstation. Slamdance Studios acquired and released four Slamdance Favorites and award winners through all major VOD outlets through Cinedigm/New Video, including Monteith McCollum's Hybrid, Ron Eyal & Elanor Burke's Stranger Things, Rudd Simmons' The First Season, and Daniel Martinico's OK, Good. The Slam Collective made Slamdance's first collaborative feature film called I Want To Be an American. In the spirit of the Surrealist parlor game of chance Exquisite Corpse, 7 Slamdance filmmakers each made a documentary short film based on imagery forwarded on by the previous filmmaker in the chain. The composite story forms a global independent filmmaking experience. Inspired by the idea that with digital technology, cameras, online distribution, like-minded filmmakers from different cultures across continents can embrace a basic concept and create several films with one unifying theme; the discovery of community.
In 2014, Slamdance Studios acquired Nicole Teeny's 2013 Sparky Award winning feature documentary Bible Quiz for a limited theatrical release in major markets such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Austin, with a wide video release on Netflix and all major VOD platforms with new partner Virgil Films.
Slamdance has also established a film program called the $99 Special. These films are made for $99 in 99 days and utilize new production technologies available to DIY filmmakers. Participating filmmakers have included Slamdance alumni Rian Johnson (Looper/Brick), Daniel Harris (The Bible & Gun Club), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild).
In addition to VOD development, the organization has established Slamdance On The Road, a traveling theatrical showcase supported by the film festival organization and its filmmakers. On the Road brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them. On The Road events usually take place in the US, but have also traveled internationally to China, Poland, France, Chile and Ireland.
Slamdance HQ in Los Angeles:
5634 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, California 90038
The Slamdance Film Festival takes place every January in Park City, UT.
Slamdance HQ in Park City:
Treasure Mountain Inn
255 Main Street
Park City, Utah
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