Slamdance: even more independent



    Slamdance Film Festival is the next best thing.

    Or, it’s the best thing if you’re not into the latte toting, cell phone squawking, lite and fat-free So Cal Sundance Film Festival scene.

    “Accessibility, its accessibility,” said Slamdance Festival producer Brent Clackson describing what he deemed the major difference between Sundance and Slamdance.

    Clackson told of professional athletes and Hollywood types who came to the festival last year and were worried of being mauled by stargazers and hungry directors during the festival. By the end of the week, said Clackson, they were hanging out outside talking with whoever was interested.

    However, there’s more to Slamdance than accessibility.

    “Slamdance, for me, embodies the independent spirit,” said director and Slamdance alum Adam Abraham.

    Abraham’s film “Man of the Century” won last year’s Audience Award, and was showcased Wednesday at the Slamdance Premature Exhibition in Salt Lake City along with two new films that will compete this week in Park City.

    After having their films rejected for the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, Shane Kuhn, Dan Mirvish and Jon Fitzgerald got together and decided to create their own festival, according to the Official Slamdance History. Slamdance Film Festival, organized in 1994, held their first competition in January of 1995, debuting as “Slamdance ’95: Anarchy in Utah — The First Annual Guerilla International Film Festival.”

    Slamdance strives to showcase truly independent films, said Clackson. Film submissions are generally by first time directors, and in order to be accepted to the festival, the films can’t have studio financial backing, said Clackson.

    “Slamdance’s mandate is really to support first time directors,” he said.

    That’s good for rookie directors who want to get noticed by the film community, said Abraham.

    “It really evens the playing field,” he said. “I’m looking at a lot of different projects now. The festival last year really got the ball rolling.”

    As the festival grows (just over 20 submissions their first year, close to 2,000 submissions this year, said Clackson), the organizers strive to keep Slamdance at it’s grass-roots.

    Country singer and songwriter Dwight Yoakam will make his directorial debut at this year’s Slamdance.

    The festival will close with the world debut of “South of Heaven, West of Hell,” Yoakam’s first film, said Peter Baxter, Slamdance Film Festival executive director.

    Because of the festival’s focus on independent films and first-time directors and their recent expansion to the Internet, “no matter what direction we grow, we can keep an eye on our mandate,” said Clackson.

    Clackson, who said the bulk of the 2000 Slamdance Film Festival are Internet related, sees the festival growing in the cyber direction.

    The Slamdance organizers now have a short film competition on their Web site, which allows the rank and file to vote on the best, taking competition out of the hands of juries completely.

    No matter what the focus of the festival, directors just want to get their work noticed, said BYU film student Doug Hedder a senior from Salem, Ore.

    “Film festivals are probably the best way, sometimes the only way for small films to get noticed,” he said.

    Hedder, whose films have been screened at BYU’s film festival Final Cut, said watching an audience watch your film is exhilarating.

    “You get a real idea of what the audience wants and likes,” he said.

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