Slamdance Film Festival

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Slamdance Film Festival
Location Park City, Utah, U.S.A.
Language International

The Slamdance Film Festival is a yearly film festival focused on independent films, created in 1995. Slamdance has since developed to become a year-round organization fostering each stage in the development of emerging independent filmmakers, consisting of the Film Festival, Screenplay Competition, and Slamdance Studios.



The festival was founded in 1995 by Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn Peter Baxter[1] along with co-conspirator Paul Rachman[2][3] and has since become a year-round organization championing emerging filmmaking talent and their new work. Peter Baxter has been in charge of Slamdance since 1997.[4]

Festival Discoveries[edit]

Festival discoveries have included directors Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight Trilogy"), Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball"), Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite"), Oren Peli ("Paranormal Activity"), Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses"), Lynn Shelton ("Humpday"), and Lena Dunham ("Girls"). Slamdance also attracts renowned alumni including Larry Clark, Steven Soderbergh and Johnathan Demme.

At the 2005 Festival, Slamdance screened the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, which was immediately purchased by Paramount Pictures for the largest amount ever for a feature-length documentary. Also in 2005, actor Chip Godwin, won an unprecedented Honorable Mention Sparky award for his performance in John Erick Dowdle's comedy, The Dry Spell.

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 Cinema.

In 2008, Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity played its Festival premiere at Slamdance[5] and was acquired by DreamWorks who then passed domestic control of the film onto Paramount. During the weekend of October 11–12, 2009 Paranormal Activity broke the box-office record[6] for a film playing at fewer than 200 theaters by selling $7.1 million worth of tickets in the US and Canada. As of October 25, Paranormal Activity had earned $66 million and reached number 1 at the Box Office.[7] By January 10, 2010, the $10,000 budgeted picture had amassed $107 million at the domestic Box Office and $193 million worldwide.[7]

2009 festival highlights included premieres Mississippi Damned directed by Tina Mabry and I Sell the Dead produced by Larry Fessenden and directed by Glenn McQuaid, which was acquired by the Independent Film Channel and Anchor Bay Entertainment. A Quiet Little Marriage, directed by Mo Perkins, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature and shortly afterward was picked for distribution by the Independent Film Channel.[8]

2010's festival event took place in Park City, Utah on January 21–28, 2010.[9] It included the world premiere of Steven Soderbergh's And Everything Is Going Fine (a documentary about the late actor and monologuist Spalding Gray) and introduced the "Filmmaker Summit".[10] This Summit invites the global filmmaking community to collectively craft a new charter for storytelling and content distribution that can succeed by using new technology.[11] The Jury Prize for Best Narrative film was won by Snow and Ashes, directed by Charles-Olivier Michaud and the Jury Prize for Best Documentary was won by “American Jihadist”, directed by Mark Claywell. The Audience Award for Best Narrative was won by The Wild Hunt, directed by Alexandre Franchi and the Audience Award for Best Documentary was won by Mind of the Demon: The Larry Linkogle Story, directed by Adam Barker.[12]

For the 2011 Festival, Slamdance received a record number of over 5,000 submissions. The Sparky for Best Narrative Film went to "Stranger Things” and Best Documentary went to “Bhopali,” which also won the Audience Award. The Audience Award for Best Narrative went to “Silver Tongues.” Following their premiers at Slamdance “Real Life Superheroes” sold to HBO and Atrocious was acquired by the same team at Paramount that developed the Paranormal Activity franchise.[13]

At the 2012 Festival, Canadian distributor Phase 4 Films acquired the high school comedy Bindlestiffs. The Slamdance title directed by Andrew Edison will be the first movie to be released under Kevin Smith's "SModcast Pictures Presents".[14]

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 starring Eddie Peppitone, and Peter Baxter's Wild In The Streets.[15] 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.[16] 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 made special appearances.[17] The Jury Award for Narrative Feature went to Rezeta by Fernando Frias De La Parra and for Documentary Feature to Elliot (now Kung Fu 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).[18]

Screenplay Competition[edit]

In addition to the festival, Slamdance's Screenplay Competition have discovered a number of talented screenwriters, including Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) and Nicole Kassell (The Woodsman). In 2008, Slamdance entered into an agreement with Upload Films to develop and produce Drool, the winner of Slamdance's Screenplay Competition. Written and directed by Nancy Kissam, Drool premiered at the 2009 Festival and thereafter was acquired by Strand Releasing.[19] Chad Kinkle's southern horror screenplay Jug Face won the 2011 Grand Prize. During the 2012 Slamdance Festival Modernciné producers Andrew van den Houten and Robert Tonino announced their production of Jug Face in Nashville, TN.[citation needed]

Each year the winning Short screenplay is produced by Slamdance and premieres at the film festival as part of the $99 specials which are paired with a non-competition Special Screening. In 2011, Dead in the Room, written by Marjory Kaptanoglu (winner of Slamdance's 2010 Short Screenplay Competition) was directed by Academy nominated filmmaker Adam Pertofsky. In 2012, Harold's Bad Day, written by RJ Buckley was directed by Slamdance alum Jordan Brady. 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.

The Slamdance 2013 Screenwriting Competition was presented by JuntoBox Films. Awards were given to the top three scripts in each category, with a Grand Prize of $10,000 cash that went to Butterfly Children by Melanie Schiele.[20] The short screenplay winner Think Ink by Emily Hu is currently in production and will premiere at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival, as part of the Special Screenings section.

The 2014 Slamdance Screenplay Competition consists of four categories (Feature, Short/Webisode, Horror, Teleplay). Awards will be given to the top three scripts in each category and there is also a Grand Prize for the best piece of material submitted regardless of category. A unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. In addition to this, more intensive coverage service is offered for a supplementary fee.[21]

Slamdance Studios[edit]

In January 2010, Slamdance and Microsoft announced its partnership of year-round Slamdance Film programming[22] on Xbox and Zune.

Slamdance President and Co-Founder Peter Baxter said, “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. The standard of Slamdance films deserve this much and we believe the audience will respond.”[23]

As of opening day at the 2011 festival, select Competition Feature Films were made available via Zune video Marketplace as part of this year’s Festival and VOD Showcase for the duration of the festival, January 20–27. Select films included narrative features “Modern Imbecile’s Planet World”, Snow on tha Bluff and “The Beast Pageant”; documentary features “Road Dogs” and “Scrapper”, as well as films from previous years’ 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 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.

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, iTunes, and all major video on demand platforms with new partner Virgil Films.[24]

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 chance to see them and provide theatrical venues with an alternative film program experience. "On The Road" events usually take place in US cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Detroit[25] but have also travelled to countries like Canada, China, Poland, France and Chile.

Guerrilla Games Competition Controversy[edit]

The festival used to host a computer and video game competition called "Slamdance Guerrilla Games Competition."

In January 2007 the festival for the first time dropped a finalist. The game Super Columbine Massacre RPG! was announced as a finalist in late November 2006, but the controversial game was dropped by Slamdance founder Peter Baxter with no outside pressure as initially reported.[26] In response to this 6 other finalists withdrew from the competition in protest, Jonathan Blow withdrew Braid,[27] thatgamecompany withdrew flOw,[27] Waking Games withdrew Once Upon a Time,[28] the developers for Toblo withdrew their game (however, on January 16 the college which they attend, the DigiPen Institute of Technology against their wishes "overwrote our decision and readmitted Toblo to the Slamdance Festival", because the developers did not consult the college prior to their withdrawal decision),[29] Queasy Games withdrew Everyday Shooter,[30] Nick Montfort withdrew Book and Volume,[31] and The Behemoth withdrew Castle Crashers.[32] The University of Southern California has also withdrawn its sponsorship of Slamdance over this controversy.[33]

On 26 January 2007, the date the game awards were to be presented, a panel discussion with the remaining finalists resulted in the withdrawal of the "Official Jury Selection" for all finalists, and no awards were handed out.[34] The competition has not been held since.

Growth of Festival[edit]

Slamdance continued to create new avenues for its filmmakers expanding beyond Park City during the festival by creating the annual Filmmaker Summit in 2010.

In 2011, Slamdance presented the second annual Filmmaker Summit, along with the Ford Foundation, IndieFlix and Banyan Branch, bringing together some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry. Speakers included Scilla Andreen (IndieFlix), Tiffany Shlain (Director of "Connected", "Yelp"), Brian Newman (subgenre media), Jenny Samppala (Banyan Branch), Amy Powell ("Paranormal Activity"), Lance Weiler ("Pandemic"), John Anderson (Variety), Orlando Bagwell (Ford Foundation), and Greg Pak (Robot Stories and Hulk comic book scribe).

Slamdance also collaborated with Kodak in order to bring Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond to the festival and host an intimate discussion about the future of film and digital cinematography.

At the 2011 Festival, Slamdance launched a Student Initiative program involving both students and their faculty to help them gain a greater understanding of the current realities and opportunities in independent film.

When the Festival began it received 48 submissions. As of 2012, Slamdance receives over 7,500 submissions per annum and is now seen as one of the most significant Film festivals in the world. Filmmakers who showcased their first feature films at Slamdance have gone on to have a collective worldwide box office gross of more than $10.618 Billion.[35]

The 2014 Film Festival ran from January 17–23 and marked Slamdance’s 20th Year. The 2015 Slamdance Film Festival will take place from January 23–29, 2015, in Park City, UT.

See also: articles about individual years' festivals[edit]


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  2. ^ "slamdance". Retrieved 2013-12-09. 
  3. ^ "new york times". Retrieved 2005-12-20. 
  4. ^ "Peter Baxter, Slamdance". Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "SLAMDANCE GUT PUNCH: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY…". Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  6. ^ Fritz, Ben. "'Paranormal Activity' sets box-office record". Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  7. ^ a b "Paranormal Activity". Retrieved 2011-05-22. 
  8. ^ "A Quiet Little Marriage". Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  9. ^ "Slamdance Unveils 2010 Lineup". Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  11. ^ "The Filmmaker Summit Returns to Slamdance". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  12. ^ Swart, Sharon (2010-01-28). "Slamdance announces winners". Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  14. ^ "Phase 4 Films Acquires High School Comedy 'Bindlestiffs' for Kevin Smith's Banner". Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
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  19. ^ "Strand Releasing to Drool all over US". Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
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  22. ^ Kilday, Gregg (2010-10-13). "Slamdance inks deal with Microsoft". Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  23. ^ "Slamdance Pacts With Microsoft For VOD". Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
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  25. ^ "Slamdance on the Road". Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  26. ^ McCauley, Dennis (6 January 2007). "More Details & Reaction Emerge on Slamdance Festival & Super Columbine Game". Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  27. ^ a b McCauley, Dennis (7 January 2007). "Developer Pulls Out of Festival Competition in Protest over Super Columbine Decision". Retrieved 2007-01-09. 
  28. ^ Once Upon A Time
  29. ^ An Open Letter to the Slamdance Festival
  30. ^ Everyday Shooter by Jonathan Mak
  31. ^ Grand Text Auto » Book and Volume Withdrawn from Slamdance
  32. ^ NG BBS — Slamdance Update
  33. ^ Ludicidal Tendencies: USC Interactive Media Division Withdraws Slamdance Sponsorship
  34. ^ Slamdance Game Competition Ends in Dissolution
  35. ^

External links[edit]