Slamdance remains a comfortable and candid festival
January 20, 2015
For the past 21 years, Slamdance Film Festival has remained true to its mantra, " filmmakers, for filmmakers," but has also done so in a way that makes it easy for the public to get involved, said Peter Baxter, festival co-founder.
"As Slamdance has grown, people have come to expect these types of events to reveal the truth of filmmaking at the festival," Baxter said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his office in Los Angeles, California. "This has helped us bring people to participate in the festival to share these creative moments."
Slamdance will maintain its do-it-yourself philosophy at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., from Friday, Jan. 23, through Thursday, Jan. 29.
While its mission hasn’t changed, Slamdance named a new festival director, Anna Germanidi, earlier this year.
Germanidi is no stranger to Slamdance. For the past few years, she has served as Slamdance manager, according to Baxter.
"Anna has been going along in various roles throughout the years, and not just as manager," he said. "So, here she is, the festival director, and rightly so. I think that works particularly well because Slamdance is a unique organization and to have that experience after a few years is really important."
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Germanidi said it’s been an exciting few months.
"I knew it was going to be a lot of work, of course, and I knew it was going to be different kind of work," she told The Park Record. "I was intrigued by it and definitely wanted to try it and see all the other levels of the festival that I didn’t see before.
"I think it’s been a very enlightening experience and it’s been great working with Peter much closer than before and learning about everything there is to learn," Germanidi laughed. "I’ve been able to see how the production team works more than I did before and it’s been good to learn how the festival works."
Still, there wasn’t a lot for Germanidi to learn.
"Because Slamdance is a small organization, we all work together and get to know the different parts of the festival," she said. "There were little things that I noticed. It was interesting to see how everything fell into place. It has been good working closely with [Slamdance producer] Kristin Malloy and see how she thinks."
Baxter said working with Germanidi has been vital for Slamdance’s growth.
"Slamdance, as you know, is involved in other activities outside the festival and I’ve been able to spend more time on those, but we’ve also been able to work together on more things in the festival, which I think will create a better festival experience for attendees and the media," he said.
In addition to the film screenings, which will all take place in different rooms of Treasure Mountain Inn, Slamdance also features an array of opportunities for established industry insiders to talk candidly to emerging filmmakers and the public during fireside chats, DIY Clinics and the Coffee With series.
This year, the Coffee With series will feature filmmaker Danny Zappin on Sunday, Jan. 25, and actor James Franco on Thursday, Jan. 29.
"The origins of Coffee With event is that we all love the openness of Slamdance," Baxter said. "As we grow, we want to carry on the philosophy that everyone, not just the filmmakers, but the local residents in Park City and visitors, can participate in Slamdance."
So, the festival established the Coffee With series as an informal discussion.
"We wanted something more casual and more accessible so we could put the person we wanted to spotlight be put in an open environment, which was friendly and open," Baxter explained. "When we do that, people are more likely to reveal more about themselves and their creative process. This is what sets the Coffee With events apart than interviews and moderated discussions."
An early example featured cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.
"I think he was taken by surprise how open and friendly the Slamdance environment was," Baxter said. "He was able to share so much about his creative process, not only what he’s accomplished, but he was able to open up his thoughts behind what he did and how he did them."
A couple of years ago, Coffee With participants included [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee] Neil Young and filmmaker Jonathan Demme.
"One of those magical moments came when Paul Rachman, who runs the Coffee With events, started talking about the tough times in these two artists lives," Baxter said.
"There is a misconception that artists such as Neil Young and Jonathan Demme are always successful, but life isn’t like that.
"So when Neil Young began talking about failure, that was a revelation to the audience, which included many filmmakers, who have struggled to make their first work," he said. "To hear someone like Neil Young to say, ‘Don’t be afraid to fail,’ was not only educational, but truly inspirational as well."
This year, Baxter worked with Germanidi to schedule Zappin and Franco for the Coffee With discussions.
"These are great examples of what Peter has been talking about," Germanidi said. "They are both innovators in their own way and platforms.
"Danny is a pioneer of digital entertainment and has worked with major studios and has something incredible to share," she said. "James Franco, on the other side, is a famous actor, but what some people don’t know is that he supports emerging filmmakers through his production company [Rabbit Bandini.] Filmmakers do need the support of a famous name."
In addition, Franco supported filmmaker Gabrielle Demeestere, the director of ‘Yosemite," her first feature, which was selected as Slamdance’s closing film, according to Germanidi.
"I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say and I’m also interested in hearing what people will ask James," she said. "I always wonder how he’s able to do so many things, and this year, we will be able to hear how he does manage all of his projects during the upcoming discussion."
This year, there’s also the added attraction that Franco was one of the stars in this year’s headline-making film, "The Interview," which involves a comedic and fictitious plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un.
"It all seems so Slamdance, but we can assure you that it all didn’t happened by design," Baxter said. "It all happened by accident.
"But this is what a festival can be all about," he said. "It’s a time to celebrate, enjoy and learn, which will help our filmmakers and attendees along and give them ideas for their next project."
Slamdance Film Festival will run from Friday, Jan. 23, until Thursday, Jan. 29, at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. For more information, visit http://www.slamdance.com .