Two years after the Festival was founded, it established a writing competition to expand the its mission, said Peter Baxter, the festival's co-founder and executive director.
"The competition is for the emerging writers," Baxter said during an interview from his office in Los Angeles, Calif. "What's happening today is an increase of great screenplays coming through the competition and those that win are going on to the development stage of the filmmaking process and beyond."
In 2011, a screenplay for the film "Jug Face," written by Chad Kinkle, won the competition, Baxter said.
"Within the space of 14 months after winning, the screenplay was acquired and the film went into production," he said. "It was submitted for this year's Slamdance Festival, where it will play on Wednesday, Jan. 23, for a world premiere as one of our special screenings."
"Jug Face" is one example of how the writing competition can positively affect a winning writer, and sometimes the screenplays go on to become films that are submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, Baxter said.
"For example, the 2004 film 'The Woodsman,' co-written by Steven Fechter and director Nicole Kassell, won our screenplay competition and was developed and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that year," he said. "We try to support as many new artists as we can and one of those ways is through positive feedback for the writers. They may enter something that may not become a finalist, but with feedback, they can improve their work."
Next year's Slamdance will allow writers to get feedback during the competition and let the writer to resubmit their screenplay with all the fixes in place.
"We're going to also announce some exciting news about the writing competition on Jan. 24," Baxter said. "I can't tell you what it is, yet, but it is a great development for the competition that has come on the back of its success."
Throughout the past 19 years, Baxter has noticed the rising popularity of Internet films, and feels Slamdance needs to embrace the online world when it comes to independent film.
"It's important to notice the benefits of using the Internet as a tool," he said. "We're hearing from short-film filmmakers that our showcase provides them a platform above and beyond what they may have created already online and we can give them a bigger boost in their careers."
In that same vein, Slamdance is introducing a unique project called the Slam Collective Project, in which a group of Slamdance filmmakers from five continents come together to make a documentary feature.
"The project is called 'I Want to Be an American,' and each filmmaker makes a documentary short film based on imagery forwarded on by the previous filmmaker in the chain," Baxter explained. "It was inspired by the idea that with digital technology, cameras and 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."
The filmmakers are Baxter, Dale Yudelman, Maya Newell, Dylan Verrechia, Q, Monteith McCollum and Daniel J. Harris.
"We have films from India, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and the United States, and the composite story forms a global independent filmmaking experience," Baxter said. "It is all about encouraging independent artists from around the world to get together and show their work."
"I Want to Be An American," will premiere at the festival and then play online.
"What we want to do is encourage filmmakers to get together find strength like what we did when Slamdance was first established," Baxter said. "We can't screen all the films we would like to in Park City, but by embracing what we can do online, together, we can create a stronger showcase for independent filmmakers to become part of the Slam Collective. This is the future of Slamdance."
The Slamdance Film Festival will run from Jan. 18 through Jan. 24 at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. For more information, visit www.slamdance.com.