Slamdance celebrates 20 years of independent film
January 15, 2014
Slamdance will celebrate its 20th anniversary when the film festival opens at Treasure Mountain Inn on Jan. 17.
To commemorate this landmark, Slamdance will premiere a special short documentary titled "DIY" that reflects on the "do it yourself" independent film movement, which Slamdance is known for, said co-founder and president Peter Baxter.
The plan is to expand the short into a feature-length documentary, he said.
"We started making this film at the beginning of 2013," Baxter told The Park Record during a phone call from his office in Los Angeles, Calif. "We’re planning to have the finished feature be completed in the summer."
Meanwhile, festivalgoers will have the opportunity to catch some screenings and hear what former Slamdance filmmakers have to say about their craft.
"Being an organization by filmmakers for filmmakers, we have interviewed many of our alumni, such as Chris Nolan, the Russo Brothers and so one," Baxter said. "We are old enough to realize that some of the new filmmakers who we are currently seeing and supporting are wondering how filmmakers like Chris Nolan have made it."
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Baxter hopes that when these upcoming filmmakers see "DIY" they will learn some of the trade tricks that their predecessors have discovered.
"Here, in their own words, on a very practical level, our alumni tell us how they found success and what had propelled them in their career and what keeps them going," Baxter said. "We have an amazing collection of interviews in this film, and more that will be featured in the longer version."
After reflecting a bit, Baxter said he couldn’t believe Slamdance is 20 years old.
"When we first started, we just did this festival for our own films, for us," he said. "We didn’t think we’d continue, but we’re very glad we have done that. And we think we have provided a service for our emerging filmmakers."
This year’s screenings are some of the strongest ever, but still stay true to the fundamental idea of the festival, Baxter said.
"What you will see this year, in many ways, is what we’ve always been presenting in Park City, which is a true representation of independent film from filmmakers that are coming out," he said. "As always, Slamdance will focus on the competitions — documentaries and the feature narratives — and the filmmakers.
"We are keen not to change too much, because we feel we have a good balance with what we do at Slamdance," he said. "And we’ve become known for what we do, so why change after being successful for all these years."
Still, growth and development is essential to Slamdance’s longevity, and one of the new ideas introduced this year was a film trailer competition.
"Sponsors are and have always been a key to keeping Slamdance alive and kicking and we are fortunate that one of our sponsors is AVOS Systems, which developed an app called MixBit that mashes media together to form narratives," Baxter said. "We had filmmakers who were accepted into the 2014 festival upload their trailers onto MixBit.com to be judged."
The 10 finalists have been selected and will promote their films through those trailers at each of Slamdance’s screenings.
"We have always pushed the do-it-yourself approach of filmmaking and pushed the important value of filmmakers creating publicity and promotions for their films," Baxter said. "This is a great tool to do that, and to work closely with MixBit is a great collaboration opportunity for our filmmakers, because the trailers will not only be featured at the festival and our slamdance.com site, but also at MixBit.com."
Baxter also said filmmakers aren’t the only artists involved in Slamdance.
The festival commissions a Los Angeles-based artist to create a piece of work that is featured on Slamdance’s film guide and other promotional items, he said.
This year’s artist is David Flores.
"David’s work is quite well known outside of Los Angeles, and I think we’ll see a lot from David in the years to come," Baxter said.
The goal for this year’s art was to capture the DIY spirit, and the roots of filmmaking.
"Although many new filmmakers are embracing new technology, they haven’t forgotten the wonder of film," Baxter explained. "Film is still important to Slamdance. So we wanted to represent that in the new artwork.
"It represents how an independent filmmakers can move easily and quickly through new technology and film in a way that reflects freedom in their crafts," he said. "We hope that is represented in the artwork."
Baxter said he is happy how Slamdance has created a close-knit community that converges on Treasure Mountain Inn every year.
"You can still expect that welcoming support that we have always had, because we feel it’s very important to our organization over the years," he said. "I think that if I knew we were going to be around for this long, I would have taken more time to tell more jokes."
Slamdance will run from Jan. 17 to Jan. 23, at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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