Industry reps flock to Slamdance
Slamdance Film Festival Director Peter Baxter says he measures the success of festivals on the basis of whether or not the filmmakers are happy, and by that standard, this year, the festival was particularly successful, he says.
An extra effort made by the Slamdance programmers, it seems, was met by an extra effort made on the part of industry members in 2006. This year, the festival whose motto for 12 years has been "for filmmakers, by filmmakers" managed to bring sales reps and distributors into the mix.
For the first time at Slamdance, meetings between talent and industry representatives took place officially during the daytime hours on a Thursday, rather than randomly during festival-sponsored galas.
Also for the first time, writers were given a little more attention, with the revival of staged reading events, supplemented by a Fox 21-sponsored award, which presented the grand prizewinner, Dani Shear and her teleplay, "Ex," a blind script deal to develop a pilot for television.
"Fox21 is like the Fox Searchlight of the television world, so they’re very much involved in independent projects," Baxter says. "They have told us that they value the emerging talent coming through the festival and they think Slamdance is a very good way of discovering talent."
According to Baxter, two films have already been sold to distributors: the documentary "Abduction," and the narrative feature, "Find Love." "The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang," the kids’ tale made by the producers of Napoleon Dynamite, also has a deal pending, he adds.
None of the films that sold, however, won Slamdance Jury Awards. The jury awarded best narrative feature to "We Go Way Back," and best documentary feature to, "The Empire in Africa." Baxter suspects there are other contracts or deals in the works regarding sales, but he hasn’t heard about them yet.
"Lots of things were happening for the filmmakers this week it was very good," Baxter confirmed. "There was a big increase in industry members looking for new talent [at Slamdance] And it was clear the film industry responded very well to what we were doing this year because they offered filmmakers at the festival over $200,000 in prizes. That’s very significant."
It wasn’t just the film world basking in the attention of the industry, but the T.V. world, and the game world, he notes.
For the second year in a row, the festival hosted its indie game counterpart, the Guerilla Gamemakers’ Competition, to showcase the work of 12 game developers.
The grand prizewinner, "Fa ade," by Procedural Arts, challenged players to mend a troubled relationship between a married couple, requiring the developers to create a new programming language that accepts a player’s words of wisdom.
For their efforts, Slamdance awarded Procedural Arts over $5,000 in products and services geared toward enhancing their next game project.
The games were available to the public to play throughout the festival at Slamdance’s headquarters at the Treasure Mountain Inn on Main Street.
"We probably need a bigger space," concedes Games Competition Manager Sam Roberts.
Baxter would agree. Slamdance received over 3,000 film submissions this year, he reports, shattering any previous record. The festival has likely outgrown its locations on Main Street a bit, he admits.
"We’re very happy on Main Street and we don’t want to change the atmosphere that TMI has created for us. We would like to find more space around TMI and at the same time, we want to build on Sugar House [in Salt Lake,]" he says.
While Main Street, Park City, has been the industry-minded side of the festival, Sugar House, this year, was Slamdance’s community component, Baxter explained. It’s very important, he says, for the two sides to develop side-by side, he says. "They really do complement each other."
In February, festival award winners will participate in the Best of Slamdance screenings at New York City’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater and The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles. Other cities will also be announced. For more information, visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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