Slamdance adds music videos to festival
In 1998, the Slamdance Film Festival debuted a 67-minute film called "Following" written, produced, edited and directed by Chris Nolan. The black-and-white film about a con man in London was the epitome of an independent film: It was made by an emerging auteur on a shoestring budget of about $10,000.
This weekend, Nolan debuts another noir film, "The Dark Knight." The Batman sequel has a budget of well over $100 million and is considered one of the biggest blockbusters ever released.
"That’s the most obvious example," Peter Baxter, president and co-CEO of Slamdance, said of the filmmaker’s rags-to-riches journey. "Our focus is supporting emerging talent, not stars or break-outs. Stars, success coming quickly, that’s not Slamdance. In the case of Nolan, his talent was there way back then. The festival can help in that way. "
The Slamdance Film Festival launched its call for short- and feature-length film entries this week. The festival, scheduled for Jan 15-23, celebrates its 15th year as the indier-than-thou companion to the Sundance Film Festival.
Organizers haven’t forgotten the birthday music.
New this year, Slamdance is also accepting music-video submissions.
"We’re really viewing them as short films," said Drea Clark, the executive director of the festival and a former executive director for the Music Video Production Association. Clark, who has been with the organization for 10 years, also teaches a music video production course at the University of Southern California.
Slumping record sales and declining revenues in the music industry have led to a resurgence of low-budget music videos, according to Clark. These videos are often more innovative than their more moneyed predecessors. "People don’t have the money they used to have," Clark said. "There’s been an uprising of lower budget and independent filmmaking in music videos. The artists themselves are taking control."
Outlets such as YouTube as well as inexpensive digital equipment have made it easier for filmmakers to access artists and find audiences for their work. At the same time, Clark said, MTV and other outlets have cut back on their music video programming.
"Filmmakers working in the music-video genre don’t have a good theatrical release," she said. "Slamdance could be a good breakthrough for them. We’re looking to give exposure to people who need a leg up."
Baxter, who has been with Slamdance since it started in 1995, said adding music videos to the program jibes with the organization’s legacy of supporting cross-over experimentation. "It’s been exciting to help unearth films and give them a platform. We want to bring all types of storytelling to the screen. There’s always an attempt to bring about what’s unique and fresh."
The 2008 festival received more than 3,300 submissions from all over the world. Only 20 of those were featured in the narrative and documentary categories in the main competition, according to a press release.
The competition is devoted to films without domestic theatrical distribution and those from first-time feature working with small budgets. "In terms of indie filmmaking, 15 years sounds like a long, long time," he said. "From the beginning we’ve screened our films alongside Sundance. Every year it’s gratifying because we gain more credibility for our filmmakers."
Slamdance plans to screen about 100 films in total. Entry forms, rules, and regulations are available on the Slamdance Web site at http://www.Slamdance.com . The early submission deadline is Aug. 25 and includes a significant entry fee discount. The final submission deadline is Oct. 10.
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