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X-Dance Film Fest offers sports films

Adia Waldburger of the Record staff

For sports lovers disappointed that the Sundance Film Festival doesn’t have an athletically-inclined entry this year, X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival has more than a solution. The six year-old festival, brings not one, but a whole week’s worth of sports action films from Jan. 20-24 — all free to the public. According to X-Dance media relations director Ann Wycoff, action sports films are one of the most popular genres right now, and in a sports town like Park City, the relatively new festival has always received a lot of support. The X-Dance films are primarily about skiing, snowboarding, motorcross, and surfing but other high-energy sports sometimes sneak in. The X-Dance festival is the creation of Brian Wimmer, who actually grew up at Sundance in Provo Canyon. After spending 26 years in the film industry in Los Angeles, Wimmer was looking for a way to mix his love of action sports and film. Following in the footsteps of Robert Redford, who Wimmer first worked for in 1972, seemed like the perfect fit. "I wanted to do the same for the action sports filmmakers what Redford did for the indie market," Wimmer said. The connection with the Sundance Film Festival has helped make X-Dance what it is today. The year X-Dance launched, the award-winning skateboarding film "Dog Town" premiered at Sundance. X-Dance used the crossover appeal of the film to introduce the industry and the public to their festival. "Dog Town" director Stacey Peralta sat in on many of X-Dances film panels and helped to promote the festival. Two years ago, Laird Hamilton won numerous awards with his Sundance action sports entry, "Riding Giants," giving more credence to the importance of the action sports genre. "What Redford has created is magic for filmmakers," Wimmer said. Wimmer says that he gets a lot of support from Redford for his festival. "He talks to me every year," Wimmer said. "We’re where the new group of young filmmakers are coming from." This year, X-Dance will welcome 26 feature action sports films and 12 short films. Wimmer said that when X-Dance first started, they were begging people to enter. This year they had hundreds of submissions from all over the world. Currently, X-Dance is growing at about 25 percent in number of entries. Local short filmmaker, Spencer, Stuard, a Park City High School filmmaker whose film has already won awards in Park City, will present his film "Kidz" at the festival. The mission of X-Dance is ultimately to further the growth of action sports filmmaking and to help filmmakers garner exposure and support in their endeavors. Wimmer says that many extreme athletes such as Tony Hawk have become superstars, but the filmmakers that put their sport on the big screen are the unsung heroes of the genre. It is his hope that by hosting X-Dance during Sundance, young sports filmmakers can network with those in the film industry and find opportunities to advance their talents and products. "The industry is finding that these things are becoming more and more marketable," Wimmer said. It would be a lot easier to hold X-Dance when Sundance isn’t in town, but that’s missing the point. It’s sports filmmakers opportunity to hob-knob with Hollywood." Many of the major players in the film world are looking to X-Dance to find out what filmmakers and films are up-and-coming. "We’re like the Academy Awards of filmmaking," he said. And Wimmer has an even bigger vision. X-Dance is more than just an event where action sports lovers watch relative films. He holds roundtables and panels for the filmmakers to discuss trends and options. This year one panel, FUTURESHOCK "What Lies Ahead for Action Sport Filmmaking," which will be held on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 4:30 p.m., will bring all of the filmmakers together to share their ideas. Without a sports film entry at Sundance this tear, Wimmer hopes to let a lot of the filmmakers new to the game know about options that are open to them for marketing their films. He says that many of them are unfamiliar with the film festival format, and don’t realize the possibilities that being selected for Sundance could afford them. "People don’t think that there is a place for them," Wimmer said. "It’s a education for these guys." Part of growing the genre also lies in attracting a mainstream audience. X-Dance knows that they will attract young skiers and boarders in the area, but they also want to appeal to non-sports lovers to bring more widespread interest. To do so, they try to select more story-driven films, as opposed to what Wimmer calls "action porn," or action sports core films, which are usually made up of entirely big-action shots. "We’re trying to find films with a story-driven aspect, so that someone that doesn’t do these sports can say, ‘Holy Cow, this is great!’" Wimmer said. They still have some core elements in their festival to help keep all of the action filmmakers on the cutting edge of what they can do visually within the films. "It is possible to keep a core audience and mainstream interested we’ve discovered. It takes creativity and hard work," Wimmer said. Wimmer is confident that X-Dance will appeal to the industry and public alike, because the films are free and will be played on a big screen on the second floor of the Main Street Mall. X-Dance also has the support of sponsors like FUEL TV, Boost Mobile and Roxy, who are providing parties as well as a forum for filmmakers. Last year, FUEL TV was the festival’s television sponsor, and hosted a contest called the FUEL TV experiment, where winners received up to a $100,000 production budget to make short films to be shown this year. The best of these shorts will win a $1,000,000 prize to make another film. Following suit, title sponsor Boost Mobile will present a $10,000 award for the best short film to be used toward a future film. Roxy is sponsoring a party on Friday, Jan. 20 for their film, "Sofia," a film about a Peruvian surfer girl who becomes the first South American World Champion. Scion is also sponsoring a party and FUEL TV’s broadcast of the festival, and will be giving away a car to the $1,000,000 FUEL- TV Experiment winner. X-Dance will include: Free screenings of action sports films from Absinthe Films, Bam Man Productions, Matchstick, Standard Films, Studio 411, Teton Gravity Research, Whyte House, and Volcom, as well as noteworthy work by emerging talent and world premieres. Screenings run Friday, Jan. 20 from 6.- 10 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 22 through Monday, Jan. 24 from 1 – 10 p.m. Open forums after each screening with filmmakers and featured athletes Filmmaker panels on action sports-related topics such as "FUTURESHOCK: What Lies Ahead for Action Sport Filmmaking" on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. and the X-Dance Filmmakers Institute Roundtable on Monday, Jan. 23 at 4:30 p.m. Parties: Boost Mobile X-Dance kicks off with an opening party co-hosted by Roxy on Friday, Jan. 20, followed by the Boost Mobile Party on Saturday, Jan. 21 and the Scion Party on Sunday, Jan. 22. All parties will be held at the Sidecar Lounge, 333 Main Street, second floor, across from the X-Dance screening room from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Invitation only for all parties. Awards ceremony and closing party at Harry O’s nightclub, 427 Main Street, on Tuesday, Jan. 24 hosted by X-Games host Sal Masekela. VJ, Vello Virkhaus will transform the enormous room into a wall-to-wall montage of action-sports imagery. Musical performances will include rock DJ Tommie Sunshine and a special guest band. Doors open at 7 p.m. The evening will also include a special screening of a new action sport film. The legendary closing party/awards ceremony will be televised on FUEL TV. Boost Mobile X-Dance Headquarters and screening room is located at 333 Main Street, second floor (across from the Egyptian Theater). For more information on film listings and screening times, parties and panels, visit http://www.x-dance.com .


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