Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Slamdance Film Festival Diaries
Official Festival Release

Santa Monica, California, October 28, 1996

The Slamdance Film Festival is returning to Park City, Utah, in January with a new venue for its third year. Despite the older Sundance Film Festival's attempt to garner all available screening space in Park City, Slamdance organizers have managed to establish their biggest presence yet for Slamdance '97.

"With last year's site - The Yarrow - taken right out from under us by Sundance, we spent several months searching for an alternative space, which has tuned out to be a jewel on Main Street," said the Slamdance Executive Director Jon Fitzgerald. The Treasure Mountain Inn will be Slamdance's festival headquarters from January 17th through 23rd and will show approximately 45 new works, including features, shorts, documentaries and special screenings.

Once the space was reserved, Slamdance organizers were advised to apply for the appropriate business license. Eager to work with city officials, Fitzgerald flew to Park City to meet with the Chief of Police. "After a lengthy discussion, and a short waiting period, we got word that the required temporary business license would be granted," said Fitzgerald.

Confirmation of the Treasure Mountain Inn came just in time, as film submissions have already started pouring into the Slamdance office. Organizers expect the number of submissions to far exceed the 450 entries submitted to last year's festival. "The greater number of film submissions speaks volumes. Now, more than ever, filmmakers need an alternative festival. Slamdance is that alternative," says Creative Director Peter Baxter.

Slamdance has so far selected two films for its '97 fest. The first is "The Size of Watermelons", directed by first-timer Kari Skogland, starring Paul Rudd, Donald Logue, lone Skye, and Donovan Leitch. The project was not submitted to Sundance. The film, which screened at this year's Independent Feature Film Film Market, will have it's official North American Premiere at Slamdance.

The second film selected, "Fall", directed by Eric Schaeffer ("My Life's In Turnaround"), starring Amanda De Cadenet and Schaeffer, will have a special screening during the fest. This film was originally submitted for Sundance, but, once invited to Slamance, it was withdrawn from the other submission process. Shaeffer says, "Slamdance has a quality, the essence of indie spirit. They seem to support truly independent films, devoid of the politics that go on with Sundance."

The final deadline for entries into this years festival is November 8, 1996. Entry fees range from $20-$50. To receive an application, or to get sponsorship or volunteer information, please call the Slamdance hotline at (310) 204-7977. Slamdance's mailing address is: Slamdance International Film Festival, 2633 Lincoln Boulevard, #536, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

Festival applications and background information are also at

A Brief History of the Slam International Film Festival

Slamdance traces it roots to the 1994 Independent Feature Film Market (IFFM), where a small group of filmmakers met and decided to support one another on a grassroots level. The first test for their idea (and their solidarity) came after Sundance announced their list of invited films for the 1995 Festival.

Filmmakers Jon Fitzgerald (SELF-PORTRAIT), Shane Kulin (REDNECK) and Dan Mirvish (OMAHA: THE MOVIE), all had their films declined by Sundance. Instead of accepting rejection gracefully, they decided to found an alternative to Sundance they dubbed: "Slamdance '95 Anarchy in Utah - The First Annual Guerrilla International Film Festival." They put out word to other filmmakers and the media. Following an unexpected article on the cover of Variety, the team quickly assembled a roster of a dozen features and a dozen more short films - half of each world premieres. All the films were made by first-time directors, had unknown casts and an aggregate budget under $1 million.

The premiere Slamdance screenings took place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, concurrent with the Sundance Film Festival in January 1995. By the second night of the Festival, however, Slamdance organizers found hotel conference rooms in Park City to screen films - one just thirty feet down the hall from a Sundance screening room. Slamdance organizers and filmmakers swapped duties in a uniquely cooperative effort - taking turns running the projectors and handing out fliers for one another. The event was a success; most of the films found distribution and all were invited on to other film festivals.

For 1996, Slamdance expanded considerably while maintaining its unique voice as a festival organized by filmmakers primarily devoted to first-time directors. The second year welcomed an astonishing 450 submissions, made on all formats. Of those, Slamdance chose 12 for a new juried section, and screened a number of out-of-competition films, foreign features, documentaries, videos, and shorts, as well tributes to Robert Altman and Roger Corman through the course of the Festival.

Again held concurrent with the run of Sundance, Slamdance '96 unspooled in two screening rooms at the Yarrow Hotel in Park City. With Jon Fitzgerald and producer Peter Baxter sharing the helm, Slamdance '96 burgeoned to include an interactive film market, web site, and a staff of twenty volunteers. Although still a no-budget effort, the festival program featured advertising and sponsorship from Panavision, Thrifty Car Rental, 4 Media and Film Finders. Most evening screenings sold out and attracted distributors, agents, producers and media.

1996's Grand Jury Prize went to Greg Mottolla's THE DAYTRIPPERS, produced by Stephen Soderbergh, which went on to screen during the Semaine des Critiques at Cannes and won awards at the Deauville and Athens film festivals. To be released by CFP, it screened most recently at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Greg Foster's LOUNGERS won the Audience Award for Best feature; Best Documentary went to Mark Wexler's ME AND MY MATCHMAKER and Best Short film went to PARKING by James Morrison.

Slamdance is starting ventures that will support the independent. This year, Slamdance hosted a screenplay competition which garnered an astonishing 1,000 submissions, with the winners being submitted to Fox Searchlight Pictures and the Gersh Agency. "The aim is to be more than a film festival - our idea is to expand Slamdance into a support system for the independent filmmaker," Fitzgerald says. Their web-site,, provides filmmaking information and directories, in addition to the first digital market of its kind. One way or another, Slamdance is here to stay.

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