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Thursday, 02 February 2012 06:00

Slamdance 2012

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What started as a small gathering of filmmakers upset that their work was rejected by Sundance some 18 years ago, the fledging sister event known as the Slamdance Film Festival has since come into its own. Pioneer Peter Baxter, one of the yearly Festival’s four founding fathers, says that Slamdance was made successful by the inspiring filmmakers that keep coming back year after year. “Without these filmmakers coming back each year to help program the festival, there wouldn’t be Slamdance,” says Baxter.

Slamdance 2012 has been more exciting than previous years due to the quality of the product these independent filmmakers have produced. The movement to digital technology has given them better tools in cameras, software and postproduction applications, including color correction to editing. “This has all afforded smaller crews and lower budgets,” explains Baxter. “But that does not mean that the quality of what is being created is anything less. In fact, it’s more. But, clearly, in all these narratives the directors have been able to get great performances. With smaller crews img_0635they have been able to spend more time with their actors than filmmakers have been able to do in the past. I think that makes independent film very exciting right now.”

Slamdance received nearly 5,000 submissions, an impressive number that was narrowed down to approximately 100 films that would screen at the festival. “It’s very competitive,” notes Baxter. “We’re programmed by filmmakers for filmmakers. Overall, the standard of independent filmmaking, through our submissions, at least, is getting higher and higher. This is the year we saw an over 25-percent increase in sales. We had to stop selling passes.”

img_0667The narrative film Bindlestiffs was one of the more talked about films at this year’s Slamdance. Co-Writers Andrew Edison (who also directed) and Luke Loftin are also the stars of this improv-style, high-school comedy. What makes this film special is the fact that the filmmakers actually started the project while they were in high school. Shot over two years, they crafted a great story using the latest technology to create a very entertaining film. “It’s a mockumentary in a sense that our actors don’t speak to the cameras,” says Cinematographer Sharad Kant Patel. “It’s as if an invisible documentary crew followed all these characters around,” added Griffin Davis, the film’s producer and camera operator. “The best part about shooting this way is that when shooting it you really have to pay attention to the story and move the camera in when key beats are happening in the scene. It’s much more intuitive and intimate and sort of [gives you] free range as a camera operator.” Bindlestiffs and the documentary Getting Up won the top audience awards at Slamdance.

Panasonic was on hand to present “The Five Flavors of Filmmaking” competition where the winning prize was an AF100 digital camera. Filmmakers submitted img_0725pitches and five were chosen to shoot and edit a one-minute short, with each using the camera for nine hours. After the finished films are screened, the winner gets to take the camera home. “It’s a fun competition,” says Bernie Mitchell from Silver Platter Productions, who presented the camera to the filmmakers on behalf of Panasonic. “You get some great creativity in a very short period of time.”

Another highlight of Slamdance 2012 was the appearance of Filmmaker Jonathan Demme and Musician/Filmmaker Neil Young who discussed their lives, artistry and creative collaboration on the documentary Neil Young Journeys, which had its U.S. premiere at the Festival.


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