Slamdance: The Indie Sundance That's Quietly Shaping Modern Cinema

Jason McLagan & Marie Jamora

Almost everyone who loves movies has heard of the Sundance Film Festival. It is the pinnacle of the “independent” film world. What most people don’t know is that right down the street, there is another festival that has been quietly shaping Hollywood and shaking the earth of movie making for the last 20 years: Slamdance.

In 1995, a group of filmmakers were not accepted into Sundance and decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized their own festival and set it up down the street, calling it Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. What began as a DIY movement of grassroots filmmakers that wanted nothing more than to share their films has since become one of the major trendsetters of modern cinema -- renown for discovering filmmakers like Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), the Russo Brothers (Captain America), Lena Dunham (Girls), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Slamdance’s priorities are different than the typical film festival. It isn’t about the big names, or who made what sale to which movie company -- it is about the inventive filmmakers that forge unique stories and form lasting friendships because of a mutual respect for each other’s work.

Ultimately, this is a story about the underdogs of moviemaking -- this small, ragtag group of filmmakers has been steadily running against the mainstream, influencing cinema for the past 20 years, and always operating under their belief that, “Beautiful films aren’t made by beautiful, well-known individuals.”

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