Slamdance and Soderbergh

André Holland in Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird (2019)

Slamdance has wrapped its twenty-fifth anniversary edition with the presentation of this year’s awards and a chat with Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay. Peter Baxter, Dan Mirvish, and Paul Rachman, who cofounded the event with Shane Kuhn and Jon Fitzgerald, look back with Macaulay to 1995 when they staged what flyers posted all over Park City proclaimed would be the “first annual guerrilla international film festival.” Screening truly independent low- and no-budget movies, Slamdance aimed to become an alternative to Sundance, which by the mid-1990s was perceived by many to have become a bloated celebrity magnet.

One of the young struggling filmmakers who brought his debut feature to Slamdance was Christopher Nolan. When Nolan walked into the first screening of Following in 1999, he was rattled to discover that there were only fourteen people in the audience. So Mirvish gave him a pep talk. “We told him, ‘Go down to Kinkos, make some flyers and pass them out! Don’t be shy!’ And he did and got people into his second screening, which Roger Ebert and Elvis Mitchell came to. And his career has done okay ever since.”

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