I'm not bragging, but by my estimate, I may have have more films screened at Sundance and Slamdance than any other filmmaker. That's because not only do my features get in, but also my short films are usually accepted. That said, it's always exciting for me to go to Park City to attend this "mad winter carnival" where indie films are picked up for distribution.
This year, I was hoping that "Cheatin'" would be selected for Sundance, but you just never know how tough it's going to be, so instead it was chosen for the opening night slot at Slamdance. Hey, that ain't bad! I've known the guys who run Slamdance - Dan Mirvish, Paul Rachman and Peter Baxter - for a long time. So I'm always happy to be part of the "Sundance alternative".
Sundance is all about the agents, executives and the business side of filmmaking, where Slamdance is more concerned with the more low-budget indie films. Their focus now is on films by first-time filmmakers (but they keep a couple slots open for veterans like me), so as a result you can see films from directors who are right on the verge of making it big.
I found this year that "Cheatin'" was the only animated feature in either festival. In a way, it was an honor to be the director of the only animated feature screened in Park City, but it also shows how little the programmers respect animation.
It's my belief that the festivals are looking to bring in the big stars, and a lot of press, and for that they need live-action films. Since I know there are many great animated features out there that would fit very well into the Sun/Slamdance festival programming, it's very discouraging.
I looked at the top grossing films of 2013, and out of the top 10, 5 were animated (I'm including "Gravity"). So why the hell don't festivals respect animation more? What's their prejudice? My theory is that they don't understand it, they feel like it's a small genre category. Yet, audiences seem to love it, can't they see that?
In any case, back to Slamdance. It's held in the Treasure Mountain Inn, and the screenings are held in two rooms that hold about 100 people each. The seating is a bit awkward, with bad sight lines, but the films are so good, no one cares. My favorite film of the festival was "Eliot", a documentary about a Kung Fu / karate wanna-be who lies to everyone, telling them he's the Jean Claude Van Damme of Canada. It's hilarious and scary. But all of the films I saw were excellent, except for one.
The staff was very helpful - anything I needed, they bent over backwards to get for me. I felt so much more loved than at Sundance, where the films from the studios with the big agents get all the attention.
The highlight for me was the "Hot Tub Summit", organized by the genius Dan Mirvish. It was held, naturally, in a giant hot tub (clothing optional) with about 30 filmmakers talking about the ins and outs of indie filmmaking. The group included a number of big-name filmmakers - it was a whole new way to learn about the business, and I felt so clean afterwards!
So, if you want to have a great time in Park City, and see some great films, go check out Slamdance! I give it an "A"!