Different Drummers

The definition of what constitutes a truly independent film is a hot topic of debate at this year’s Sundance fest – especially since the event is premiering several multimillion-dollar projects from studios like Walt Disney. So it’s no surprise that 11 young filmmakers are running their own guerrilla film festival 40 minutes away at the University of Utah. The organizers of the Slamdance ’95: Anarchy in Utah fest are aiming to carve out a niche as the last repository for low-budget American filmmaking.

The fest – organized by cub directors Shane Kuhn, Dan Mirvish and Jon Purdy – held a freewheeling press conference Jan. 20 at which directors of pix with titles like “Joe’s Rotten World,” “Low” and “Loser” presented their manifesto.

“What we all have in common,” said Slamdance founder Mirvish,” is all these films were done with budgets that barely scratch $1 million. All are by first-time filmmakers. Most don’t have big-name actors.”

Fellow organizer Kuhn added, “We have the only premiere that Roger Gorman was involved with.”

With critics and distributors increasingly finding diamonds in the rough at less prestigious festivals like Palm Springs, one or two Slamdance pix may end up getting distribution.

Sundance fest officials have taken notice of these young directors’ efforts to get their pix noticed, and have suggested that one of their festival’s priorities for next year will be the establishment of a marketplace at Sundance for those mavericks who are increasingly falling through the cracks now that independent distributors like Miramax, Fine Line and Gramercy are blossoming into mini-majors.

Ironically, an eerie specter hung over the Slamdancers’ brief moment in the spotlight. During their press conference, held at a Park City brew pub, the eatery’s TV monitors were showing CNN with the sound off. The program just happened to be an interview with Miramax kingpin Harvey Weinstein, whose face floated above the proceedings.

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