Fest grows from niche rebel to tastemaker
1994Filmmakers Jon Fitzgerald (“Self-Portrait”), Shane Kuhn (“Redneck”) and Dan Mirvish (“Omaha: The Movie”) are rejected from the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. A plan is hatched for an alternative event. 1995 The troika, along with producer Peter Baxter, launch “Slamdance ’95: Anarchy in Utah — The First Annual Guerrilla Intl. Film Festival.” Filmmakers run the projection booths. 1996 Slamdance draws 450 submissions. Fitzgerald becomes festival director; Greg Mottola’s Sundance-rejected film “The Daytrippers” wins first juried competition. Produced by Sundance alum Steven Soderbergh, the pic goes on to Cannes and grosses more than $2 million Stateside. “Loungers,” Marc Forster’s debut feature wins the first Audience Award. 1997 Soderbergh premieres “Schizopolis” at the festival. Baxter establishes a year-round office in Hollywood. 1998 Programming now handled entirely by filmmakers. 1999 Performances by Moby, Perry Farrell and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan support films at fest. Christopher Nolan’s “Following” wins the Black & White Award and is picked up by Zeitgeist and IFC. 2000 Submissions cross the 2,000-film mark. Sheryl Crow and Dwight Yoakam perform. First Filmmaker Sled-Off. 2001 Submissions climb to 2,300. 2002 Closing-night film is a surprise screening of “Downhill Racer” (1969), starring Sundance founder Robert Redford. 2005 Fest opener, docu “Mad Hot Ballroom,” is snapped up by Paramount Classics. First bloody nose at Filmmaker Sled-Off. 2006 Fest’s first Hot Tub Social debuts. 2007 Documentary “The King of Kong” is picked up by New Line Cinema/Picturehouse. First broken leg at Filmmaker Sled-Off. 2008 Opening-night film “Real Time” finishes projecting its final frame just before a Park City-wide blackout; Q&A session is held in the dark with emergency lights.