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Slamdance chronology

1994

Filmmakers John Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Dan Mirvish, whose films Sundance has rejected, launch Slamdance as an anti-festival — an outlet for Sundance rejects.

1995

First Slamdance films screen at the U. of Utah in Salt Lake City, concurrent with Sundance. After the second night, fest moves to Park City. Filmmakers help run the projection booths, hand out flyers and pay for their own screening times; they get reimbursed based on b.o. receipts.

Slamdance establishes its goal of showcasing first-time filmmakers working with limited budgets. All films must be made by first-time helmers and have unknown casts as well as an aggregate budget under $1 million.

Dan Mirvish’s “Omaha, The Movie” screens, launching the film into 32 fests in the U.S., Europe and Canada.

1996

Submissions jump to 450; Slamdance founders select 12 films for a new juried competition.

The fest takes to screening out-of-competition and foreign features, documentaries, videos and shorts.

Tributes staged for indie gurus Robert Altman and Roger Corman. Interactive film market, website and a fest program featuring blue-chip ads and sponsorship are added.

Greg Mottola’s “The Daytrippers,” produced by Steven Soderbergh, wins Slamdance’s new grand jury prize. Cannes admits the film, which wins awards at the Deauville and Athens Festivals. CFP releases the film in 1997 and it grosses more than $2 million.

1997

Peter Baxter takes over as executive director and sets up a Hollywood office. More than 1,000 films submitted.

Slamdance establishes headquarters at Park City’s Treasure Mountain Inn.

Fest institutes its annual screenwriting competition for new writers, with winning scripts submitted to Fox Searchlight Pictures and the Gersh Agency.

Highlights include IFC-sponsored screening of Steven Soderbergh’s “Schizopolis”; and the doc “Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life” (nominated for a an Oscar in 1998).

Daniel Harris’ “The Bible and Gun Club” is awarded the grand jury prize. (In 1998, the movie is nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.)

The audience award goes to Michael Davis’ “Eight Days a Week,” starring future “Felicity” star Keri Russell.

1998

Fest receives more than 1,300 submissions, selecting 13 films for competition. The website experiences a 100% increase in hits as the fest becomes a year-round organization, sponsoring a screenwriting competition in the summer.

Highlights include a special Music in Film evening (featuring the 1994 Trey Parker film “Cannibal: The Musical”), a live-cast reading of Mark Douglas’ “The Fourth Round” and a screening of Marina Zenovich’s documentary “Independence Day,” a portrait of the indie film world.

Kevin Di Novis’ “Surrender Dorothy” wins the grand jury prize and Myles Berkowitz’s “20 Dates” takes the audience award as well as a distribution deal with Fox Searchlight. Lance Mungia’s “Six-String Samurai” garners awards for editing and cinematography.

Newsweek calls Slamdance “the younger, hipper” festival in Utah. The L.A. Times’ Amy Wallace notes that while Slamdance was conceived in protest to the established event, it now seems “more a complement than a rival.”

1999

Total fest submissions climb to 1,716. Fourteen films are selected for the dramatic competition, including 10 world premieres and three U.S. bows. (About 25% of the submissions are on video, a huge increase from previous years.)

Live performances by Sheryl Crow, former members of Guns N’ Roses and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan are scheduled.

Award categories expand to include a grand jury award for dramatic feature and dramatic short; a docu award; audience awards for feature and short film; an Ilford Black & White Award; an award for excellence in editing; and the Kodak Vision Award for cinematography.

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