×

Slamdance’s Greatest Hits

Over the past quarter century, the Slamdance Film Festival has served as a launchpad for a number of now high profile filmmakers at the very start of their careers. Here is a baker’s dozen of some of the festival’s greatest discoveries.

Marc Forster
“Loungers”
Forster premiered his $10,000 debut in 1995 and grabbed the Audience Award, and has become one of the most versatile directors working, with other credits including “Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland,” “Stay,” “The Kite Runner,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Quantum of Solace,” “World War Z” and “Christopher Robin.”

Rian Johnson
“Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!!”
Johnson’s irreverent short film played the festival in 1996, launching a career that has dabbled in artistic indies (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom,” “Looper”) and big-budget franchise blockbusters (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).

Greg Mottola
“The Daytrippers”
The writer-director’s 1996 feature debut was produced by Steven Soderbergh and got Mottola work on cult-classic television series “Undeclared,” “Arrested Development,” “The Comeback” and “The Newsroom,” with feature credits including “Superbad,” “Adventureland” and “Paul,” all of which demonstrate his crafty blending of comedy and character.

Gina Prince-Bythewood
“Bowl of Pork”
After Prince-Bythewood’s 1997 short screened at the festival, she went on to write and direct distinctive features including “Love & Basketball,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Beyond the Lights,” with an upcoming Marvel film (“Silver Sable”) in early stages of development. She’s also dabbled in television, on shows including “Shots Fired” and “Cloak & Dagger.”

Anthony & Joe Russo
“Pieces”
Before they became one of the key ingredients of the Marvel Film Universe, the Russo brothers (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: End Game”) debuted their black comedy at the 1997 festival and gained the attention of Soderbergh and George Clooney, who produced their sophomore effort, “Welcome to Collinwood.”

Christopher Nolan
“Following”
Nolan took the Grand Jury Prize in 1998 for this black-and-white neo-noir crime thriller, which he shot for $6,000. He’s since become one of the most bankable studio filmmakers of all time, with his resume including “Dunkirk,” “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” “Interstellar” and “The Prestige.”

Bong Joon-ho
“Barking Dogs Never Bite”
Bong’s debut from 2000 screened at the festival, and firmly announced a brilliant filmmaking talent, with subsequent films including “Memories of Murder,” “The Host,” “Mother,” “Snowpiercer” and “Okja.”

John Erick Dowdle
“The Dry Spell”
Dowdle’s 2005 debut was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, with the director going on to helm genre efforts including “The Poughkeepsie Tapes,” “Quarantine,” “Devil,” “As Above, So Below,” “No Escape,” and the acclaimed miniseries “Waco.”

Lynn Shelton
“We Go Way Back”
Shelton’s auspicious debut netted the Grand Jury Prize and the Kodak Vision Award in 2006, with the director continuing to dominate the indie-film scene with “My Effortless Brilliance,” “Humpday,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “Laggies,” “Outside In” and the upcoming “Sword of Trust.” She’s also become a prolific television director, working on such series as “GLOW,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Mad Men,” “The New Girl” and “Love.”

Jeremy Saulnier
“Murder Party”
This edgy comedy/horror hybrid won the Audience Award in 2007, and announced Saulnier as an exciting new filmmaking voice, leading the way to “Blue Ruin,” the Cannes Film Festival premiere “Green Room,” and last year’s Netflix-supported “Hold the Dark.”

Tina Mabry
“Mississippi Damned”
Mabry’s critically acclaimed autobiographical drama premiered in 2009, announcing a new and dynamic storytelling voice. She’s gone on to become a television mainstay, directing episodes of “Queen Sugar,” “Dear White People,” “Queen of the South, “Insecure,” “The Mayor,” “Power” and “Pose.”

Qaushiq Mukherjee
“Gandu”
This drama played at the 2010 festival, sparking controversy in the filmmaker’s homeland of India due to graphic sexual content. Mukherjee hasn’t slowed down, with other credits including “Tasher Desh,” “X,” “Ludo” and “Brahman Naman.”

Matt Johnson
“The Dirties”
This 2013 found-footage film won the Grand Jury Prize and shined a light on high-school bullying, becoming one of the most-discussed Canadian films of the decade, and finding a major champion in Kevin Smith. Johnson followed up with 2016’s “Operation Avalanche” and the TV mockumentary “Nirvana the Band the Show.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • La Rouei

    Lumiere Festival to Premiere Epic Restoration of 'La Roue'

    LYON, France  —  This coming Saturday and Sunday, the Lumière Festival will turn back the clock nearly one hundred years as the festival premieres a new completed reconstruction of Abel Gance’s 1923 masterpiece “La Roue” (“The Wheel”) that restores the classic to its original 7.5 hour length. Consisting of a prologue and four movements, “La [...]

  • Lina Wertmuller portrait

    Lina Wertmuller’s Exceptional Career Revisited

    In the still American-led realm of the Academy Awards, it’s unusual for the helmer of a film not in the English language to score a Best Director nomination. It’s far rarer still, meanwhile, for a woman to be nominated in the category at all: just five have done so in 91 years. Only one director, [...]

  • Fifth Seal

    Lumière Festival Honors Hungary, Screens Classics ‘Women,’ ‘The Fifth Seal’

    For the fifth year running, Lyon’s Lumière Festival will honor Hungarian cinema and invite guests of the Hungarian National Film Fund to present two classic Hungarian films from important national filmmakers, Márta Mészáros’ “Ők ketten” (“Women”) and Zoltán Fábri’s “Fifth Seal.” Both films will be presented by Lumière Festival special guest Marina Vlady on Oct [...]

  • Godzilla

    Criterion Collection President Peter Becker on Storytelling, Bergman vs Godzilla, B-movies

    LYON, France  —  The Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) kicked off on Tuesday in Lyon, France, with a keynote address by Criterion Collection President Peter Becker. The exec discussed the company’s storied history and evolution over the decades into a leading publisher of classic and contemporary films from around the world in high-quality [...]

  • Manuel Chiche

    Boutique Distributor Manuel Chiche Offers A State of The Industry

    LYON, France  — Manuel Chiche is riding high. Since June, his boutique distribution outlet The Jokers set admission records with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” selling nearly 1.7 million tickets in France and still going strong as the film heads into its 19th week in theaters. Indeed, “Parasite” is now the second most successful Palme d’Or winner of [...]

  • Toni

    Italy’s L'Immagine Ritrovata Expected to Take Over France’s Eclair Cinema

    LYON, France  —  Leading Italian restoration company L’Immagine Ritrovata’s acquisition of renowned film lab Eclair Cinéma, announced last month, is expected to be approved by the French Commercial Court of Nanterre at the end of November or beginning of December, according to a source familiar with the deal. L’Immagine Ritrovata’s French subsidiary, L’Image Retrouvée, last [...]

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content