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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.

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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.”

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