Slamdance Film Festival

Article written by: Joe Yang

Overview: The Slamdance Film Festival came into being when filmmakers Shane Kuhn, Jon Fitzgerald, and Dan Mirvish all had their films rejected by Sundance in 1994. Joining forces with other independent filmmakers along the way, they pooled their resources and launched their own festival a year later in 1995.

Taking place at the same time as the high-profile Sundance Film Festival, Slamdance is also held in Park City, Utah every January. Unlike Sundance, which screens many films that already have major distribution deals and other sponsorship in place, the Slamdance Film Festival focuses mainly on first time filmmakers working on shoe-string budgets, and who have not had their works distributed by a major studio or anyone else.

The goal is to discover and recognize diverse, original projects, and to create a supportive environment for struggling artists. Films submitted are generally not allowed to have budgets exceeding $1 million, which I don't think is a problem for most independents.

Since 1995, the Slamdance Film Festival has gained much recognition and credibility, and helped launch the careers of directors such as Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and Marilyn Agrelo (Mad Hot Ballroom).

Much of the MAIN CATEGORIES and brief description of each, if applicable

Narrative Competition: Feature length, original works (fiction)

Documentary Competition Feature length, non-fiction works.

Animation: Films that don't have live actors in them.

Narrative shorts before features: Short films selected to play before narrative films.

Documentary shorts before features: Same as above only the shorts are documentaries.

Gallery Shorts: A collection of short films from a variety of genres.

$99 Specials: Short films that are made within 99 days and do not exceed $99.

Anarchy Online Films: Short films made for online screening.

Pilots: Works (30 min or less) intended to be a part of a series, such as a television show.


The Slamdance Film Festival started a competition category for screenwriters covering the genres of Horror, Shorts, Teleplay (TV pilots), and stage plays, which are part of the more recently established Slamdance On Stage.


Slamdance also recently created a videogame competition category. A variety of game genres are accepted, and as with films, all projects must be independently made without major corporate backing.

The festival seems to be constantly evolving year after year, as categories are added/modified and criteria are likely to be changed. For the latest information, check out their official website here.


Grand Jury Awards exist for narrative features, documentary features, shorts, and presumably all competition categories. Audience Awards are also given to projects voted on by those in attendance of screenings.

The Slamdance Film Festival prides itself on fairness, with all prospective films screened by a group of volunteer programmers. The programmers are typically independent filmmakers themselves, or previous festival participants. Without a "head" programmer, all submissions are selected by a consensus.

The festival screens roughly 100 films, about 30 features and 70 short films. This is taken out of a pool of about 3,000 submissions, so the competition is fierce.

However, even those who don't win anything have a chance of getting discovered, as many film industry insiders attend the often sold-out screenings.

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