Screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney on ‘High Flying Bird’

  Tarell Alvin McCraney is an award winning screenwriter and playwright. He cowrote the screenplay for 2016’s Moonlight, based on his original play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Tarell most recently wrote the screenplay for High Flying Bird, directed by Steven Soderbergh. High Flying Bird had its world premiere at the 25th Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019 and was later released by Netflix.  Tarell talks to Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter about his influences, working with Steven Soderbergh, being a black artist in the industry, and how the sports world that High Flying Bird depicts has played a role in the way American society commodifies black bodies for capitalist gain....

2019 Slamdance Award Winners

Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture Directed by Nicole Brending – Narrative Feature  Grand Jury Prize & Spirit of Slamdance Award 1 Kifaru Directed by David Hambridge – Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize & Audience Award 1 The Vast of Night Directed by Andrew Patterson – Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature 1 Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story Directed by Patrick Creadon – Best of Breakouts Audience Award 1 Cat Sticks Directed by Ronny Sen – Narrative Feature Honorable Mention 1 Markie in Milwaukee Directed by Matt Kliegman – Documentary Feature Honorable Mention 1 Woman in Stall Directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli – Narrative Short Grand Jury Prize 1 Tungrus Directed by Rishi Chandna –  Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize 1 Las Del Diente Directed by Ana Perez Lopez – Documentary Short Honorable Mention 1 Wayward Emulsions Directed by Tina Takemoto – Experimental Short Grand Jury Prize 1 Applied Pressure Directed by Kelly Sears –  Experimental Short Honorable Mention 1 Shalva (Tranquility) Directed by Danna Windsor – Animation Short Grand Jury Prize 1 Siyabonga Majola (We Are Thankful) Slamdance Acting Award 1 Aya Kitai (Demolition Girl) Slamdance Acting Award Honorable Mention 1 Lauren McCune (Ready for Love) Slamdance Acting Award Honorable Mention 1 East of The River Directed by Hannah Peterson...

Why Come to Slamdance?

Slamdance Alumni share their experiences and tips for visiting Park City Ah…Park City in late January. It’s freezing cold, it’s the middle of Utah, and everything’s super expensive. But for just a couple of weeks, the town swells with filmmakers, film lovers, press, industry folks and celebrities. The potential for opportunities when you have a group of people like this gathered together in a small, freezing cold ski town… are endless. If your film is selected to screen at Slamdance, there are a million reasons to brave the cold, start another crowdfund, book an international flight and do whatever it takes to get yourself to Park City. Here are some first hand insights and advice on why you should come and how to navigate the experience, from Slamdance alumni who’ve done it before. Because it’s worth the effort. Icy outside, warm inside. As a foreign (French here) filmmaker, the idea to go to Park City was a bit daunting. It’s far; it’s cold; distances and accessibility seemed somewhat uncertain… but having attended, I must say that the result was worth the effort. By far one of the most communal, immersive and genuinely cinephilic festivals I’ve experienced. As a filmmaker going to Park City, you get the very nuanced impression that you don’t merely attend Slamdance but that you...

Gina Prince-Bythewood & Tina Mabry on Mentorship

How to Turn Your Idol into Your Mentor into Your Collaborator Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love and Basketball”, “Shots Fired”) and Tina Mabry (“Mississippi Damned”, “Queen Sugar”) are unstoppable forces on the rise — writing, producing, and directing for TV and film while mentoring the next generation of filmmaking talent. Gina premiered an early short film at Slamdance in 1998 (“Bowl of Pork”, starring Dave Chappell) before her breakout first feature “Love and Basketball”. The film that redefined sports films and broke new ground on how women and people of color are depicted onscreen inspired Tina Mabry to abandon her LSATs and apply for film school. Tina’s 2009 debut feature “Mississippi Damned” (starring Tessa Thompson with cinematography by Oscar nominee Bradford Young) won Gina’s admiration and respect and the two filmmakers have since become mentor/mentee, friends, colleagues, and are now collaborating on an upcoming film. Both Slamdance alums, they came to our offices to discuss their experiences navigating the industry with all its highs and lows, and offered some valuable wisdom for fellow filmmakers. Listen to their conversation in it’s entirety or read some highlights below. “I mean, making a good movie is hard. Getting a movie made is a miracle.” Tina on meeting Gina after watching “Love and Basketball” and stalking her for years: Tina: The first time we...

What the heck does it take to get my film into Slamdance?

Tips and Insights from Slamdance Festival Programmers We know the festival submission process can seem pretty mysterious and we want to make submitting to Slamdance a little more transparent. As our motto proclaims, we are filmmakers here to help fellow filmmakers. Most of us are alumni of the festival who have been in your shoes—confused and nervous about navigating the festival circuit with our first films. Somehow, through some combination of grit and magic, we are now on the other side as Slamdance programmers! We’ve been there, and we’ve been here, and we want to help. How programming works at Slamdance We’re all filmmakers and we’re all volunteers. Almost all of us have screened films at Slamdance. Every film submitted is watched in its entirety by at least two different programmers. We have around 150 programmers from throughout the US and around the world. They are watching your online screeners at their convenience from wherever they are in the world. Every programmer has an equal voice. We don’t have lower tier screeners acting as gatekeepers. 100% of films selected come from our submissions pool. We don’t make promises to friends or celebrities. They have to submit just like everybody else. After every film is watched and scored at least twice, our programming teams meet in...

dekker dreyer collage of media works

The Revolution in Media is Already Here

An Experiential Artist Manifesto by Dekker Dreyer The traditional media world demands that we reduce our artistic output to a short string of adjectives that fit neatly on a 3.5 inch business card. Everything that artists like myself do throws this notion into chaos. I see an email I missed from earlier. It confirms that NASA is going to participate in a panel I’m planning at Slamdance DIG (digital, interactive, and gaming) — this year I’m an organizer. It’s 4am and I’m looking out across Hollywood excited for the possibilities. I’m one of a new wave of creators that’s merging interactivity, virtual reality, filmmaking, and live events into a hard-to-explain jumble of an art scene. It feels like I’m working twenty or more hours a day and I feel alive. This week I’m launching an interactive animated film called Joy Ride with BroomX, a company in Europe that outfits spaces like hotels with 360 degree immersive projectors. Audiences will experience Joy Ride exclusively in this full room projection format at partner locations like Catalonia Hotels. I’ve never worked in this format before because it didn’t exist until a little over a year ago. This kind of shoot first, ask questions later approach is indicative of not just the kind of work that I produce, but the landscape of how...

Creatures of War and a Father’s Love

A Veteran Battles for His Daughters through Filmmaking by John Charter The making of our short creature art film, Remission, is full of disastrous filmmaking war stories — and it all began with an actual war. More on that later. Remission is foremost an “art film,” meant to be interpreted like you would a poem or a painting, with the creature costumes serving as moving art pieces. The concept centers around an unknown soldier in a state of living paralysis or a purgatory loop. Three creatures emerge as outer-body extensions of his war trauma and the ensuing nihilism that he struggles to overcome. Visions of an estranged daughter haunt the man and lead the creatures on a vast, lonely pilgrimage in hopes of restoring their once sacred connection. The symbolism of the film is inspired by the true story of Remission’s co-creator, artist Paul Kaiser. Paul served in the US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and was held hostage in Iraq for a possible sale to Al Qaeda. The loss of control from this event brought on a deep plunge into an existential crisis and the life he knew fell apart. The film is a reflection of his current mission to emerge from the loop and reconnect with his children. Veteran artist Paul Kaiser performs in his...

Then and Now: 100 Years of Independent Animated Documentary

By Melissa Ferrari July 20th, 2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of the first animated documentary, Winsor McCay’s The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1918. In celebration of 100 years of this genre, we take a look back at McCay’s masterpiece and celebrate some of the fantastic independent animated documentaries that have since been featured at the Slamdance Film Festival. While the question of veracity remains a point of contention for nonfiction animators even today, the genre pioneered by Winsor McCay still allows for vast creative potential. Practically, animation is a particularly invaluable tool for independent and DIY makers. While the conventional live-action documentary might turn to archival imaging or the daunting task of creating a tasteful live action re-enactment, animated documentarians can single-handedly depict any time, person, or place in the past, present, or future with just a pencil and paper. The use of animation has a variety of advantages: animations can convey what can’t be captured photographically while still providing compelling, emotional imagery. Filmmakers can depict events that aren’t physically visible to the eye, historical events that weren’t captured on film, vulnerable documentary subjects that need to maintain anonymity, events that take place in the mind (such as emotions or dreams), or even speculative futures. As an independent animated documentary, The Sinking of...

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