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Funding, competition dim small film festivals

By Sommer Mathis

January 28, 2004 9:00 pm

Anyone in search of an object lesson in humility need look no
further than a job promoting a small, alternative film festival
held at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival.

Every year, brazen entrepreneurs and aspiring filmmakers set up
shop in Utah during the same 10 days as Sundance, hoping to
capitalize on the captive film-going audience already in place.

Some festivals, like the 10-year-old Slamdance Film Festival,
have managed to persist, despite significant obstacles, and have
staked a claim on enough of the audience share to have achieved a
certain amount of their own clout.

Others, however, find the cold weather in Park City at festival
time may not be the iciest reception in town.

“There’s just not enough financing from sponsorship
to go around,” explained John Peterson, founder and former
managing partner of Slamdunk, another alternative film festival
that, despite several successful years and backing from
Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, folded under financial
pressure and did not host any screenings this year.

Not only do each of the small festivals have to compete among
themselves for money and exposure, they also must contend with
Sundance itself. According to Peterson, Sundance officials often
made it difficult, if not impossible, for Slamdunk to operate in
Park City by imposing strict regulations and being a general thorn
in the side of the alternative festivals.

This underdog status often forces small festival promoters to go
to great lengths to get the word out about their screenings.

Whether that involves standing outside in the freezing cold in
elaborate costumes or forcing their way into screenings to pass out
flyers, promoters for alternative film festivals need to be willing
to make a fool of themselves to get noticed.

-Sommer Mathis

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