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Slamdance and upload films to produce screeplay award winners

Slamdance, always looking for new and innovative ways to assist emerging artists and to contribute to the film community, has joined forces with Upload Films to annually produce a feature film based on that year’s prize-winning entry from the Slamdance Screenplay Competition, it was jointly announced by Peter Baxter of Slamdance and Todd Williams at Upload Films. It is believed Slamdance is the only film festival to actively produce feature films that emanate from its competitions.

The first film is “Drool,” written and directed by Nancy Kissam, which won the 2006 Screenplay Competition and will have its World Premiere next week at Slamdance. Additionally, Upload Films just signed an option agreement on “Numbered,” written by Neil McGowan, the 2008 Grand Prize Winner in the Screenplay Competition.

“It is a priority for the Slamdance writing competitions to offer our winning writers production deals and/or employment in the industry,” said Baxter. “Our partnership with Upload Films is an exciting opportunity for the writers and Slamdance.”

“Drool” stars Laura Harring, Jill Marie Jones and Oded Fehr. It’s the story of an abused wife's plan to escape her husband that goes awry when she accidentally kills him, causing her to split on a cross-country drive with her family and his corpse in tow.

“Slamdance has always been a home for original and distinctive voices and our collaboration with the screenplay competition and Peter Baxter on ‘Drool’ has exceeded all our expectations,” said Williams. “Nancy Kissam is a sharp and exciting new voice in film, and we very much look forward to the film's world premiere at this year's festival. Upload and Slamdance have both always prided themselves on presenting voices that are challenging yet commercial at the same time, and we look forward to our upcoming collaboration on ‘Numbered’ following that path."

Slamdance actually has four distinct writing competitions. Besides the feature screenplay competition, there is the Short Screenplay Competition, sponsored by the $99 Special production project; Teleplay Competition, sponsored by The Greif Company and ACT III Productions; and the Horror Screenplay Competition.

“This is a great opportunity for Slamdance and its writers,” said Joy Saez, the Festival’s Director of Writing Competitions. “With Upload Films providing the expertise, know-how and necessary financing for guaranteeing our screenplay winners becoming films, it ties the writing competition even more closely with the Festival, ensuring that Slamdance continues its long standing mandate of developing and showcasing feature works.”

In 2006, Todd Williams, John Portnoy, and Nick Thurlow founded Upload Films in order to provide a new home for filmmaker-based projects that expand the vocabulary of independent film. Combining production, finishing funds, and post-production services under one roof, Upload both develops its own projects and team up with other producers to bring engaging films with strong visions to the screen. Upload's films have included the Spirit Award nominated “Shotgun Stories,” which has been featured on numerous top 10 lists for 2008, as well as Peace Arch's release “The Babysitters,” starring John Leguizamo. In addition to “Drool,” Upload is involved with four other 2009 theatrical releases, including the thriller “Print,” starring Gabrielle Carteris and Will Rothaar, and the courtroom drama “The Thacker Case,” starring Eliza Dushku and Gabriel Mann.

"Without the help of Slamdance and Upload films I would not have been able to see my hopes come to fruition," said Nancy Kissam.

“Only two months ago, I was writing blindly, so to speak,” said Neil McGowan. “I was doing what I loved to do, but doing it primarily for myself with no real hope that anything I happened to be working on would ever really be enjoyed by anyone but myself, and with no actual idea if what I was writing was any good at all. Then I won Slamdance, and in an instant, I attained not only a belief in myself, but also a sudden legitimacy in the profession I want to pursue. In no time, I was making a deal with Upload Films for an option agreement and possible production, and it seems reasonable that literary representation is in the cards. Winning this contest is, in so many words, the beginning of my career.”

2009 marks the 15th anniversary of the Slamdance Film Festival, one of the few remaining movie showcases whose sole mission is to nurture, support and introduce truly independent works from first-time filmmakers. This celebratory year takes place in Park City, Utah, January 15 – 23 and will screen about 100 films in total in all genres. However, in what is one of the toughest and most-aggressive competitions among festivals, only 20 features in the narrative and documentary feature categories combined screen in the main competition, which is strictly devoted to films without domestic theatrical distribution and budgets under $1 million, from first-time feature directors.

As it does every year, Slamdance will run concurrently with the Sundance Film Festival. Slamdance and the box office will be headquartered and films will screen at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main Street, the Festival’s headquarters since 1998. For more information, a complete listing of films in the Festival or additional news on the Slamdance Underground Music vs. Film Tour, visit www.slamdance.com or call 323/466-1786.

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Chatelin Bruno
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