Leveraging the brand-name recognition accrued by ten-year-old Slamdance Film Festival, Slamdance President and co-founder Peter Baxter has joined forces with veteran film and television producer and talent-manager Robert Schwartz, and Cleveland-based businessman George Ketvertis to launch the Slamdance Media Group.
The company, which will comprise distribution and talent-management units, has pacted a home-entertainment output deal with Ventura Entertainment, a division of independent giant Ventura Distribution, to sell product under a new, branded Slamdance label. The theatrical distribution unit, to be known as Slamdance On the Road, has inked with ArcLight Cinemas for exclusive exhibition of the new company’s titles in the Los Angeles market. Additionally, two titles have been acquired for U.S. theatrical release: the award-winning “Faster,” an action-packed documentary about grand-prix motorcycle racing, and Slamdance grand-jury prize winner “Better Housekeeping,” a cutting-edge drama with a dark satirical streak. The management unit will take off with a roster of clients currently represented by Schwartz, and is also seeking out strategic alliances with film and television production companies.
“First, we grew from a festival into a year-round operation, and now we are continuing to support truly independent filmmakers with a commercial enterprise that brings them just financial reward,” says Baxter.
Slamdance On The Road
Named after the Festival’s successful three-continent tours of its prize winners (now renamed Best Of Slamdance), Slamdance On the Road offers attractive terms for filmmakers, including a guaranteed release in ten domestic markets, and a fixed percentage of the company’s share of box-office gross, what the company is terming a “flat-fee royalty.” Says Baxter, “Financially, filmmakers will know up-front what they are getting, and will be partners in the marketing of their movies.”
The company will focus on films with strong, identifiable core audiences. Baxter anticipates that “We will be looking beyond traditional concepts in our approach to marketing, taking examples from the kind of street marketing that has served our Festival so well.”
First up for theatrical distribution is “Faster,” by documentarian and music-video director Mark Neale (“No Maps for These Territories,” U2). The no-holds-barred look at the glamorous, dangerous world of high-end motorcycle racing world is winner of the prestigious 2003 award for Documentary Reportage, Individual Sport (Mention D’honneur) at the Sport Movies & TV Festival in Milan. With a marketing campaign geared to a strong network of motorcycle fans, to date the film has unspooled to packed houses in Houston, Portland and Minneapolis. It will open at Hollywood’s ArcLight on April 23rd, with additional bookings set for April and May in cities around the country.
Later this spring, the company will release “Better Housekeeping,” written and directed by Frank Novak. Winner of the grand jury prize at Slamdance 2000 and the only U.S. film chosen for Critic’s week at Cannes that year, the film was orphaned when its original distributor, The Shooting Gallery, went out of business. The New York Times praised Novak’s “accuracy of observation… that keeps the film grounded in an undeniable social realism. Roger Ebert called it, “Very funny, as you peek at it through the fingers in front of your eyes.” Notes Baxter, “This brilliant film is finally going to reach the audience it deserves.”
Slamdance Home Entertainment
Ventura Entertainment, a company with a long track record in distributing niche-market product, will create a new branded label to distribute Slamdance Media Group titles. According to Sally Adams, Vice President of Acquisitions and Development, “We’re a matched set with the Slamdance Media Group. They are a portal to cutting-edge product, and carry a brand name that will stand out in a cluttered marketplace. We bring the capital, promotional experience and access to shelf-space in markets that our studio-owned competitors don’t reach.” Under the terms of the deal, Ventura also gains the opportunity to turn its video product over to the Slamdance Media Group for theatrical release.