Slamdance 2015: Meet The Filmmakers, Part 1

Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
The reason why I consider the Slamdance Film Festival a high priority for any new festival going year can be summed up in one word: Discovery.

Now, surely discovery plays heavily into any fest the world over, whether that's finding a film like no other, or your next new favorite filmmaker. But the reason why Slamdance gets extra points in my book is their programming process. All their programming is culled from completely blind submissions. Slamdance is one of the few festivals in North America to do this. So you know that when the films are complete surprises for the programmers (all past Slamdance filmmakers themselves) that their selection must be extra special.

To top this their entire narrative and documentary competition lineups are from first-time feature directors. Remember what I said about finding your next new favorite filmmaker? Past participants in Slamdance have included early works from Christopher Nolan, The Russo Brothers, Behn Zeitlen and Lena Dunham.

So today I welcome you to discover a handful of fresh filmmakers from this year's Slamdance competition slate who were nice enough to fill out a little Q&A I concocted. Make sure to come back next Monday for part 2 with even more fresh faces in the indie scene.

The 21st Slamdance FIlm Festival takes place in Park City, Utah at Treasure Mountain Inn, January 23 - 29.     

Branden Kramer, director of RATTER - Narrative

Emma is being watched by a stalker who has hacked into all of her personal technology – laptop, cell phone, and other web connected devices – to record her most intimate moments. Eventually the video feeds aren’t enough and the stalker moves from the virtual to the physical.

Tell us about your film, but not in a plot-centric way, please…

One of the main themes in the film is privacy. The devices we use - cell phones, tablets, laptops - store our whole lives. We use them constantly, and yet we barely think about how safe they are. We know about hacking - there’s a major corporate hack almost every month - but do people think about what it could mean on a personal level? Imagine a hidden camera inside your home, which strangers around the world can tap into, without you knowing. We found countless stories like this researching for the film. Groups of hackers trading webcam video feeds in underground “Ratting” communities. It was very unsettling and we knew we needed to wrap a bold narrative around it.

Share with us a pivotal cinema related experience or moment from your childhood/adolescence

I was a little older but I distinctly remember the feeling I had after seeing The Matrix in the theater. It hit me on a philosophical level. The film was a powerful reminder of how this medium can engage us with complex questions. It can ripple out into culture and spark debate. The Matrix made me think for weeks and I was inspired by the existential ambition of it all.

Why Slamdance?

We’re lucky to be part of The Slamdance Film Festival. It’s relatively small but incredibly selective and they really focus on bold indie films. I think they have a very brave, unapologetic attitude about what they showcase. Slamdance is the perfect fit for Ratter.

What does the notion of a sustainable film industry mean to you?

Original stories. And paying new writers fairly for them. I think it’s great what organizations like The Black List have been doing - elevating writers in an industry that’s very hard to navigate.

Your essential Park City survival kit:

My team.

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