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Ultra-indie Nodance marks 5th anniversary

Fest promotes creative vision over big budgets

SHARE Ultra-indie Nodance marks 5th anniversary

PARK CITY — One feature is about a cartoonist who becomes possessed by the spirit of a dog and turns into a serial killer.

A short film depicts dead rock 'n' roll stars in a junior high sex-education class.

A 60-minute documentary details the making of a short film that has never been released theatrically.

Other movies focus on fictitious suicides, old hippies who hunt for their own food, underground street racing, an all-girl gang, prostitute murderers and the video-game tournament scene.

No, these films were not showing at the Sundance Film Festival, nor its long-standing rival, Slamdance. These lower-budget, ultra-independent films were shown at the festival made just for them, the Nodance Film Festival, which ran through Friday.

But don't think for a minute these filmmakers aren't serious about their craft or their movies aren't worth the price of admission — actually, all Nodance films are free.

In its fifth year, Nodance has risen from the bottom-of-the-bottom — it was created by filmmaker James Boyd after he was rejected by the other Park City festivals — to something above cult status in the indie film world.

Nearly 700 films were submitted for consideration this year — Boyd viewed every one of them — and only 30 were accepted.

Several filmmakers said they held off applying to other festivals in hopes that Nodance would be willing to show their movies first. Three of the five films in the features competition were world premieres.

"What really excited me is that it was put together by independent filmmakers for independent filmmakers," said Robert B. Martin, producer, co-director and co-star of the mockumentary "Hip, Edgy, Sexy, Cool."

"We wanted to show it to our peers. . . . Overall, it's been an awesome response."

Martin's peers liked his work, all right. The 16mm film was announced Thursday as the winner of the festival's Audience Feature Award.

"Its reputation is quite sound," Steve Cuden, honored as the festival's best director for his cartoonist-turned-psycho killer flick "Lucky," said of Nodance.

"I think this movie fits in this festival very well because we have kind of an edgy, dark, out-there story that, actually, some people have a problem with. I think this is the kind of festival where people appreciate it."

That's high praise as far as Boyd is concerned. His vision always has been for Nodance to be the true Sundance alternative, where creative vision and provocative storytelling take precedence over commercial value and big budgets, even production quality.

Nodance, for example, still encourages walk-up screenings so that filmmakers who have been turned away from other festivals can show their work.

"We're losing less money than we originally did," said Boyd, who has found success by showcasing primarily digital-video films and by promoting Nodance as more of a marketplace than a film festival.

"We try to model it on Cannes," Boyd said. "I've been to Cannes a few times, and I've seen how the market works over there where the buyers go from screening to screening and that's how we're kind of set up here."

Nodance expanded into the Treasure Mountain Inn this year, where Slamdance films have been screened in previous years, while retaining its office and two screening rooms in the Main Street Mall.

"People really seek out this kind of cutting-edge film, and thank God they do," said Steve Sobel, who wrote, produced and directed "Resin," which won the festival's Digital Vanguard Award.

Two movies out of last year's festival garnered distribution, and this year's participants are hopeful their film will be the one to really put Nodance on the map.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed, hoping something positive will happen," Martin said. "The other films that are here are really good, too."

E-mail: zman@desnews.com