University of Utah, Slamdance to champion the rise of independent filmmakers

SOURCE: Noom Peerapong/Unsplash
In addition to a chance to work in LA, the Melbourne Screen Fund aims to raise $5 million in donations to support current VCA students and alumni.

By U2B Staff 

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The film industry is vast and complex. While most industry awards are bagged by the big names of Hollywood, many independent filmmakers strive to create equally captivating works that unfortunately go unnoticed by the general audience. 

Filmmaker Peter Baxter refused to conform to Hollywood standards set by the mainstream film industry. In 1995, Baxter, along with other like-minded independent filmmakers co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival, an outlet to foster a grassroots community of independent filmmakers to freely showcase their raw creativity. 

In an effort to perpetuate this passion for film creation with the next generation, Baxter along with Slamdance Festival Manager Alina Solodnikova formed a prominent partnership with the University of Utah’s Department of Film and Media Arts. 


The idea to collaborate came about when sister independent filmmakers Miriam and Sonia Albert-Sobrino who are professors in the University of Utah’s Department of Film and Media Arts decided to reach out to Baxter after sharing the same values about the indie film industry. 

“As filmmakers and educators, it is always our goal to give our students the necessary skills to become proficient filmmakers who can find real job opportunities, if possible, even before graduating,” said Sonia according to Slug Magazine. 

In 2016, the sisters reached out to Baxter to ensure the success of the student filmmakers. 

Baxter began conducting the Anarchy Workshop for the university’s film students and from there, the idea came to offer these students roles and training in the Slamdance Film Festival. 

Slamdance came to mind first and was the logical place to try, given our very similar understanding of independent cinema and its geographical proximity,” said Miriam.

The Slamdance community provides a nurturing and supportive environment for film students and provides them with indispensable experience to allow their skills and expertise to grow in the film industry. 

“I would not be where I am without Slamdance,” said Utah graduate and current Slamdance employee Summer Florence. 

After graduating last Spring, Florence has been working with Slamdance for the past two years thanks to Baxter’s and the Albert-Sobrino sisters’ partnership to support budding filmmakers. 

“Peter Baxter and the Slamdance family are great at creating a positive learning environment in which our students not only get to learn how a festival operates but also do that in a very welcoming setting—all of that, while actually getting paid, as well,” said Sonia.

Independent Filmmakers
Slamdance Festiva fosters growth within the independent film industry. Source: Jakob Owens/Unsplash.

The partnership, driven by unified goals, is committed to developing students’ experiences, knowledge and abilities. 

The Alber-Sobrino sisters’ relentless dedication in championing independent cinema among their students aligns well with what Slamdance stands for in elevating the independent film industry and upholding artistic integrity. 

Besides providing hands-on industry experiences for students, the sisters also help their students who are interested in submitting films to festivals. 

They do this by helping their students to understand how to craft their projects in a way that reads honest and genuine to their individual styles and interests while still being competitive within the industry. 

“Being there, seeing the work of others and getting to know the talented people who work and screen their work at Slamdance is priceless,” said Miriam. 


The Slamdance Film Festival fosters collaboration, energy and ingenuity with many of the University of Utah students coming in to support and learn from the various activities and productions by the community. 

This includes building theatres from the ground up for the Park City festival, recording interviews for Slamdance TV, handling box office balloting, and more. 

“The U students have been an integral part of the festival team in the last several years, and we can’t wish for a better group of people to weather the storm with, sometimes quite literally,” said Solodnikova.  

“We are confident that since our partnership began in 2016, our students are more aware today than ever of what independent cinema really is in practice, and that the best place to find it during the festival season is Slamdance,” said Miriam. 

The festival recognises the value behind unconventional mediums, ideas and techniques that stray away from the glitz and glamour of mainstream Hollywood. Slamdance remains committed to its goals and roots while forming meaningful and strategic partnerships along the way. 

The 2020 Slamdance Film Festival runs from 24 to 30 January.