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Shari Acharya
Salt Lake Tribune
January 19, 2006

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Utah a breeding ground for Slamdance films
"Napoleon" effect: A fresh group of filmmakers with ties to Utah will screen their work at the film festival, with events in Park City and Sugar House
By Christy Karras
The Salt Lake Tribune

Betsy Bayha is one of a handful of former Utahns who have short films at Slamdance.
"Vote for Pedro" T-shirts might not be the only trend started by "Napoleon Dynamite."
   The short film that became "Napoleon," made by Brigham Young University alum Jared Hess, was first shown at the Slamdance Film Festival. This year, a new gang of filmmakers with ties to Utah is showing work at the festival, the biggest alternative to Sundance.
   Slamdance, which opens tonight and runs through Jan. 28, has always prided itself on being particularly friendly to Utah residents, who get discounted screening tickets and free access to shorts and video games from its annual competition.
   This year, the festival has a slate of activities in Sugar House, including screenings at Westminster College, "fireside chats," a poetry slam and a staged reading.
   Slamdance programming director Sarah Diamond says Utah filmmakers get no special consideration when it comes to judging submissions from around the world. Despite that, several films with ties to Utah made it into the festival.
   And that's no small achievement: Slamdance chose fewer than 100 films from 3,000 submissions.
   One of them, "The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang," made with a crew of "Napoleon Dynamite" alums, "has the most pre-festival buzz" of any Slamdance film this year, Diamond
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       "Having gone to Slamdance several times over the years and having seen many friends' films there, it felt like a good match. The whole attitude at Slamdance is very supportive of filmmakers and their work," said "Sasquatch" director Tim Skousen. "Slamdance gets more popular every year and with each new success story, their stock really rises as it competes with other festivals around the country."
       "The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang," about teenage friends who stumble upon a Sasquatch, came from a script idea by Skousen, assistant director of "Napoleon Dynamite." With much of the production crew from "Napoleon," they filmed the movie in Portland, Ore., on a tight schedule often interrupted by rain - "I know everyone knows that it's rainy in the Northwest, but I guess we just hoped that we would be lucky. We weren't," he said.
       Betsy Bayha is among a handful of former Utah residents who have short films in the festival.
       "The odds of getting accepted were so small. I'm still so excited about coming to Park City and being there," said Bayha, whose documentary short, "Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott," looks at the life of a disabled mixed-media artist. Bayha lived in Utah until she was 15 and now works on documentaries for Lucasfilm. "I feel like filmmaking is not only something that I love to do, but something that I have to do. I feel extremely fortunate that I make films as my day job and that I've been able to do my own film as a labor of love."
       Coming up with the resources to make her own documentary was daunting, but she was inspired by her subject.
       Mixed-media artist Judith Scott is an unlikely hero, Bayha says, "one of those kind of women who, if you saw her on the street corner, you'd probably want to cross the street to get away from her."
       Scott is an elderly woman who has Down syndrome and no teeth. She doesn't talk. She has been institutionalized all her life. But "from this source came this amazing, profound art," Bayha said.
       University of Utah alum Isaac Chung also stumbled upon a compelling subject: teens who get involved in illegal immigration. He shot in Utah, with teenage actors from West Valley City. "They've never acted before. I just wanted to give them a lot of freedom to do what they wanted to do," Chung said. "They took it really seriously and we ended up with some really natural performances."
       Chung says between people of Asian and Latino descent, pretty much everyone involved in the film was


    a minority. "I wasn't aware of the vast diversity in Salt Lake City, especially within the Latino community. It tends to kind of slip under the radar."
       This is Chung's second time at Slamdance; he's now working on a feature film. His teachers at the University of Utah "gave me a lot of independence and encouragement," he said.
       Mike Blum got his master's degree at the U.; he now works for Disney. Like Bayha's, his Slamdance film incorporated the films he uses in his day job. His five-minute computer-animated short, "The Zit," took more than three years and most of his spare time to make.
       Now part of the "Spike and Mike Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation," which is showing at a special Slamdance screening, the short is family friendly, he says, "yet it's subversive enough to appeal to the 'Spike and Mike' crowd."
       "My philosophy is, the more people who see it, the more people who have the potential to help my career see it, so film festivals are incredibly important," he said. "At the end of the day, you also make a film to be seen."
       Slamdance films with Utah ties
       Slamdance Film Festival begins tonight and runs through Jan. 28 with screenings in Park City and Salt Lake City. The following screenings are at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. in Park City. For more information, go to http://www.slamdance.com.
       Title: "The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang" (narrative competition)
       Utah tie: Producer Jeremy Coon produced "Napoleon Dynamite" and director Tim Skousen was its assistant director.
       Screening: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.; Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
       Title: "Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott" (documentary short)
       Utah tie: Director Betsy Bayha lived in Utah until she was 15.
       Screening: Saturday, 5 p.m., and Wednesday, 12:30 p.m.
       Title: "Yard Sale" (documentary short)
       Utah tie: Producer/director Brad Barber and his wife, associate director Susan Krueger-Barber, went to Brigham Young University.
       Screening: Sunday, 5 p.m.; Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
       Title: "Tolerance" (narrative short)
       Utah tie: Filmmakers (and brothers) Mark Finch Hedengren and David Finch Hedengren were born and raised in Provo. The film won the 2005 LDS Film Festival.
       Screening: Sunday, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, 3 p.m.; Jan. 27, 11 a.m.
       Title: "Los Coyotes" (narrative short)
       Utah tie: Director Isaac Chung is a University of Utah alum; its stars and crew are Utah residents. It was filmed in Utah.
       Screenings: Friday, 3p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.; Tuesday, 1 p.m.Title: "The Zit" (animated short)
       Utah tie: Producer/director/head animator Mike Blum got a master's degree from the University of Utah.
       Screening: Wednesday, 5 p.m.


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