Slamdance Director Taylor Miller takes the stage at the 2023 Summer Showcase in Los Angeles, California.

At AGBO + Slamdance mini fest in DTLA, the future of filmmaking is shared, debated, and inspired

By AGBO Staff

The relationship between the Slamdance fest and the Russo Brothers began 25 years ago, on a snowy mountain of Park City. The future award-winning filmmakers’ first feature, Pieces, was having its debut there.  

“We met not only Anthony and Joe Russo, but the entire Russo family,” recalls Slamdance President and Co-founder Peter Baxter. “And when I say the entire family, I mean it is a very large family. They pretty much filled half our theater by themselves.”  

Though the film didn’t win any awards then, it did win something even more valuable: The attention of director Steven Soderbergh, who went on to help the Russos make their second feature, Welcome to Collinwood, and ultimately became a mentor for them. 

This concept – of nurturing and supporting up-and-coming storytellers – is the essence of Slamdance’s mission, and it’s built into the DNA of the Russos’ production company, AGBO. 

“Anthony and Joe have never forgotten this. They’ve always given back to our community. And it’s become a very important part of AGBO,” says Baxter.

From Left to Right: Angela Ostot-Russo, Brett Schulman, Taylor Miller, and Peter Baxter at this year’s DTLA Slamdance Summer Showcase on August 18, 2023

Talking to AGBO’s co-founders, the admiration is clearly mutual. “Being a part of the Slamdance community was instrumental for us early in our career,” says Joe Russo. “We’ve purposefully stayed connected to Slamdance all these years,” adds Anthony Russo. “Bringing the sense of community for emerging talents to AGBO is something we’ve been wanting to do with them for a long time."

Fast forward to August 2023, and this mutual commitment to supporting and amplifying rising independent voices came to life in a dynamic and impactful event, the DTLA Summer Showcase presented by AGBO and Slamdance. Over the course of two weeks, more than 600 attendees gathered to participate in four creative showcases, a writing workshop, and countless lively conversations and creative sparks at AGBO’s HQ, which is located in a revitalized neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles.

“We’re still coming off the energy of it,” admits Taylor Miller, Slamdance’s director. “The support that AGBO has given Slamdance and this kind of beautiful, chaotic disruption of real, authentic cinema is profound. And to have this event at their campus in downtown LA… Well, it’s tenfold in its significance.”

Adding to the sense of urgency, the event coincidentally took place during the co-strikes of Screen Actors’ Guild and the Writers’ Guild, as the entertainment industry engages in deep conversations about its future. Miller says that supporting the next generation of original voices has never been more critical: “It’s more necessary than ever for the community to have a place where they can come together and have conversations about their shared passions or where they disagree.”

The programing of the DTLA Slamdance + AGBO showcases reflects incredible diversity – not only of the creators themselves but in their creations as well. Shortwave featured a collection of short films from mostly Los Angeles-based filmmakers; DIG: Brave New Worlds highlighted works created through next-gen tools like immersive XR and interactive platforms; Unstoppable is a curation of short films by creators with visible and non-visible disabilities. And, the Punch Up Comedy Showcase gave the stage to emerging comedians. 

Miller, who has been curating Slamdance festivals and showcases for 13 years, found herself surprised and delighted by what she observed. Describing one of the DIG offerings titled "We are such stuff as dreams are made of", her excitement was clear.

 “It’s Shakespeare being performed within Grand Theft Auto!” Miller exclaims. “It’s off the charts! It enthralled our audience… So many people were talking about it afterwards.” 

Baxter agrees that the piece by Sam Crane was a standout. “It unfolded spontaneously. I’ve never seen a story like that.”

But for both Slamdance leaders, the ultimate reward came from the attendees of the event, who repeatedly spoke about how much the event meant to them. 

“We heard amazing feedback and appreciation of what we’ve done,” Baxter says. “A filmmaker likened us to being great gardeners. Intentional and prudent, gentle and nurturing, and punk rock – all at once.”

To learn more about Slamdance, and how to submit your own creation to the 2024 festival, visit Slamdance.org

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