EXCLUSIVE: Slamdance has named Joe Russo and Anthony Russo as the recipients of the Founders Award, presented to alumni who continue to support the indie spirit of the festival well into their careers, at the 24th film festival edition. In addition, the Park City-based fest unveiled the 2018 Special Screenings and Showpiece events list, which includes the opening night film, Pick Of The Litter, directed by Don Hardy and Slamdance alumni and Batkid Begins-helmer Dana Nachman.

The news comes after it was announced that the Russos, in an effort to grow their support for the organization, have partnered with Slamdance for the first Russo Fellowship award, which grants the winner with a cash prize and mentorship from the brothers in the development of the winner’s next project. The award was first presented in 2015 to The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan.

The fest, which runs from January 19-25, will also feature Bernard and Huey, directed by Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish and written by Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winner Jules Feiffer, which will serve as the closing night film, as well as Quest, directed by Santiago Rizz, and Roll With Me, a documentary from director Lisa France.

“This year’s special screenings at Slamdance are not about movie stars, big name filmmakers or hot trending topics. They share the common theme of humanity—highlighting issues of disability, mental health, the resonance of friendship, and the extraordinary resilience of human beings,” said Slamdance co-conspirator and special screenings programmer Paul Rachman. “From the extraordinary power of one man’s determination to prove himself in Lisa France’s Roll With Me to the reliance and trust we put in the animals and pets we share the earth with, in Dana Nachman’s The Pick of the Litter, where dogs learn to lead the blind into a more fulfilling life. The message is clear—we are all here to help each other.”

See below for full list of special screenings and events.

SPECIAL SCREENING LINEUP
Bernard and Huey
(USA) – Narrative Feature
Director: Dan Mirvish
Screenwriter: Jules Feiffer
Cast: Jim Rash, David Koechner, Mae Whitman, Sasha Alexander, Eka Darville, Richard Kind, Nancy Travis, Bellamy Young
Synopsis: From a script by Oscar/Pulitzer-winner Jules Feiffer (Carnal Knowledge), this is the story of two men behaving badly, and the strong women who rein them in.

Pick Of The Litter
(USA) World Premiere – Documentary Feature
Directors: Dana Nachman, Don Hardy
Screenwriter: Dana Nachman
Synopsis: Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from birth through the day they make it to become a Guide Dog and into the hands of a blind person, or… get cut from the program. The audience comes along on the two-year odyssey as the five dogs train to become guide dogs. Only the best dog will make the cut.

Quest
(USA) Narrative Feature
Director: Santiago Rizzo
Screenwriters: Santiago Rizzo, Darren Anderson
Cast: Dash Mihok, Lou Diamond Phillips, Lakeith Stanfield, Betsy Brandt, Greg Kasyan, Marlyne Barrett, Sepideh Moafi, Tobit Raphael
Synopsis: Quest is a non-romantic story of love, about a friendship between a 12-year-old graffiti addict who faces constant abuse from his step-father, and a teacher named Tim Moellering who believes there is no such thing as a bad kid — only a bad situation. Based on the stories of their lives, the first draft of Quest was written by director Santiago Rizzo and his teacher Tim Moellering. This is their story.

Roll With Me
(USA) Documentary Feature
Director: Lisa France
Screenwriter: Jeff Buccellato, Lisa France
Documentary Subjects: Gabriel Cordell, Christopher Kawas
Synopsis: After hitting rock-bottom, a newly sober paraplegic attempts to save his gang-banger nephew’s life by bringing him along on a 3,100-mile wheelchair trek across the United States. What starts out as a challenge to push an unmodified wheelchair from California to New York, morphs into a transcendent journey.

POLYTECHNIC PROGRAM
Crowdfunding for Career Independence
With Emily Best & Gerry Maravilla
Friday, January 19 – Noon – 1:30pm
Emily Best and Gerry Maravilla from Seed&Spark are here to share how crowdfunding can be an important tool for raising funds, widening your audience, and communicating with current and future fans in order to ensure that this isn’t the only project you make – it’s one of many in your lengthy filmmaking career. You’ll also find out why data, inclusion, and distro all factor into your success on Seed&Spark, the only platform with a 75% success rate for filmmakers. Learn why crowd-building has to occur before crowd-funding, how to set a realistic campaign goal, how to craft an effective pitch video, what the unique Seed&Spark feedback process is like, and how to continue your connection with your community after your campaign ends.

Two Brothers, Twenty Years: The Russo Brothers’ Past and Future
With Joe and Anthony Russo
Saturday, January 20 – Noon – 1:30pm
From their 1997 Slamdance premiere to their establishment of The Russo Brothers Fellowship at Slamdance 2018, Anthony and Joe Russo have seen the film industry change more (and more quickly) than it ever has before.
While working on myriad projects over two decades, the Russos have seen old-fashioned theater-going give way to pocket computers, streaming services, and endless OnDemand options. Amidst these changes, the brothers rose to studio heights while retaining the authenticity and artist-driven focus of independent filmmakers.
As mentors and partners, Anthony and Joe spend lunchtime with us, deconstructing the mythology of their own “indie success story,” and openly sharing the challenges they’ve faced and wisdom they’ve gained.

(De)escalation Room by Columbia DSL
With Lance Weiler
Sunday, January 21 – Noon – 2pm
What if we built an environment inspired by negative conversations and behaviors found on social media platforms and in the real world? Inside of this environment, situations quickly escalate. But this time, we would be able to do something about it.
The goal of the (De)escalation Room project is to design a creative framework that allows people to take the lead in creating their own immersive, collaborative experiences. Within these experiences, they’ll be able to teach each other how to identify escalating situations and safely de-escalate them; change norms around escalation; and leave room for self and group reflection on the process.

At Slamdance this January, Columbia DSL will present the next iteration of the (De)escalation Room. This workshop-style experience will transform audience members into participants, working together to collaboratively explore de-escalation.

When I Was You I Wish I Knew: The Ins and Outs of Distribution
With John Charles Meyer & Cullen Hoback
Monday, January 22 – Noon – 1:30pm
Slamdance alums John Charles Meyer (Dave Made a Maze) and Cullen Hoback (What Lies Upstream) remember how exhausting, overwhelming, and scary a time like this can be, no matter what sort of distribution possibilities you’re considering.

DIG LINEUP
(De)escalation Room Columbia University’s School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab and School of Social Work’s SAFElab, and is led by storyteller, entrepreneur and Slamdance Alumnus Lance Weiler.

The goal of the (De)escalation Room project is to design a creative framework that will allow people to take the lead in creating their own experience. Within these experiences, they’ll be able to teach each other how to identify escalating situations and safely de-escalate them; change norms around escalation; and leave room for self and group reflection on the process

BVOVB: Bruising Vengeance of the Vintage Boxer by Michal Rostocki
Your glory days as a boxer are long gone. Once a champ, now a bum. All you care about is beer and your dog – Max the Rottweiler. Unfortunately your faithful dog has been stolen and you must get him back and punish the ones responsible.

The game is inspired by classic arcade brawlers (Double Dragon, Final Fight) with many enemies, some boss fights and a simple storyline. All in the style of old silent movies with a ragtime themed soundtrack. Both characters and backgrounds are based on original black-and-white photos from the ‘20s and ‘30s.

The Game: The Game by Angela Washko
The Game: The Game is a video game presenting the practices of several prominent seduction coaches (aka pick-up artists) through the format of a dating simulator. In the game these pick-up gurus attempt to seduce the player using their signature techniques taken verbatim from their instructional books and video materials. The game sets up the opportunity for players to explore the complexity of the construction of social behaviors around dating as well as the experience of being a femme-presenting individual navigating this complicated terrain.

Washko hopes to add levels of complexity to public conversations around both pick-up and feminism which have both found themselves most often presented in highly polarized, dichotomous positions in mainstream media.