It started four weeks ago when Sundance rejects Keith Spiegel and Cabot Orton decided to screen their Groupies in Park City guerrilla-style. (The same way Slamdance started four years ago.) The pair invested $10,000 of their own money to rent theater space on Main Street and to secure projection equipment to show their film, along with nine others.
But the big break came on the train trip from Spiegel's Vermont home. "I hate to fly," he says with a laugh. But he met a couple of Sundance volunteers who became unofficial spies.
On the eve of Sundance, the couple called with news that Kurt was being pulled. Spiegel immediately contacted the film's director, Nick Broomfield, and three days later--after Broomfield's negotiations with Slamdance fell through--Slamdunk had its opening-night film and a frenzied crowd out front.
"Daryl Hannah and Sofia Coppola had to shove their way," Spiegel says from Slamdunk HQ, a rented Elks lodge meeting space with folding chairs and a portable screen.
And what of Courtney Love, whose threats of lawsuits scared off Sun and Slam? "She hasn't bugged us," Spiegel says. "I think she kind of found out that there's really nothing inciminating about the film." (Critical buzz is that the docu is noteworthy mainly for its subject matter--the "suicide" of Kurt Cobain.)
By calling on talent already in town for Sundance, Spiegel landed Civil War-maker Ken Burns and director George Hickenlooper (the short, Some Folks Call it a Slingblade) for group discussions. And many of the fest's films have stars: Groupies stars Ally Sheedy, Dogtown has Mary Stuart Masterson and Jon Favreau and Ill Gotten Gains is a slave-revolt story with Djimon Hounsou shot pre-Amistad.
While Sundance has a big closing-night awards show and party tonight, what's Slamdunk got planned? "Maybe a mock awards. We haven't figured it out yet. We'll probably just have a party."
Well, maybe next year. Spiegel says they plan to return to Park City for Slamdunk II next January.