Drea Clark has a new job at the Slamdance Film Festival. But she is hardly a newcomer to the truly low-budget indie film showcase that runs each January in Park City, Utah, while the bigger and better-known Sundance festival roils all around it.
Clark started with Slamdance as an intern in 1998, three years after the festival was launched by co-founder and current president Peter Baxter. She has been chair of the event's narrative feature competition programming committee for the past five years and festival producer for the past two.
Last month she was named Slamdance's executive director, charged with expanding the festival's role of nurturing emerging film-making talent. And the job is one she clearly relishes.
"When you get to take something you love and shape it in the way you've always wanted it to go, that's really challenging and encouraging," says Clark, from the Los Angeles office she occupies for most of the year. The most difficult task, she suggests, will be "keeping true to all the things that make us great and interesting, such as the integrity of our process, while becoming a real year-round force that more people want to be part of".
The line-up for this year's event (January 17-25) was chosen, as in previous years, by four programming committees made up mostly of festival alumni film-makers. The unusual consensus approach was used to sift through more than 3,500 submissions to select entries for the narrative feature competition - reserved for first-time feature directors working with budgets of under $1m - and the documentary, shorts and special screenings sections.
The line-up includes opening night special screening Real Time, written and directed by Randall Cole and starring Randy Quaid, and 10 competition narrative features, among them world premiere Fix from the US, North American premiere Jetsam from the UK, and North American premiere Under The Snow from Spain.
Even before the line-up was announced, however, Clark had started on the task of developing Slamdance's year-round presence. Contributing to that will be a revamped website, designed to be easily accessible from phones and other handheld devices, and non-festival events such as 'best of' screenings and regular alumni meetings.
"I'm really trying to make the community of Slamdance more accessible to people who aren't in Los Angeles or Park City," Clark explains. "We have such a fun and unique family of people that we've created, and I'd like to push it out to the rest of the world."
The wider presence should also boost Slamdance's value to the industry. Though a number of its previous selections - including Maria Full Of Grace, The Woodsman, Mad Hot Ballroom and The King Of Kong - have gone on to secure distribution deals, the festival has more often served to introduce first-time film-makers whose second or third films hit big. The list includes Christopher Nolan (Memento), Mark Forster (Monster's Ball) and Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite).
"We're looking for the directorial talent of tomorrow," Clark declares, "someone who has a voice and a talent that can make a mark in the industry."