World-renowned Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, started by Robert Redford in 1969, is still the granddaddy of prestige in the American film world. A Sundance stamp of approval is every filmmaker’s dream. But it’s a small club and not everyone gets invited. In 1995, an alternative festival emerged to coincide with and challenge the mighty Sun: they called it Slamdance, and it has become just as vital as the big fest that spawned it. As STIFF (once Seattle True Independent Film Festival, now Seattle Transmedia Independent FF) is to Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), and as an underground series of events called South By So What? is to the industry titan South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX, Slamdance is the little fest that could, constantly pushing the conventions of cinema and partying all the way. As Timothy Vernor, founder of STIFF and a former Sundance volunteer has often said of why he started an alternative fest for Seattle, “It just seemed like the Slamdance people were having more fun.”
This year, two of Seattle’s own best and brightest young filmmakers are presently high up in the air, flying to Utah to get their Slamdance on and compete in The International Fusion Documentary Challenge, hosted by The Audience Awards (dot com), as one of twelve finalists vying for a slice of festival glory. As part of the competition’s criteria, directors of Oh, I Get It, Danny Tayara (also Programming Coordinator for Three Dollar Bill Cinema, producer of Seattle’s gay film fest) and Sara McCaslin had only 5 days to make a short documentary (4 to 7 minutes). The topic they chose was the continuing challenges facing LGBTQ comedians in the heavily white male dominated comedy world.
That white, heterosexual male comedy world can be intimidating and even dangerous. Last year, an open mic regular at a club in Renton, WA, assaulted the show’s host with a baseball bat, resulting in a fractured skull and national news coverage. While that incident is shocking, the banal belittling of women, ethnicities, and gays is insidious. So like many touring musicians these days who find dealing with the shrinking quality of clubland for their performances, Oh, I Get It featured comedian Kathleen Nacozy hosts comedy shows in her living room. Strings of soft white holiday lights act as a stage backdrop to create a comforting ambiance and a safe, supportive place for LGBTQ comics to hone their chops.
The big question this potent short film poses is whether comedy is a license to say anything about anybody. Maybe, but as co-director Tayara points out, “Any professional should be capable of writing comedy without using someone else’s identity as the punchline.” She goes further to explain how the audience can help this evolution along.
“Like Ijeoma Oluo says in [our] film, ‘when you stop laughing, the jokes change.’ We ‘get’ bad jokes, we’re just not laughing.”
Oh, I Get It makes its world premiere on Sunday, January 24 at 5:45 pm
Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main Street, Park City, Utah 84060