Hey, Jewish filmmakers! If you've done everything you can to try to get to Park City this week for the Sundance Festival, or its increasingly popular avant-garde cousin, the Slamdance Festival, but haven't made the cut, next year try the SchmoozeDance Festival. Created five years ago by film aficionado Larry Mark, a 44-year-old living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, SchmoozeDance might not be the biggest Jewish film fest in the world, but it is the only one that takes place next to the most prestigious festival in the world.
Jewish Journal: What exactly is SchmoozeDance?
Larry Mark: SchmoozeDance is festival of new and independent films with Jewish themes that I hold during Sundance and Slamdance; it's a Sundance minyan with films.
JJ: How did this come about?
LM: I started it five years ago. I was going to Sundance and I figured, why not sponsor an oneg Shabbat for all the Jewish people in town? There are a lot of Jewish people in Park City, and my idea was to have Kiddush and oneg Shabbat and show one or two films. Now I'm up to 10 films.
JJ: What are the requirements to get into SchmoozeDance?
LM: To have a new, independent film with a Jewish theme. We try to pick one that doesn't have a distributor yet, a new filmmaker, a first film. If we can't, we might show older films.
JJ: So does anyone apply to SchmoozeDance?
LM: I usually have a call for entries, and post it around on message boards. And some people do submit their films, but it's better to go out and find them -- the people who I want never apply. I do get some films, but the people who send them are either really independent or are like bar mitzvah videos.
JJ: Who comes to SchmoozeDance?
LM: About 85 people came last year. Eighty percent are from the synagogue [Har Shalom, which co-sponsors the festival] and the surrounding area, and 20 percent are filmmakers and distributors in Park City for the festival. Last year, we had three South American skiers who were in town and heard about us.
JJ: What is your theme this year?
LM: There's really no theme. Friday night is SchmoozeDance, showing some new independent films. And our Saturday is KidzDance.
LM: There are a lot of children who are members of the synagogue. So it's films for children with Jewish themes.
JJ: Why do you do this?
LM: At first I was looking for a way to promote my Web site, www.jewishfilm.com, and to create some sort of event, but then this took on a life of its own, so the Web site went into the background.
JJ: So, Jewish festivals use your site to find films. Do you catalog every Jewish film?
LM: On jewishfilm.com, you can find 1,200 films and how to [get in touch with the people]. But it's not every [Jewish film]. When I used to mention Jewish films, people used to say, "Oh, you mean, 'Fiddler on the Roof' and I said, 'No, there's so much more.'" That's why I created this site, as a hobby. Eight years ago.
JJ: What are your hopes for SchmoozeDance?
LM: Temple Har Shalom is building a much larger synagogue, so they will have a stand-alone building ... so I hope in the future we're a much larger venue, and can have a whole weekend of Jewish films. What would be great is to have a Jewish student filmmakers contest. It would also be great if all the people who come to Park City for their festivals would come to synagogue where they could have culture or worship during services.
JJ: Do you make movies?
LM: No, I although I do have some ideas for some.
JJ: Why haven't you made them?
LM: I'm happy just watching them.
SchmoozeDance 2005 takes place Jan. 21-22 at Temple Har Shalom, 1922 Prospector Ave., Prospector Square, Park City, Utah.
For more information, visit www.jewishfilm.com. The Jewish Journal will feature more coverage from the Sundance Film Festival in the Feb. 4 issue.