Dances With Films Festival to shine a light on emerging filmmakers

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For all but the most dedicated cinephiles, a glance at the roster of actors and filmmakers featured in the Dances With Films Festival would likely prompt a blank stare or perhaps a murmur of “Who?” And that’s precisely the point.

The scrappy indie film fest, which runs May 29 to June 8 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, is committed to discovering and promoting unknown and emerging talent.

“Our whole thrust is on no celebrities,” said Leslee Scallon, who founded Dances With Films 17 years ago with Michael Trent when they couldn’t get their own low-budget feature into any festivals.


“Truly, anybody who’s a big enough name to open a film isn’t somebody that we’re going to invite into our festival” to premiere a film, she said. “We’re very much about the discovery of new filmmakers … and showing the industry and the L.A. film-loving audiences a little bit of what else can be out there besides what’s being released by studios.”

Dances With Films — the moniker is a cheeky reference to the onetime proliferation of festivals with “dance” in the name, including Sundance, Slamdance, Digidance and Nodance — will open this year with Riz Story’s “A Winter Rose” and close with fellow festival alum Erik Peter Carlson’s “The Toy Soldiers.”

In between, the fest will screen more than 100 narrative features, shorts, documentaries and music videos, while also hosting panels and conversations with industry players. New to the festival this year is Dances With Kidz, a showcase of family-friendly films and movies made by kids.

Organizers are hoping to draw 12,000 to 14,000 attendees over the course of the festival. For more information, go to