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UST Alumnus Bass Breaks into Slamdance

Catching a break in the film industry is no easy task. It can often take years for an independent filmmaker to get his work noticed. But University of St. Thomas graduate Josh Bass, ’01, recently earned his first big break when his short film was accepted into a major North American independent film festival, the Slamdance Film Festival.

Bass’s 17-minute film, titled “Joey and Jerome’s Artistic Meaningful Independent Film,” had previously been awarded “Best Comedy” in both the Gulf Coast Film Festival and the Texandance Film Festival, as well as “Best Short Film” at the World of Comedy Film Festival. But to be accepted into the prestigious Slamdance, a festival which takes place just down the road from Sundance in Park City, Utah, is a notable accomplishment for Bass. He will be traveling to the festival when it is held Jan. 21-28.

“This is the biggest and most prestigious fest I've been involved in,” he said, “and it shows me that a film with no-name actors or some crazy hook can get into a big festival, about which I was seriously starting to wonder.”

The film is about Joey and Jerome, two friends who typically only watch intense action movies, but are inspired to make their own artistic independent film after watching several indie movies upon the recommendation of Jerome’s sister. With an extremely low budget ($36), a VHS camera and no other crew or actors but themselves, the two proceed to make their own indie movie.

The idea for the film began a few years ago, when Bass saw the movie Garden State and realized that many independent films have the same cliché elements to them. So he took that idea and created a script using his two characters, Joey and Jerome, whom he had used for a previous short film.

“It occurred to me that many of the independent films I'd seen in the last several years, including Garden State, had an awful lot in common,” he said. “Basically, it’s a lot of forced quirkiness that's supposed to be charming. So I wondered, ‘What if Joey and Jerome watched a few independent films, thought they were all like this, and made an no-budget indie movie with every one of these clichés?’ That was the genesis of the idea.”

After about three years of working on the film, from initial script-writing to final edits, Bass had a finished product that he submitted into Slamdance. Though he has made 10 other short films before “Joey and Jerome,” this is the first to be accepted into a major film festival of this caliber.

Bass graduated from UST as a communication major with a focus on radio, television and film. H e admits that when he first came to St. Thomas, he didn’t have much of an interest in film. It wasn’t until he began taking production classes that he found a subject he really liked.

“When I got to college, I knew nothing about the field of communications or TV.  When I finally got to the TV production classes in my junior year, it opened up a whole new world of mischievous fun for me,” Bass said. “I learned the basics of camera operation, editing and all things related, and the classes showed me a field I found interesting that I previously didn't know existed.”

Bass said he plans on to continue to make more short films, sketches and commercial parodies, all of which he enjoys much more than making full-length feature films. His breakthrough with Slamdance is one that could potentially help him land a distribution deal, and it gives him a confidence boost as he creates future projects.

“I have a better chance at Slamdance than any other fest I've been in to meet other filmmakers and other people in the industry that could get my work into the right hands to further my career,” Bass said. “At the very least it will encourage me to not be as shy about entering larger festivals with my next project.”