Dan Mirvish

“All along the way, I would use the Malcolm X strategy of shameless self-promotion: By any means necessary.”
Dan Mirvish

Dan Mirvish is an American filmmaker and author, best known as the co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival and co-creator of the Martin Eisenstadt hoax during the 2008 Presidential election. In 2009, he co-authored the satirical novel “I Am Martin Eisenstadt: One Man’s (Wildly Inappropriate) Adventures with the Last Republicans” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  In 2004, Mirvish spearheaded the effort to get the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to reactivate their Best Original Musical Oscar category. In a controversial move, the Academy canceled the category after Mirvish and others submitted the requisite number of films, including two by Mirvish.

Find out more about Dan or contact him for to help Gavin’s How Many Days? mission here:

Sometimes you have to hit the streets and promote one on one.

I first read about Dan when reading the best book on filmmaking I’ve ever encounted. It’s since become my bible: “How To Make A Movie For Under $10,000 & Not Go To Jail”. Dan wrote the foreword which showed any aspiring filmmaker how to remodel their kitchen, have their home appraised, and take the increased value out as a loan in under to find the $10,000 to make their film. That’s dumbing it down because it was quite brilliant and truly related you to everything that you need as a person and the work ethic you need to make it as a filmmaker. My respect for Dan wasn’t done growing here.

Although Robert Redford founded the Sundance Film Festival, named after his character from that Butch Cassidy movie, the real Sundance Kid might be Dan Mirvish.   He was unable to get his film into the Sundance Film Festival, seeing the festival’s politics and their desire to show less and less true independent films.  In this, Dan saw a need for independent films. A need he could fulfill by creating a platform to screen them and pay it forward for other independent filmmakers. Banding together with other filmmakers that shared the same thoughts on Sundance, Dan co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival in 1995.

Slamdance would also take place in Utah at the same time as Sundance. The mission of this festival was to provide an outlet for truly independent films to have screenings and for filmmakers to launch their careers. A notable talent screened at this festival was director Christopher Nolan with his film “Following”. He has since gone on to direct the second highest grossing film of all time, “The Dark Knight.”

Dan’s inspiration to me might be the most direct. In the city where I live, Windsor, Ontario, a film festival began four years ago. The Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF). This was exciting, this was great for the city, this was going to give a voice to local filmmakers and films being made here… which mostly fall under the radar of even my neighbours and friends. Except that it wasn’t going to do that. There would be no inclusion of local film. A reason for which is up in the air for debate. I wasn’t going to tolerate it and felt the oversight of not showcasing the city’s own artists was completely unreasonable and unacceptable. I wasn’t even talking about my own films. I didn’t have a completed film to show at the time but if the festival was to continue, it would have to include our own kind. We are the automotive capital of Canada. We have it beaten into our heads that if we don’t buy domestic then we’ll all be out of jobs and a city to live in. We know to support local farmers. Local. Local. Local. I’ve never in my life and travels seen a city that believes in this principle more than here in Windsor. Yet when it comes to the arts, the artists get it. They support. The city, the larger festivals for music and now film – tend to turn a blind eye.

Now, their festival is awesome. Great films from around the world shown. WIFF generates business for downtown restaurants and nightlife establishments. It adds prestige to the city. Excellent. However, I couldn’t sit and watch the local sector of film be shut out. It’s a growing sector. More and more features and shorts shot each year. So if WIFF issued the call, I gave an answer chorus.

F.U. Windsor Festival.

F.U. Windsor! If Windsor’s own film festival wasn’t going to support, I’d get together a few filmmakers (only one other saw the problem and was willing to challenge it head on… but one is enough… two is fantastic to make change!) that could say F.U. to the city.

F.U. = Filmmakers Unite.

What did you think it means? Well, you wouldn’t be alone if you thought it was a flip off to the city (Watch here to see the media’s reaction and my breakdown of their news story). The goal was the raise awareness for local film and continue the festival year to year beyond the one film we had to show that first year when there was no willingness to align with a rather touchy named festival.

Blah blah blah – long story short, the next year WIFF began to support local filmmakers with a 48 Hour short film contest. They have continued this with each year passing and there’s rumour of supporting locally shot and produced films for this year. Exciting! Worth every bit of the Boogeyman legacy it left me with in the wake of F.U. Windsor. A local film festival showcasing local filmmakers. Go WIFF! How easy and suited.

Now that story time is over, Dan taught me that you can stand up to the big organization and rattle cages to get what you feel is right. If it’s right, there is a way and there is a solution. Filmmakers can’t just think about themselves. You have to think about your neighbouring filmmakers and especially in your hometown do what you can to give back to the filmmaking community and ensure that it continues to grow so that everyone’s films can thrive.

Filmmakers need outlets to get their films shown. Film festivals are a great way to do that. Gaining the support and audience of your own city… should be easy. Needed to be easy. Dan showed me how to do this here in Windsor.

Are you in the film business or a fan of his work?  Were you inspired by Dan Mirvish?  If so, what do you like about them?  Leave a comment below, post a scene from his films or interviews from youtube with him.  I dare you!

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