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PARK CITY BIZ DAILY: With Buyers Going Big At Sundance ’06, Films Like “Saints” Hope For A Deal

PARK CITY BIZ DAILY: With Buyers Going Big At Sundance '06, Films Like "Saints" Hope For A Deal

Buyers have been primarily focused on buying higher-profile, star-driven titles at Sundance this year, snatching movies with name actors or eyeing genre work. “The Darwin Awards” joined the list of bigger name buys, alongside the premieres “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Science of Sleep,” “Right At Your Door,” and “Night Listener.” It was acquired by Bauer Martinez, according to Variety. Additionally, insiders are anticipating a bigtime deal for “The Illusionist” in coming days.

IFC Films‘ move to make the first doc deal of the festival is also the first at Sundance for a smaller, truly specialty title. Insiders are wondering if in the final weekend of Sundance they will see a shift towards buyers embracing specialty fare, like “Stephanie Daley“, “Half Nelson“, and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”

A worthy film that has developed a select list of industry fans is Dito Montiel‘s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” an at times arty, quite striking adaptation of a portion of the first time filmmaker’s 2003 memoir of the same name (audiences at the Eccles embraced the movie with an extended standing ovation Saturday).

Set among a group of kids growing up on the streets of New York City (mostly Queens) in the mid-80s, the film offers an array of standout performances from lead Shia LaBeouf, as well as Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, and Robert Downey Jr. Melanie Diaz, and Martin Compston round out the group. A source close to the film told indieWIRE that the film has offers on the table, but nothing is closed. Should the film nab a well-deserved award on Saturday night, additional buyers may very well take a closer look.

Producer Trudie Styler (also an actress and wife of former Police member, Sting), read Montiel’s book four years ago when there was talk of Robert Downey Jr. directing the movie. She later met the author who wanted to prove he could direct it and funded an eight- minute piece that Montiel would direct to show his ability. The script was further developed, and Montiel’s technique honed, at the Sundance labs.

“Saints” producer Trudie Styler at Cafe Terigo on Main St. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

“This was never supposed to be a biography,” explained Montiel during a post-screening Q & A session, “It is just about a bunch of kids and all the weird things you can say and you can’t say — this is a story of Queens, its just a neighborhood where kids are.”

Producer Styler has shown a fondness for supporting work by first-timers, notably Guy Ritchie‘s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” She explained during a chat with indieWIRE the other day in Park City, “Its so hard to get on the first rung of the ladder,” adding that she has been fortunate to have access to funding and personal resources and simply likes to put that money towards developing new talent. When funding fell about for “Saints” she resorted to her husband Sting to kick in a bit of funding. (The musician was in town to support the film this weekend and even spent time hanging out with former Police bandmates Andy Summers and Steward Copeland, in town with Copeland’s Police doc.)

Chatting about the film at Cafe Terigo this weekend, Styler said that she hopes the festival jury will single out director Montiel for his work on “Saints” and added that she is searching for the right deal for the movie.

“Its not about the dollar amount,” she explained, “Its about the vision, a clear marketing plan.” She added, smiling, “I want this child to go to a parent that is as good as me.”

[Get the latest from the Sundance Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Park City ’06 section.]

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“Execution” is a film that takes you closer to the final days of a man’s life on death row than possibly any film ever made. The film stars ex-Mississippi warden Donald Cabana who recently spoke on a panel at the Sundance Film Festival focusing on Hollywood’s fascination with and depiction of prison life. Ronald Reagan Jr. moderated the panel which also had some actors, producers and an ex-convict named Darryl Hunt who was released on DNA evidence. Representatives of HBO Films were also in the audience in support of their new film “The Trials of Darryl Hunt.” It was an interesting panel but amazingly this unassuming Mississippi Warden stole the show. Everyone in the audience was hanging on his every word as he told stories of what life in prison is really like. He not only had the audience in the palm of his hand but he talked about this film and proclaimed it was the most realistic depiction of a man’s last days on death row that he has ever seen. It seemed that a lot of people in Park City were talking about this film as red dots with the trademark “X” were seen all around town. The film’s producers are heading off to Los Angeles the first week of February to meet with potential distributors. While in Park City, several offers were made to represent the film but the producers decided not to make any commitments until after the trip to LA. Rumor has it that a former death row inmate from Georgia will be accompanying the producers to meetings with Hollywood executives. Visit the film’s Web Site for more information.

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