DAILY NEWS: Sundance Biz and Slamdance Winners
by Eugene Hernandez and Maud Kersnowski/indieWIRE
>> Show Me The Money: Sundance 2002
(indieWIRE: 01.19.02) -- The party circuit may have been chilled, but business
at Sundance this year was hotter than ever. A dozen films have already sold,
and another dozen or so are doing the distribution mating dance.
A combination of factors, including Toronto's interrupted market in
September, light production in Hollywood during the second half of 2001 and
the high number of selections featuring Hollywood's A-list have created a
shopping spree that began early and will most likely continue for several
weeks. "Buyers knew why they were here, and it obviously wasn't for the
parties," Cinetic's Micah Green told indieWIRE.
Several weeks ago, everyone was murmuring that the flagging economy would
force Park City-bound distributors to leave their checkbooks at home. But
everything changed after Miramax , the biggest fish in the pond, snapped up
rights to "Tadpole" and "Blue Car" early on in the festivities. Suddenly, a
deal was being cut in the back room of every condo party. Lions Gate (which
made the first festival deal), Sony Pictures Classics, Fine Line, Fox
Searchlight, Palm Pictures and the nascent ThinkFilm all grabbed films in the first week. "People were assuming that the larger economic recession was
going to effect this small segment of the entertainment industry, " said
Green. "But everybody's been acting very aggressively. It's not the same
lethargy we've seen in past years."
Despite the opinion of Hollywood trade papers, most buyers and sellers don't
attribute the activity this year to a shift towards more serious content in
the wake of Sept. 11. "That's a Hollywood concern," said ThinkFilm head of
distribution Mark Urman. "In the independent world, the national climate is
not only irrelevant, it's alien." Sept. 11's effect on the bubbling market
is more attributable to the disrupted Toronto Film Festival. "[Distributors]
needed to fill their slates," said festival co-director Geoff Gilmore. "People
came into this festival determined not to be left behind."
"I left my family and home and came here with 14 layers of clothing to buy
films," said Urman. "Mission accomplished." ThinkFilm has already snagged two
titles: Gus Van Zant's "Gerry" and Peter Mattei's "Love in the Time of Money."
The number of movies with celebrity cast members has swollen this year to a
point where some reps feel that worthy films are being eclipsed. But Gilmore
defends this year's selection. "Just because a well-known actor wants to take
a risk is not a reason for me to disregard [a film]," said Gilmore. "To say
that we've gone Hollywood is unfair. These are tough films. They do not
But the indie world probably doesn't need to worry about Hollywood mounting a
full-scale invasion on Park City. "You don't see any of these actors giving up
their day jobs and committing to independent film," Green observed. "But I
think if you ask any of them, this is the work that makes them the most proud."
Where the stars go, the press have always followed. But while Park City
certainly had more than it's share of paparazzi this year, there were fewer
people around. "The town was dead," said Green. "There weren't as many
hangers-on who flew in from LA. It made it a lot easier to do business, and
The press that Green did have problems with this year was the trades, which
reported the acquisition of several films that weren't actually sold. "They
didn't even call to ask us," said Green. "The press is jumping the gun. This
was a great festival year, but when [the trades] print that something is sold
before the deal is done, it hurts the film."
The real test of whether this kind of buying frenzy will carry over next year
will come when these acquisitions hit theaters," said Gilmore. "If there are
a lot of disappointed buyers six months from now, it will come back on us.
But," he added, "if and when some of these films succeed, the critical insight
is going to be: 'Look at how commercial these [Sundance] films are.'"
>> "Stone Reader" Wins Top Slamdance Prizes
(indieWIRE: 01.19.02) -- The Slamdance Film Festival has announced the winners
for its 8th annual event. Mark Moskowitz' "Stone Reader" won the audience award and a special grand jury honor, while Eitan Gorlin's "The Holy Land" won the grand jury prize for best feature. The grand jury prize for best documentary went to Lucia Small's "My Father, The Genius."
In the shorts category, Boris Hars-Tschachotin's "Lurch" took home the short narrative award and Lisa Yu's "Vessel Wrestling" nabbed short experimental honors. The audience award for best short went to Tom Gibbons for "The Hunger Artist."
"Best of Slamdance" screenings will continue today. Visit the festival website
for more info: www.slamdance.com. [Eugene Hernandez]