DAILY NEWS: Sundance Embraces Market Value; Blow Up and ContentFilm Unite; Atom Takes First Pic
by Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and Maud Kersnowski/indieWIRE
>> Sundance Embraces It's Market Value: Opens Sales Office
(indieWIRE/01.11.02) -- In recent years, Park City in January has become the most important unofficial film sales market in the world. That all changes today, with the opening of the Sundance Film Festival Industry Center/Sales Office.
For years, the issue of whether the festival should directly acknowledge its commercial element has caused considerable debate among organizers and attendees. Now, however, the discussion seems to have ended. "There have been some individuals at Sundance who felt that we shouldn't dirty our hands with commerce," festival co-director Geoffrey Gilmore told indieWIRE. "But as Robert Redford once said, 'one of the nicest things you can do for a filmmaker is get them out of debt.'"
The Sales Office's mandate is to facilitate contact between buyers and filmmakers. It also keeps track of rights and territory availability, offers meeting space and provides mailboxes for registered buyers. Operated in conjunction with Film Finders, the facility is located on the main floor of the Shadow Ridge Lodge. (It is open from 8A.M. to 7P.M. daily.)
Gilmore emphasized that the capabilities of the office will improve considerably in the years to come. "The reason this isn't what it should be is because we haven't been able to find the resources yet," said Gilmore, who plans on equipping the facility with video screening rooms and greater resources for international buyers. "This year is a big step for us. It's where we're headed."
Both distributors and film reps are eager to see what kind of role the Sales Office will play at this year's event. "We haven't figured out how we can use it," said Artisan Entertainment executive VP Patrick Gunn, "but it's still great that the festival is recognizing that in addition to being a great venue for independent film, it's also a great market." [Maud Kersnowski]
>> Blow Up and ContentFilm Kick Off 2002 Fest with Strategic Alliance
(indieWIRE: 01.11.02) -- Blow Up Pictures, the digital film company unveiled at Sundance '99 by Open City Films' Joana Vicente and Jason Kliot, is using the launch of this year's event as an opportunity to signal what Kliot calls a "new start for the company." Blow Up has formed a strategic alliance with Ed Pressman and John Schmidt's ContentFilm in a deal that will provide Blow Up with financing for its upcoming slate of 12-15 lower-budget features.
Content is among several investors with equity in Blow Up, which produces mostly digital films with budgets under $3 million. Recent projects include Miguel Arteta's "Chuck and Buck" (Sundance 2000), Daniel Minahan's "Series 7" (Sundance 2001, produced with Killer Films) and Nicole Holofcener's "Lovely & Amazing" (Telluride and Toronto 2000, produced with Good Machine). Blow Up also produced "Love in the Time of Money," director Peter Mattei's DV feature debut (screening out of competition) that will have its world premiere today at the Eccles Theater.
According to Kliot, who spoke with indieWIRE about the deal yesterday in Park City, the pact with ContentFilm takes the burden of raising money off his and Vicente's shoulders. "We want the world to know that we're excited about continuing to work with filmmakers," said Kliot. "We want to give them total creative control and final cut, and now we have the financing in place to do that."
Kliot said that he and Vicente have several projects in development and indicated that Blow Up could begin production on a film under the Content alliance in as quickly as a few months.
For ContentFilm's John Schmidt (a former chief at October Films), the Content deal continues a relationship with Kliot and Vicente that dates back to Tony Bui's "Three Seasons," which was released by October and produced by Open City. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1999. Reached en route to Park City yesterday, Schmidt indicated that while Content plans on funding a "significant" number of films each year, he realized that it would be "foolish to try to do it all internally."
As for Sundance 2002, Schmidt told indieWIRE that he intends to leave the aggressive acquisition work to the other companies, choosing instead to focus on discovering "diamonds in the rough" and forming relationships that can lead to new productions.
>> Atom Takes First Pic
(indieWIRE/01.11.02) -- Dotcom fury at Sundance may be a thing of the past, but AtomFilms is still buying shorts. On Thursday, the online content company acquired "Slo-Mo," director John Krokidas' "quarter-life crisis" comedy about a frustrated writer in New York City who gets caught in a world where everything happens in fast-motion. The company is heralding the deal as the first acquisition of Sundance 2002.
"I am thrilled about this deal," commented Krokidas in a prepared statement. "AtomFilms is going out of their way to ensure that my film will be seen throughout the world, both online and offline."
While the online presence this year pales in comparison to Sundance 2000, AtomFilms has returned to the event for its fourth year as a principle Sponsor of the Sundance Online Film Festival. Additionally, Atom CEO and founder Mika Salmi is participating in the "Web filmmaking: Dream or Reality?" panel on January 17th. Atom is set up at the Sundance Digital Center on 333 Main Street from 11am to 4pm. [Brian Brooks]