Thursday's clouds and snow gave way to blue skies and cool temperatures Friday, the first full day of the Sundance Film Festival screenings. And buyers in Park City got their first taste of what this year's lineup has to offer. The widely expected acquisition deal of the weekend is Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris' "Little Miss Sunshine," starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin, which debuted Friday night during a rousing screening at the Eccles Theater.
After a standing ovation, biz activity kicked into high gear with immediate offers rumored to be in the millions of dollars. At 1:30 a.m. local time early Saturday morning, negotiations were continuing and insiders told indieWIRE that an overnight deal was possible, but one added, "I think it will be a long night." A number of unnamed companies were said to be in the mix. Cinetic is selling the film.
Shortly before a screening of Paul Rachman's "American Hardcore" at the Holiday Village Friday afternoon, the heads of two leading New York companies differed over Dito Montiel's "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints." The buyer who had seen the film's first screening was quite high on the movie, likening it to classic American cinema, while the other -- merely relaying what a company deputy thought of the movie -- was not as enthusiastic. The lesson? It's often quite tough to gauge early industry reactions at market festivals like Sundance. William Morris is handling the film.
Meanwhile, typing the word "Hadjii" into Google News (which surveys 4,500 news sources) on Friday yielded only two links (as of 9 p.m. Friday). If early reports are accurate, that will no doubt change in the coming days when the media picks up on the director/writer/actor's feature film, "Somebodies," a Sundance dramatic competition entry that had its first screening Friday afternoon. A few buyers were in attendance for the film's debut and more are expected Saturday.
indieWIRE's critic Stephen Garrett described "Somebodies" as "the story of a black slacker college student in Georgia distracted from his future by a steady stream of liquor, sex and dulled ambition" and called it a "diamond in the rough" with standout performances, in a piece posted today. Other leading reviewers are said to be pleased as well. A key screening is set to kick-off the day at the Eccles Theater Saturday, with a rep for the film telling indieWIRE tonight that he expects an even larger group of buyers on hand for this second showing, after Friday's well-received showing. William Keys (formerly of Film Movement) and attorney Michael Linowes are handling sales.
Meanwhile back at the Holiday, the comprehensive hardcore punk doc "American Hardcore" by Paul Rachman (a founder of rival Park City fest, Slamdance), drew a number of buyers, with Films Transit representing the doc. It's still very early on, but one audience member asked Rachman if he would consider traveling around the country to release the movie (as he did in the making of the film). Certainly not against the D.I.Y. approach, Rachman explained that he'd rather sell the movie. "There is a huge built in audience for this film," he said, "In each town [where we shot] we could do two weeks." Continuing he added, "someone should be smart, but if they don't get it, well..."
SonyBMG Sets First Feature Project
SonyBMG Films announced Friday a deal for the original screenplay "Reggaeton," written by Albert Leon, with plans to produce the project in conjunction with Jennifer Lopez's Nuyorican Productions. The project, to be produce by Sofia Sondervan for SonyBMG and Jennifer Lopez and Simon Fields for Nuyorican, will mark the new company's first feature. The film, driven by a genre of music that mixes reggae and hip hop, is the story of "a talented 21-year-old from the South Bronx whose dreams of hip-hop stardom are dashed when a run-in with local thugs makes him flee the city to hide in Puerto Rico with the father he never knew."
SonyBMG Music Entertainment maintains a stable of numerous Reggaeton artists, including Voltio, Calle 13, Alexis y Fido, Zion y Lennox, John Eric and M.R.P. and a label deal with the Puerto Rican imprint, White Lion.
"'Reggaeton' is one of the most original scripts we've come across since we launched this division," said Sofia Sondervan, in a statement Friday. "We expect it will attract a top-notch director and cast." A Spring '06 production start date is anticipated for the movie, shooting in New York and Puerto Rico.
Nuyorican's head of development Janet Sales brought the script to SonyBMG and the deal was negotiated by Andrew Ross for SonyBMG and Bob Wallerstein for Nuyorican and Matt Leipzig and Jordan Bayer at Original Artists for writer Albert Leon.