With heavy snow falling from a big winter storm in Park City this afternoon (and buyers back in New York City wondering how the weather might impact travel plans), a trio of acquisitions deals were announced today on the eve of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. A highlight of last year's Sundance Film Festival was the low-budget indie feature "The Puffy Chair" by Jay and Mark Duplass. Roadside Attractions and Netflix announced today a joint venture to release the movie together in theaters this Spring, followed by DVD and TV distribution. In other acquisitions news, IFC Films announced a pair of deals, picking up Caveh Zahedi's "I Am A Sex Addict" and Cedric Klapisch's "Russian Dolls". Both "Puffy Chair" and "Sex Addict" were selected by the editors and writers of indieWIRE as two of of the best films of 2005 without distribution.
One Year Later: A Deal for "The Puffy Chair"
The Duplass Brothers' no-budget indie (Jay directed; Mark stars, writes and produces) played during the second half of Sundance last year, picking up steam when it screened two-months later at SXSW in Austin (where it won the emerging visions audience award). The film clicked with audiences, building on the success the duo experienced with their short films. The film was recently nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards - the John Cassevetes Award and the Someone to Watch Award. After a few filmmaking false starts in the late '90s and then a trio of recent popular short films, "The Puffy Chair" jumpstarted Jay and Mark Duplass' careers, leading to a number of new potential film and TV projects.
"Roadside was the first company to show a genuine interest in 'The Puffy Chair' at its premiere at Sundance exactly a year ago," explained Jay Duplass in an email interview with indieWIRE today, expressing admiration for Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric D'Arbeloff. "They've consistently expressed interest in distributing the film over the last year, but more importantly, it's been clear to us that they really get the movie, its humor, and the way audiences respond to it." Mark Duplass added, via email, "Also, the Netflix side of this deal is really exciting to us -- they have some amazing ideas on how to promote the film that really haven't been tried before, so we're psyched to be a part of something new."
Roadside and Netflix said in an announcement that they will co- finance the P & A for the theatrical release of the film, which will be co-promoted on the Netflix website.
"Over and over again we heard people say how much they loved our film but that without stars, they were hesitant to get involved," continued Mark Duplass, crediting Cinetic Media for its work on the movie and saying about Netflix, "A lot of companies are afraid to market smaller indie films these days, and it is a challenge, but these guys have innovative ideas and confidence... and balls, too..."
The partnership will carry over to all ancillaries. Howard Cohen, Co- President of Roadside Attractions, and Eric Besner, VP of Original Programming for Netflix, negotiated the deal with Liesl Copland of Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.
"This is a classic independent comedy that can stand beside great new voices like Kevin Smith's 'Chasing Amy' and Greg Mottola's 'The Daytrippers,'" said Roadside co-president Eric d'Arbeloff in a statement. "Working with Netflix excites us because the company provides a viable and critical distribution method for films like this one."
IFC Films Gets Two New Movies
IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring announced a pair of pacts as Sundance begins. Caveh Zahedi's "I Am A Sex Addict" is described as a look at "the life of an insecure young man who becomes addicted to prostitutes, and finds himself unable to stop even though it destroys all of his relationships. He decides to make a movie about his predicament..." The movie debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and won a special Gotham Award for an undistributed movie.
Cedric Klapisch's "Russian Dolls," is a follow-up to his hit film "The Spanish Apartment." The movie, which stars Romain Duris, is described as the story of "an aimless aspiring novelist whose greatest achievement is a co-credit on an over-the-top TV soap. His romantic life is equally disappointing, consisting of one-night stands and unfinished romances until a chance meeting promises an answer to both his career slump and love life." The film also stars Audrey Tautou and Kelly Reilly.
"These two works represent a divergent spectrum of films and filmmaking and we are proud to bring these two richly engaging films to IFC," said Sehring in a statement. "Each one of these films is powerfully provocative and should connect to audiences in some fundamental ways."
Sehring and IFC VP of acquisitions Sarah Lash negotiated the deal for "I Am A Sex Addict" with John Sloss and Liesl Copland of Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers, and the deal for "Russian Dolls" was negotiated with John Kochman of Studio Canal.
Words of Warning From The Two New Veterans
"We have had to reckon with the current climate of the industry in that if your movie doesn't have stars and doesn't fit a specific niche market, it's going to be really hard to sell, no matter how good it is," concluded Jay Duplass. "This is something that we really 'know' now. But to be honest, I doubt it'll affect the way we make movies in the future. We're just so glad we made what seems to be a good one and that people like it."
Mark Duplass added, "Yeah, it's hard enough to make a good movie without the pressure of tons of money and the star system -- we're still really into the idea of surrounding yourself with family and friends and trying to make something funny and, if were lucky, meaningful."