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SXSW ’08 DISPATCH | As “Nights and Weekends” Debuts, Swanberg & Gerwig Sign Worldwide Deal with IFC

SXSW '08 DISPATCH | As "Nights and Weekends" Debuts, Swanberg & Gerwig Sign Worldwide Deal with IFC

The SXSW Film Festival, annual meeting place for that infamous interconnected movement of new American filmmakers known as Mumblecore, has yielded a deal for the new film from prolific DIY director Joe Swanberg. In a pact brokered in recent days, IFC Entertainment quickly acquired worldwide rights to Swanberg and Greta Gerwig‘s “Nights and Weekends,” announcing the deal as the film had its world premiere tonight (Sunday) here in Austin, TX. and less than a year after distributing Swanberg’s “Hannah Takes The Stairs,” which debuted here last March.

“It’s so rad to me,” enthused Swanberg, chatting with indieWIRE tonight prior to the film’s world premiere screening. He praised the IFC deal for enabling his film to reach a wider audience through the company’s unique VOD initiative that can deliver new films to millions of cable television households.

“We knew that we wanted to be the home for Joe and Greta and we felt pretty strongly about staying in business with them,” noted IFC acquisitions head Arianna Bocco, reached by phone from the Miami International Film Festival today. She added that the deal happened so quickly in the days leading up to the SXSW festival that the company has yet to determine the distribution plan for the movie, but a late summer release is being considered. The company’s Liz Nastro, a SXSW regular (and IFCE’s director of acquisitions and co-productions), negotiated the pact with the film’s producer Anish Savjani, of filmscience, who repped the filmmakers (and was profiled in indieWIRE last year).

Described by IFC as, “an intimate portrayal of longing and confusion,” the film tracks a pair of lovers (played by Swanberg and Gerwig), struggling with a long distance relationship. Co-directed and co-produced by Swanberg and Gerwig, the film also stars Elizabeth Donius, Jay Duplass, Lynn Shelton and Kent Osborne. It was produced by Savjani and Dia Sokol, with Matthias Grunsky and Benjamin Kasulke as directors of photography.

“It’s very surreal to have people watch this,” Gerwig said on-stage tonight at the Austin Convention Center, ahead of the film’s world premiere. She echoed similar comments from Swanberg, who noted that after two years working closely with Gerwig on the film, “It feels weird that nobody has seen it yet.”

The “Nights and Weekends” deal marks an important landmark for the fifteen year old Texas festival, an increasingly important American showcase that has proven a key festival of discovery and built its name in recent years amidst the growing acclaim for the work of such filmmakers as Swanberg, Aaron Katz, Andrew Bujalski, Ronnie Bronstein, and many others. While the pact was brokered in the days leading up to SXSW last week, IFC noted that the deal is the first such acquisition to be announced for a world premiere during the festival.

Scoring a deal so quickly for their film also marks an important step for the filmmakers. “It’s the first time that Joe, Greta, Dia and I can actually have a good time at the festival,” Savjani quipped. “We get to have a good time and really enjoy the fruits of our labors here. It’s such a good feeling and a real sense of accomplishment. We really get to share in the success of it.”

Praising the IFC team, producer Anish Savjani told indieWIRE tonight that he is certain IFC is the right place for the movie. “I have to think that IFC’s strategy is more about the longevity of this film and the filmmakers,” he added, “Working with them on ‘Hannah Takes The Stairs’ was just so great. I hope it’s not our last time, they are nurturing the talent of these filmmakers…they are getting into bed with a lot of great filmmakers that they know are going to branch out and are going to be big.”

“They are the definition of filmmakers who are doing it on their own and making a business out of it, but also creating art and a movement,” IFC’s Bocco said of Swanberg and Gerwig, “They have international presence [and] I think they epitomize the kind of up and coming filmmakers that we want to work with. If we can be that home, that’s great.”

“‘Nights and Weekends’ is Joe’s most personal, intimate work,” praised SXSW festival head Matt Dentler, a tireless champion of the work from the Mumblecore filmmakers over the years. Chatting with indieWIRE on Sunday, he said of the deal, “If anything, it helps show that ‘Nights and Weekends” is Joe’s best movie yet…and hopefully it continues to let people know that there is a potential audience for these kinds of movies.”

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