Super Deluxe had big plans for “The Passage.” The 21-minute comedy from Philip Burgers and Kitao Sakurai premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and won honors at the LA Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest, and the New York Television Festival, among others — accolades that qualified the film to compete in the Academy Awards’ live-action short film category. To promote the short’s Nov. 2 premiere on its site, Super Deluxe sent sandwiches to the press (a nod to a memorable scene).
And then, on Oct. 19 Turner Media parent WarnerMedia decided to shut down the edgy digital studio in a move to streamline its digital offerings. A week later, “The Passage” also lost its long-term home: It was to be available indefinitely on FilmStruck, which WarnerMedia will shutter at the end of November.
However, there’s still Turner sibling TBS and TBS Digital, where “Passage” is now available for screening. It will also be on FilmStruck until that service’s Nov. 30 closure.
“We had had our eyes on ‘The Passage’ for a while,” said Brett Weitz, TBS’ executive vp and head of original content. “It’s unfortunate what’s going on with Super Deluxe, but we’re thrilled that we can continue ‘The Passage’ on our platform, because it deserves to be seen and it’s a great piece of material. And Phil is a brilliant creator.”
Weitz said he’s currently combing through Super Deluxe’s library and development slate to see what else he might be able to transport to TBS and TBS Digital. “The hope is that some of their stuff that was maybe going to come to us at any point, we could take sooner rather than later,” he said. “The Super Deluxe brand itself probably won’t live on in the TBS DNA… [if we] migrate that talent and bring those people to our side, that will be a win.”
“The Passage” earned raves for Burgers’ performance. A theatrically trained clown, he doesn’t speak throughout the entire short. Instead, he uses his physical performance and emotional expressions to convey the story of a man traveling through the world while being chased — and meeting a wide variety of people from multiple cultures along the way.
Sakurai directed “The Passage, which comes from Abso Lutely Prods. In his Sundance review of the short, IndieWire TV critic Ben Travers wrote, “‘The Passage’ stands out because it’s so very different from anything else out there, but it’s still incredibly relatable, heartfelt, and very, very funny.”
Weitz said it was easy to move “The Passage” from Super Deluxe to TBS Digital thanks to both companies being under the Turner banner. Relaunched three years ago after being part of Adult Swim, Super Deluxe had been ramping up production with the production of the Sundance Now drama “This Close” and selling the Uma Thurman series “Chambers” to Netflix. Internally, Turner also saw Super Deluxe as an incubator for projects that might eventually graduate to episodic series on its linear networks.
“The Passage” may also eventually get an airing on the TBS network, but Weitz said he’d wait first to see the reaction to the short online. Meanwhile, the last-minute switch making “The Passage” a TBS Digital project means that TBS may inadvertently wind up with an Oscar nominee.
“I’ll take 100 percent of responsibility for that, as does every other executive in Hollywood on projects they have nothing to do with,” Weitz joked, before making sure to add, “Where credit is due, credit will be given.”
Watch “The Passage” in its entirety below: