Sundance, Cannes and Berlin are just some of the world’s top festivals where major movie sales are completed. But Telluride is mostly a launchpad for Fall awards contenders. Yet, unexpectedly, this 39th edition is drawing a large number of distributors interested in picking up some great deals. Among the titles for sale here are Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha starring a delightful Greta Gergwig; Canada’s and Sri Lanka’s Midnight’s Children; thriller The Iceman starring Michael Shannon; director Sally Potter’s Ginger And Rosa; the documentary Love, Marilyn based on newly discovered diaries of Marilyn Monroe; and Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda. Of course, 2009′s The Last Station devised an unusual strategy by exclusively premiering in Telluride and also nabbing a Sony Pictures Classics deal plus two major acting Oscar nominations. And in 2010, Fox Searchlight execs saw a secret showing of The Tree Of Life here and quickly nailed rights for the film, which would eventually be nominated for Best Picture of 2011.
Baumbach is certainly hoping his film Frances Ha secures quick distribution although the first screening Saturday afternoon at the Galaxy suffered a sound snafu. Baumbach told me he frantically kept yelling “Stop the film” when the mistake was discovered. (As the half-hour delay dragged on, he shouted from the back rows, “And how is the world premiere of your movie going today?” He can laugh about it now that reaction has been stellar to the black-and-white comedy in which Gerwig reminds of a Diane Keaton circa Annie Hall in her acting style of complete abandon. Gerwig said the dialogue track problem at the first screening made her want to run to the lobby and throw up. But the crowd was forgiving. Several distributors tell me they are interested, and one of them was seen cornering Baumbach at Sunday night’s mid-festival gathering.
The Iceman‘s enthusiastic producer Ehud Bleiberg (The Band’s Visit, Adam Resurrected) is making his 4th trek to Telluride and says there are “several offers on the table”. But unless the filmmakers get the price they want, the production company Millennium will just release it themselves. And it could be in time for the Oscars as Bleiberg is determined to get it out this year, saying that Michael Shannon’s lead performance is remarkable. It will screen again tomorrow in Telluride hoping to nab a buyer after enthusiastic reviews accompanied its Venice Film Festival debut a few days ago. It is also headed to Toronto.
Potter’s coming-of-age tale set in England, Ginger And Rosa, sports a remarkably accomplished performance by Elle Fanning (with a British accent). It’s drawing interest from several distributors despite mixed reaction to its first few screenings here. So is the ambitious and nearly 2 1/2 hour Midnight’s Children because distribs hope it’s another Slumdog Millionaire (which Fox Searchlight debuted in Telluride). The documentary Love, Marilyn based on newly discovered Monroe diaries just finished post-production four days ago and was rushed for this Telluride debut. The filmmakers plan to continue refining and editing the film but are hoping for a North American distributor in time to get it out in the year of the 50th anniversary of Monroe’s death.
Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda is also in the hunt for distribution along with some smaller lesser-known titles on display this week. At least one distrib told me Sunday night it’s seriously interested in Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley‘s very personal documentary Stories We Tell. It’s up for grabs and will have another early morning screening Monday before everyone leaves Telluride.
Bottom line is that, if none of these pics are picked up in Telluride, they need only wait a few days to start the pitch all over again in Toronto. ‘Tis the season.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.