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Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Vera Farmiga’s Sundance Debut ‘Higher Ground’

Mike Fleming

Sony Pictures Classics bought North American, Australian and New Zealand rights to Higher Ground, the directorial debut of actress Vera Farmiga that made its debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. She stars with John Hawkes (Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone), Donna Murphy and Joshua Leonard. The film is an adaptation of This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, by Carolyn S. Briggs, who wrote the script with Tim Metcalfe. It’s a study of a woman’s internal struggle with the primary love relationships in her life over two decades. The child of a traumatic divorce, she and her partner dedicate their lives to God and a small hippie church, but some of the machinations of that church give her pause. CAA brokered the deal.

Sony Pictures Classics partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and exec Dylan Leiner add another acquisition title to what proved to be a bountiful Sundance. They made preemptive buys of  the Michael Shannon-starrer Take Shelter and the Morgan Spurlock documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. At the festival, they  bought the John Michael McDonagh-directed The Guard, the Irish action comedy which stars Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

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Roadside Attractions Lands Sundance Pic ‘Circumstance’

Mike Fleming

Participant Media has set the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner Circumstance to be distributed domestically by Roadside Attractions. Participant acquired the Maryam Keshavarz-directed drama during the festival, and now the film is on track to be distributed theatrically during the summer. The film is set in contemporary Iran, where a wealthy family struggles to contain a teen’s growing sexual rebellion and relationship with another girl, while her brother grows into a dangerous militant. Keshavarz, who has been outspoken on the 6-year prison sentence given Jafar Panahi and Muhamad Rasoulof, shot the film in Lebanon because she feared its controversial subject matter might endanger her crew.

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Sundance 2011: Does 38 Film Deals Mean That The Indie Biz Is Back?

Mike Fleming

Dealmakers who came into Park City hoping to recapture the acquisitions momentum of last fall’s Toronto Film Festival returned this week with smiles on their faces. And why not? By my count, 38 transactions have been completed on Sundance films so far, with several more coming. Buyers estimate that at least eight of those deals brought a minimum guarantee of $2 million or higher: The Details and My Idiot Brother to The Weinstein Company, Like Crazy to Paramount/Indian Paintbrush, Margin Call to Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions, Another Earth to Fox Searchlight, Silent House to Liddell Entertainment, Homework to Fox Searchlight, and The Devil’s Double to Lionsgate and Herrick Entertainment.

Nobody could be accused of the drunken spending that occasionally happened in past Sundance Festivals. But considering the shellacking the indie business has taken over the past several years, there were intriguing team-ups and bold plays all over the place. Like when Sony Pictures Classics acquired the Michael Shannon-in-meltdown-mode Take Shelter, sight unseen, and the SPC team strutted when the film played to glowing reviews; when Steven Rales’ Indian Paintbrush became the surprise catalyst in the  $4 million deal to acquire festival favorite Like Crazy, or when Ron Burkle partnered with Harvey Weinstein in the $7.5 million guarantee/$10 million P&A acquisition of the Tobey Maguire black comedy The Details; when Focus Features bought Dee Rees’s much discussed directing debut Pariah, and made her next … Read More »

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Sundance: Oprah’s OWN Acquires Docu ‘Crime After Crime’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Oprah Winfrey’s upstart cable network OWN continued its aggressive buying at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival by acquiring North American rights to Crime After Crime, the Yoav Potash-directed documentary. I’m told the deal was six figures, and that OWN will afford the film a qualifying Oscar run before it airs on Oprah’s new network. OWN chief creative officer Lisa Erspamer made the deal with Submarine’s Josh Braun and David Koh. The doc is about Deborah Peagler, an abused woman who struck back at the boyfriend who beat her. She was sentenced to 25 years to life for his murder. Some 20 years into her sentence, California passed a law permitting domestic violence survivors to have their case reopened. A pair of real estate lawyers took on Peagler’s case, and what seemed an easy effort turned into a politically-driven nightmare to free her. The film debuted January 23 at the Temple Theatre, and I’d heard this was an emotionally wrenching tear-jerker. Several distributors including Goldwyn and IFC were interested. The film will have its DVD distribution through Oprah’s Documentary Club, and comes on the heels of OWN’s announcement that Rosie O’Donnell will be a collaborator in the OWN Docu Club. Remake rights were not part of the deal, and I’ve heard there is interest on that front. OWN also acquired the docu Becoming Chaz, which premiered at Sundance.

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Sundance: 2011 Winners: ‘Like Crazy’ Wins Grand Jury Dramatic Prize, ‘How To Die In Oregon’ Wins Documentary

Mike Fleming

The 2011 Sundance Film Festival Awards went down tonight in Park City. While the biggest surprise was the volume of films acquired by distributor, in the end, the story was about excellence in independent film making. The big winner of the evening was the Drake Doremus-directed love story Like Crazy, which took the Grand Jury Prize for Drama. The film was the first major deal of a festival full of them, with a $4 million acquisition by Paramount and Indian Paintbrush that started a flurry of transactions. The event was hosted by Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in the festival film Flypaper, and who materialized dressed as a snowflake. Festival director John Cooper did the same. No one held the silliness against them, because they launched right into proceedings that moves at such a swift pace, I wondered if they were double parked  outside.  Here’s the list of winners:

2011 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners:

The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy … Read More »

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Sundance: Oscilloscope Near ‘Bellflower’ Deal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Oscilloscope is close to a deal to acquire English language territories for Bellflower, the Evan Glodell-directed action film which premiered January 21 in Sundance’s Next Films category of low budget fare. Glodell made his helming debut in a film that is described as an apocalyptic love story for the Mad Max generation. Glodell stars with Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson and Rebekah Brandes. Two slightly delusional pals build flamethrowers and other weapons of mayhem to prepare for a global apocalypse they feel will open the door for an imaginary gang they’ve invented called Mother Medusa. When one of them falls for a woman, the pair finds themselves integrated into new a group of people, set on a journey where all hell breaks loose. CAA is handling the sale, and I hear it’ll go down shortly, with David Fenkel, who co-founded Oscilloscope with Adam Yauch. It’s the first acquisition of the festival for Oscilloscope.

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Sundance: HBO Acquires Docu ‘Hot Coffee’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: HBO has closed a deal for Hot Coffee, the Susan Saladoff-directed competition documentary which focuses on  how corporations have used the memory of outlandish legal verdicts as a way to press for tort reforms and avoid jury trials through arbitration on cases that actually have merit.

HBO’s Sheila Nevins viewed the documentary after it premiered last Monday. I’m told the deal was mid to high six-figures. HBO licensed the film for broadcast and VOD for 2 years, and will afford the film a qualifying Oscar theatrical run before it airs on the pay channel. Preferred Content’s Kevin Iwashina brokered the sale. Carly Hugo and Alan Oxman produced with Saladoff.

The film’s title refers to the famous case of a woman”s million dollar judgment from McDonald’s over a spilled cup of coffee. Saladin, a lawyer, focuses on other outrageous cases that illustrated where corporations were negligent or unresponsive. They include a case involving Halliburton, which housed a 19-year old worker overseas in a barracks with men and ignored her concerns. She was gang-raped.

HBO had a busy Sundance, acquiring remake rights to turn the documentary Knuckle into a potential TV series with Rough House Productions, and making a preemptive acquisition of the docu Project Nim and then setting up theatrical distribution through Roadside Attractions.

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Sundance: Mike Cahill’s ‘Another Earth’ Wins 2011 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Mike Fleming

Park City, UT – Sundance Institute today announced that Another Earth, directed and written by Mike Cahill and written by Brit Marling, is the recipient of the 2011 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Now in its ninth year, the Prize carries a $20,000 cash award by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and is presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character.

An integral part of the Festival’s Awards Ceremony, the Alfred P. Sloan Prize Feature Film Prize is a major component of the Sundance Institute Science-in-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Initiative supports the development and exhibition of new independent film projects that explore science and technology themes or that depict scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways.

The winning film was selected by a committee of film and science professionals “for its original use of subtly rendered scientific concept – the sudden appearance of an alternate Earth where everyone may be living parallel lives and destinies – to explore the themes of remorse and forgiveness.”

Another Earth (Director: Mike Cahill; Screenwriters: Mike Cahill and Brit Marling) — On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a horrible tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers, who begin an unlikely love affair. Cast: William Mapother, Brit Marling, Jordan Baker, Robin Lord Taylor, Flint Beverage.

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Sundance Update: Roadside Attractions Acquires ‘The Future’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Roadside Attractions closed the deal for The Future. It’s the third deal for Roadside, which teamed with Lionsgate to acquire the JC Chandor-directed financial crisis drama Margin Call, and will release the documentary Project Nim for HBO, which acquired all rights to the film by the team behind the Oscar-winning Man on Wire. Roadside will release The Future theatrically through its North American rights deal, and Lionsgate will handle ancillary territories. Filmmaker Miranda July won the Camera ‘Or with her debut film Me And You And Everyone We Know.

EARLIER, JANUARY 26, 8:22 PM: Now that The Devil’s Double has closed at Lionsgate, the next Sundance picture in play is the Miranda July-directed The Future. It’s down to the wire, with IFC and Roadside Attractions battling it out. Narrated by a cat, the pic tells the story of a thirty-something couple that plans to adopt a terminally ill shelter cat. Before taking on that responsibility, they quit their jobs to discover new interests. She makes dance videos and he knocks on doors for a tree-planting environmental group. They engage in some trippy, existential adventures.  UTA is brokering. Developing…

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Sundance: Fox Searchlight Makes Foreign Rights Deal For ‘Another Earth’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE 2ND UPDATE: Two days after buying English speaking rights to Another Earth, Fox Searchlight has acquired worldwide rights to the film. That makes Searchlight’s minimum guarantee commitment around $3 million. Relative to its $150,000 budget, Another Earth walks away with one of the bigger commitments to a small film in recent memory, maybe since The Blair Witch Project. The picture has received glowing reviews for director Mike Cahill and the script he wrote with Brit Marling. She stars with William Mapother in a drama with sci-fi elements. Foreign buyers responded, and the sellers scheduled a screening in Hollywood today. Much to the chagrin of buyers, it has been canceled, after Searchlight stepped up last night and closed in a deal with WME Global’s Graham Taylor, Preferred Content’s Kevin Iwashina, and Andre Des Rochers. It is one of two WME-brokered pictures expected to go today. The other is the Dito Montiel-directed The Son Of No One. Despite a trade slam piece, the movie has five distributors circling, and the auction is around $2 million so far, I hear. The deal could be done before the film’s official premiere this evening. WME is brokering that deal with Cassian Elwes. Read More »

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Sundance: IFC, Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Take ‘Salvation Boulevard’

Mike Fleming

IFC Films and Sony Pictures Worldwide teamed for North American rights to Salvation Boulevard, the George Ratliff-directed film that stars Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Greg Kinnear, Jim Gaffigan and Marisa Tomei. Brosnan plays a charismatic preacher who captivates a city with his charm. When an accident with an antique firearm does in preacher’s adversary, he calls in a loyal worshiper and former Deadhead (Kinnear) for help. All hell breaks loose. UTA brokered the deal for Mandalay Vision, the division of Mandalay Pictures. Cathy Schulman, Celine Rattray and Peter Fruchtman produce. IFC will distribute.

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Sundance: Roadside Attractions To Release ‘Project Nim’

Mike Fleming

Following the preemptive acquisition of the documentary Project Nim by HBO, there was some question of whether theatrical distributors would be as excited about acquiring the film, when all of its rights were now spoken for. Roadside Attractions has stepped up. Here’s the release:

Park City, UT (January 27, 2011) – HBO has partnered with Roadside Attractions for US theatrical and DVD rights to PROJECT NIM, the 2011 Sundance Film Festival opener in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, it was announced today by Sheila Nevins, President, HBO Documentary Films and Howard Cohen, Co-President Roadside Attractions. The film will go out theatrically through Roadside Attractions, on television through HBO and on DVD through Lionsgate.

From the Oscar©-winning team behind MAN ON WIRE, director James Marsh and producer Simon Chinn, comes the story of Nim, a chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Following Nim’s extraordinary journey through human society, and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way, the film is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal we tried to make human.

The deal was negotiated by HBO, Submarine’s Josh Braun and Roadside Attractions’ Howard Cohen.

“James Marsh and I are absolutely thrilled to be working with Roadside Attractions and HBO Documentary Films on the US theatrical release of

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Sundance: Dada Films Climbs ‘The Last Mountain’

Mike Fleming

LOS ANGELES, CA – January 27, 2011 – MJ Peckos announced today that Dada has acquired U.S. theatrical rights to Bill Haney’s “The Last Mountain” and will release the film June 3. The film had its world premiere in the U.S. Documentary Competition category of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

“The Last Mountain” is about an epic battle taking place in the heartland of America, as a small community fights to protect their way of life against one of America’s biggest coal companies. “This amazingly uplifting David and Goliath film combines superb storytelling and extraordinary cinematography,” said Peckos. “The fight for Appalachia’s last great mountain has consequences which affect every American; the heroism and effectiveness of the ordinary Americans who are taking on the coal companies will inspire everyone who sees it.

Bill Haney said, “I was impressed with the business model that Peckos and her partner Steven Raphael presented which seems right on target for the way environmental docs are being released today. There was a lot of distributor interest but I felt that their passion for the film and experience with releasing documentaries was the right fit. The fact that they are committing to a seven figure distribution budget is a great marker for the passion they have for the film. ”

Directed by Bill Haney (“The Price of Sugar”), the film was written by Haney and Peter Rhodes, produced by Clara Bingham, Eric Grunebaum, Bill Haney, and executive produced by Tim Disney and

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Sundance: 2011 Film Directors To Watch

(Sharon Swart is assisting Deadline’s Sundance coverage)

Sundance has launched new directors’ careers for decades, most famously Steven Soderbergh with his 1989 sex, lies, and videotape. In recent years, helmers including Ryan Fleck (2006’s Half Nelson) and Cary Fukunaga (2009’s Sin Nombre) broke through at the festival. This year, films from several returning Sundance directors, including Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), Jacob Aaron Estes (The Details), and Miranda July (The Future) are getting attention. Here’s a look at more under-the-radar names emerging this year:

Mike Cahill: His competition film Another Earth was just acquired by Fox Searchlight after receiving a standing ovation at Sundance’s Eccles Theatre on Monday. The minimalist sci-fi drama concerns a budding astrophysics student played by Brit Marling who accidentally kills a man’s family. “I love the idea of space and science being used as a metaphor,” Cahill said after his screening. “What I wanted to explore is, ‘What would it be like to meet yourself?’” Cahill and Marling, who met at Georgetown University, co-wrote and co-produced the film. They started with a 20-page treatment and fleshed it out in a series of meetings at co-star Mapother’s house. Cahill and Marling also co-directed Havana-set 2004 documentary Boxers and Ballerinas. And over the past several years, Cahill has worked as a field producer for National Geographic and for MTV on series such as True Life. He edited documentaries including Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out and Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. “Mike is someone who can shoot, direct, edit, and handle visual effects,” says Another Earth producer Nicholas Shumaker. “He’s not short on enthusiasm. We weren’t worried about whether he could pull off an indie film with effects. He can convince anyone of anything at any time.” Cahill is currently writing a project, again with sci-fi elements, that he’ll direct. Manager George Heller at Principato-Young signed the director about four months ago.

Paddy Considine: This British actor takes his first feature turn behind the camera with Sundance World Cinema Competition entry Tyrannosaur, a dark tale about a tormented man who goes on a spree of self-destructive behavior. The film elicited strong responses at the festival and lead Peter Mullan’s searing performance is already sparking talk that it’s awards worthy. Considine mainly worked as a thesp for top directors like Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People), Jim Sheridan (In America), Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum), and Ron Howard (Cinderella Man) who he says would consult with him about narrative. The busy actor also has written produced screenplays (Dead Man’s Shoes). “In my heart I knew I was a better writer-director than I was an actor. I knew I had a voice of my own and stories of my own that I needed to tell. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in front of the camera. Filmmaking was an absolute necessity if I was to continue a career in this medium.” He began directing with the 2007 short film Dog Altogether which won an award at the Venice film festival and a BAFTA. “Paddy has an incredible instinct for the truth, creating compelling cinematic characters and putting them up against each other in unexpected and intense situations,” says his producer Diarmid Scrimshaw, who also made Considine’s short. “He is an exceptional director who gets phenomenal performances by casting with integrity and giving his actors these incredible characters to play.” He’s repped Conor McCaughan and Sam Fox at Troika Talent agency in the U.K.

Maryam Keshavarz: This Iranian writer-director’s first feature Circumstance showed in Sundance’s U.S. competition to strong critical responses and scored a pickup deal by Participant Media. The project, about teen girls discovering Tehran’s underground scene while grappling with conservative family pressures, had a 4 1/2-year journey to the screen. Says producer Karin Chien, ”Nothing was easy about making Circumstance. Maryam worked under overwhelming restrictions and at huge personal risk to tell this story. While facing down obstacles that would have crippled most directors, her commitment to her vision never wavered, not for a moment.” After graduating from Northwestern University, Keshavarz briefly went back to Iran and returned to the U.S. again for a doctoral degree. “From an early age, I have been a translator of culture: East for West, and West for East,” says the director. “Hailing from a family where my grandfather was a political poet who was often jailed in Iran, I was interested in the intersections of politics, history and artistic expression.” After 9/11, she made an experimental short titled Sanctuary, which was a surreal fantasy about an Iranian woman navigating life in New York after the disaster. It won Keshavarz the Steve Tisch Fellowship to pursue an MFA in Film Direction at NYU/Tisch. There, she directed her first feature documentary, The Color of Love, an award-winning film. In 2005, Keshevarz went to Argentina to shoot The Day I Died, about an adolescent love triangle. It won two prizes at Berlin. Keshavarz is unrepped at the moment but has been swarmed by agency interest at Sundance. Read More »

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Sundance: 2011 Actors-Actresses To Watch

(Sharon Swart is assisting Deadline’s Sundance coverage)

Sundance has a reputation for putting new acting talent in the spotlight. Recent years have yielded more break-outs on the distaff side, such as Carey Mulligan (2009′s An Education and The Greatest) and Jennifer Lawrence (2010’s Winter’s Bone). Both went on to receive Oscar nominations. This year’s festival films again showcased multiple talents poised to find wider recognition. While slightly more established actors such as Felicity Jones (in Like Crazy), Juno Temple (in Little Birds) and Olsen twins’ sibling Elizabeth Olsen (in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House) made a big impression this year, following are a few other names that are emerging:

Corina Calderon: She stars as a willful South Texas teen gunning to win a powerlifting championship in Sundance competition film Benavides Born. The role isn’t far from her own life experience, says the young Latina, but she did have to learn how to pump iron. She trained with high school women’s powerlifting teams outside of Austin and in San Diego, and can now bench her own weight. Festival-goers have been comparing Benavides Born to Girl Fight, which played at Sundance in 2000 and launched Michelle Rodriguez’s career. The film is Calderon’s first lead; prior to this film, Calderon only had a bit part in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete and worked in short films. She trained with Ben Taylor at the Austin Playhouse. Director Amy Wendell says, “Her audition was amazing. She did something specific and determined, and I liked that. She’s passionate and goes the extra mile. She had the pressures of the shoot resting on her shoulders: she had to carry the film, and she did it. In the editing room, I was amazed that she never over-acted. She was really real. This is someone who will go on to show the world something interesting.” Calderon has an Austin-based agent and has had a few nibbles from Hollywood agents at Sundance.

Brit Marling: As a co-writer and lead actress of two films at Sundance this year – competition entry Another Earth and the Next category’s Sound of My Voice – Brit Marling is one of the most talked-about new talents emerging at the festival. With director Mike Cahill, she helped craft the story and script for the inventive sci-fi drama Another Earth. In Zal Batmanglij’s Sound of My Voice she plays a mysterious cult leader who is being investigated by a couple who try to unmask her as a fraud. “Brit possesses both an authenticity and an integrity that is highly watchable,” says Batmanglij. “When I was watching Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, the grace of Brit’s performance makes it easy to forget that she’s shaping the material on the screen as not only an actor but as a writer as well.” She made shorts with Cahill and Batmanglij at Georgetown University, where she studied Economics and Studio Art. She worked as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs, but quickly realized it wasn’t for her. So she traded it in for a film career. Cahill and Marling went to Havana to co-direct documentary Boxers and Ballerinas, about young artists and athletes in Cuba. She then moved to LA and started writing screenplays to generate material for herself. Just before Sundance started, Marling signed with UTA.

Ezra Miller: He plays a rebellious son who’s just out of rehab in Sam Levinson’s directorial debut Another Happy Day, a U.S. Competition title at Sundance. Though not a complete unknown, Miller is on the verge of wider acclaim according to various talent pros at the festival. “On screen, Ezra is simply a magnetic force: A raw and present actor,” says Levinson. “He can be hard and soft, simultaneously. With the wheels visibly spinning behind his eyes, he is that actor the one that comes along once a generation. I really never knew Ezra wasn’t actually Elliot until after filming.” Miller has had a few TV gigs (in Californication and The Royal Pains), and has acted in a handful of indie films so far. His acting debut was a lead role in Antonio Campos’ Afterschool, which played at Cannes and Berlin. Miller also had roles in Raymond De Felitta’s City Island and Richard Levine’s Every Day, which both showed at the Tribeca and Deauville film festivals. This past spring Miller worked with British director Lynn Ramsey and has the title role in her drama We Need to Talk About Kevin, alongside Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly. Miller is repped by Scott Metzger at Paradigm in New York.

Adepero Oduye: This New York-based actress puts in a raw and realistic performance as a shy lesbian teen who’s struggling to come out to her parents in Dee Rees’ competition film Pariah. Oduye honed her craft in theater and TV before responding to an ad for the 2007 short film version of Pariah which played at Sundance in 2008. The feature version was workshopped at the Sundance labs before heading to the fest this year. “Adepero was perfect for the role of Alike because, as a first generation Nigerian immigrant growing up in New York City, she’s had the outsider experience and understood the struggle of trying to define her identity,” says director Rees. “Also, she exudes this beautiful quality of innocence and vulnerability that fits with the core of [the character].” Among the Cornell grad’s theater work is The Bluest Eye (Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre) and Fela! (AEA workshop). Her TV jobs have included roles on FX’s Louie and Law & Order. She studied acting with Wynn Handman, Austin Pendleton and Susan Batson. She’s currently without representation but has been approached by agents at the festival.

Alex Shaffer: In his first film role, Alex Shaffer plays surly high school wrestler Kyle Timmons in Fox Searchlight’s Win Win, which screened in Premieres at Sundance. Director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) took a gamble on Shaffer, whose only acting experience had been a 6th grade production of The Pirates of Penzance. But Shaffer’s extensive wrestling experience – he became the 119-lb New Jersey-state wrestling champion just before Win Win went into production — was key to the role. “I knew that if the kid we cast had never wrestled, he Read More »

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Sundance: Lionsgate Near ‘Devil’s Double’ Deal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate has entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire The Devil’s Double, the Lee Tamahori drama about the man who was forced to become the body double of Saddam Hussein’s thuggish son, Uday. Lionsgate team has been pursuing the film since it first aired last Saturday at the Eccles Theater, as had Summit and Relativity Media. The subject matter is rough, but festival goers have been talking about the breakout double performance by Dominic Cooper, who plays both Uday and the body double. The picture marks Tamahori’s first independent film since his breakthrough Once Were Warriors, another viscerally-shot drama with disturbing moments. The film seems a good fit for Lionsgate, which has been mentioned as competitive in several festival films. CAA and Paradigm worked together on the deal.

The Devil’s Double is one of the last titles that were on the priority lists of major buyers, in what has been a most satisfying festival for acquisition deals.  Developing…

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Sundance: IFC Acquires ‘Perfect Sense’

IFC Films has acquired North American rights to director David Mackenzie’s romantic thriller Perfect Sense, which debuted in the Premieres section this week.

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Sundance: Magnolia Nabs ‘I Melt With You’

Mike Fleming

Park City, UT – January 26, 2011 – The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures announced today they have acquired US theatrical rights to Mark Pellington’s I MELT WITH YOU, a kinetic and visceral ensemble film starring Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, Christian McKay, Carla Gugino and Sasha Grey.

Jane, Lowe, Piven and McKay give bravura, unhinged performances as four friends on a drug and rock n’ roll fueled trip together in Big Sur. Pellington explores themes of masculinity and friendship with a groundbreaking visual style and dizzying post-punk soundtrack. Written by Glenn Porter, the film was produced by Pellington,  Norm Reiss and Rob Cowan, and executive produced by Aaron Gilbert, Heidi Levitt and Neil LaBute.   “Mark Pellington has made a maverick, stylish and powerful film that resonates for days after viewing,” said Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn. “Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Christian McKay give some of the best performances of their entire careers and attention must be paid.”

“I’m ecstatic that our film has found a home for theatrical distribution and thrilled it is a company with people that completely understand what the film is about philosophically and aesthetically,” said Pellington.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP Tom Quinn with Submarine’s Josh Braun and UTA’s Rena Ronson.

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Sundance: Update; Weinstein Co. Closes ‘The Details’ For $7.5 Million, $10 Million P&A

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The Weinstein Company indeed closed this deal, and here are the details. I’m told the minimum guarantee was $7.5 million, with a P&A commitment upwards of $10 million. That makes The Details the largest minimum guarantee of the festival so far, though TWC’s deal for My Idiot Brother (between $6 million-$7 million m.g.) had a larger P&A commitment, around $15 million. Summit’s bid for domestic rights was between $4 million and $5 million. TWC’s acquisition team of Peter Lawson, Laine Kline and David Glasser made the deal with CAA and UTA, which co-repped the picture.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 6:48 PM: A marathon bargaining session is near a close, and it appears The Weinstein Company will acquire worldwide distribution rights to The Details, the Jacob Aaron Estes-directed dark comedy that stars Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert and Kerry Washington. TWC and Summit Entertainment have been battling vigorously all night, and I’m told this could end up the Sundance Film Festival’s largest deal. The film, repped by CAA and UTA, began attracting suitors right after its Monday premiere at Eccles Theater. It quickly  got down to TWC and Summit Entertainment, the latter of which has focused on acquiring domestic distribution rights.

When hungry raccoons discover worms living under the sod in a young couple’s backyard, the result is a chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity, organ … Read More »

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