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