Brian O’Shea’s newly-formed sales and finance outfit The Exchange has finalized a multi-territory distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics for Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground here at the EFM. SPC acquired all rights for France, the UK, Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, India, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. The film is set in a tight-knit spiritual community that’s thrown off-kilter when one of their own begins to question her faith. It’s inspired by screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir This Dark World and stars Farmiga, her sister Taissa Farmiga, John Hawkes and Donna Murphy. SPC released the film in the US last August. The Exchange is also handling Magic Magic with Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Emily Browning.
The closing-night film of the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, was designed to scare the crap out of the audience. But who knew the real nightmares would come from the actual screening itself.
Just an hour into the world premiere of the movie Sunday night the Regal L.A. Live theater, the emergency warning system started flashing lights accompanied by a siren-like noise and an announcement that audience members should vacate the premises immediately due to an “emergency in the building.” Everyone got up and marched outside before the all-clear was quickly declared (a false alarm), the auditorium filled again and the film restarted at the crucial point it left off. And you wonder why producers get ulcers.
But THAT was nothing compared to the nightmare end of the movie that surrounded audience members from that screening (and the overflow house upstairs) who simultaneously had to retrieve their cellphones and BlackBerrys that had been seized for fear of piracy when they entered the theater. The crush as final credits rolled was mammoth as theater personnel slowly took claim tickets and acted like they were on a scavenger hunt. The guy searching for my phone finally came back and rather pathetically asked me, ‘Uh, what color is it?’ to which I replied ‘Black,’ like every single other friggin’ one there.
FilmDistrict (which is releasing the film Aug. 26) distribution honcho Bob Berney came over during the forced intermission of the showing to say that co-writer/producer Guillermo del Toro thought the unplanned interruption was the dirty work of Bob Weinstein or the MPAA (which gave his film an unwanted ‘R’ rating for “violence and terror,” particularly since it involved a minor, according to Berney).
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.