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PGA Awards Unveils Documentary Shortlist

By | Friday December 2, 2011 @ 8:38am PST

LOS ANGELES, CA (December 2, 2011) – The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced today the Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture nominees that will advance in the voting process for the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards.

The nominated films, listed below in alphabetical order, are:
BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK
PROJECT NIM
SENNA
THE UNION

Producers Guild arbitrations for individual producer credit determination for all film and television categories are still underway. Television series nominations for the 2012 Producers Guild Awards will be announced December 7, 2011. All other nominations for the 2012 Producers Guild Award categories will be announced January 3, 2012, along with the individual producers.

All 2012 Producers Guild Award winners will be announced on January 21, 2012 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. This year, the Producers Guild will also award special honors to Steven Spielberg, Leslie Moonves, Don Mischer, and Stan Lee, among others. The 2012 Producers Guild Awards co-chairs are Michael Manheim and Paula Wagner.

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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 OPENING DAY: Robert Redford Has “Not Thought About Retirement”

SUNDANCE OVERVIEW From Mike Fleming: Is Dealmaking Avalanche In The Forecast? Handicapping The High Priority Acquisitions

(Freelancer Sharon Swart is helping Deadline’s Sundance coverage.)

Sundance officially kicked off this evening in Park City with the festival’s first screenings of films, many with various rights available. Irish cop comedy The Guard has just started screening at the Egyptian Theatre, with buyers including Harvey Weinstein in the house. Other films showing tonight are the Harry Belafonte documentary Sing Your Song, documentary Project Nim (which HBO just picked up), U.S. competition drama Pariah, and midnight screening Silent House, a horror thriller from the filmmakers behind 2003’s beyond-scary Open Water.

Earlier at the Egyptian today, Sundance founder Robert Redford, Sundance Institute exec director Keri Putnam, and festival director John Cooper held their annual opening day press conference. Redford wanted to talk about the Sundance Institute, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. “We usually focus on the festival,” Redford said in the conference’s opening remarks, but “I want to talk about why we are here… What’s our point.” He gave a quick recap of why he started the Institute and how the festival sprung from it five years later. Redford underlined its ongoing mission to support emerging artists with labs and workshops, as well as through the festival platform and several newer programs … Read More »

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SUNDANCE OVERVIEW From Mike Fleming: Is Dealmaking Avalanche In The Forecast? Handicapping The High Priority Acquisitions

Mike Fleming

PARK CITY, UTAH: The acquisitions crowd rolls into the 2011 Sundance Film Festival today with a sense of optimism that dealmaking could pick up where it left off at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. On paper, the signs are encouraging: new buyers and hungry established distributors; plenty of titles with name casts and intriguing plot lines; and a sense of urgency created by sellers bold enough not to prescreen titles for buyers. Several that did screen early wound up with pre-festival deals. Roadside Attractions bought the Grateful Dead-themed drama The Music Never Stopped; Sony Pictures Classics’ bought Take Shelter, sight unseen, as SPC read a script and gambled on the elements; OWN acquired the documentary Becoming Chaz; HBO bought the documentary Project Nim and will sell feature rights; and A&E IndieFilms bought TV rights to Corman’s World. Not to mention that Knuckle, a documentary about two families in Ireland that periodically engages in bare knuckle brawls because of a long simmering dispute, has more than one suitor circling remake rights after CAA sent DVDs because bootlegs already were making the rounds.

There is optimism about the indie business in general right now. Indie films have made a strong awards season showing, with 2010 Sundance films The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone and Blue Valentine in the mix for acting categories at least. Buyers and sellers said the indie business is past its painful bottoming-out phase of the last few years. A leaner, smarter model has emerged and while minimum guarantees and P&A commitments are smaller than years past, filmmakers are keeping their budgets at sensible levels. They’re still drawing stars attracted to provocative material. There were also enough success stories from last year to stoke the fire. “You had this period of too much financing, and over production that left too many movies looking for distribution,” said WME Global’s Graham Taylor. “We saw things stabilize in 2010 and we will see growth in 2011. Demand has definitely picked up, and there are new distributors and players coming in.” Added UTA’s Rena Ronson: “We’ve gone through the slates of the major buyers, and there are major holes. Every major buyer has told us they need films.”

There could well be bidding battles on several fronts this year. There is a bumper crop of buyers looking for product that can open on between 1,500 to 2,000 screens. After absorbing Overture Films, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, and Peter Schlessel and Bob Berney’s FilmDistrict fall in step with a reinvigorated Weinstein Company, Fox Searchlight, Summit, Lionsgate, Focus and CBS Films. The question: will any of the Sundance films justify spending the $20 million or more in P&A required to support that kind of release? Dark Castle thought it had such a candidate last year when it committed $25 million in P&A to the horror film Splice, only to see it gross about that much, worldwide. Despite this, several horror titles are high priorities for distributors because they can be opened wide.

All of those players but FilmDistrict will be on the prowl for the specialty films that most of the festival films fall into. Sony Pictures Classics, IFC, Anchor Bay, Roadside Attractions and others that stepped up at Toronto last fall are also expected to be aggressive on films that can be platformed, and widened if audiences respond. “There is clearly a strong market for platform films,” said CAA agent Micah Green. “Those titles can bring their distributors both prestige and profit. Also, the lower cost of entry into platform distribution makes it attractive for independent companies who lack the capital to open films wide.‬‪ ‬We have seen a surge in ancillary value for star-driven specialty films. That was the primary driver for the quick pace of business in Toronto — star talent is very attractive for buyers focused on VOD, DVD, digital distribution and cable outlets. There’s a bullishness on the distribution side of the market. You can feel it‬.”

After checking with several major buyers, here are the films most often identified as priority targets:

MY IDIOT BROTHER - The  Jesse Peretz-directed comedy stars Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer.  Rudd plays a guy who, after serving time for pot dealing, moves in with each of his three sisters as he tries to get back on his feet. His best intentions quickly bring the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of clarity.

THE SON OF NO ONE - The Dito Montiel-directed drama stars Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche. Two men in post-9/11 New York are forced to relive two murders they committed as young boys. Their lives start to unravel by the threat of the revelation. Read More »

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Sundance: HBO Buys Competition Documentary Opener ‘Project Nim’

Mike Fleming

HBO has acquired all domestic rights to Project Nim, the new documentary by the team behind the Oscar-winning Man on Wire. The film, which is directed by James Marsh, tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s. The film premieres Thursday as the opening night film of the World Documentary competition. Simon Chinn is producing.

When Sheila Nevins’ HBO Documentary Films division makes an acquisition, HBO usually buys all rights, and its priority is to put the movie on its pay channel. Here, HBO will send the brokers of this deal, Submarine and Icon Entertainment International, to make a theatrical distribution deal that will precede the TV run. HBO was among several TV outlets that got an early look at the film when the filmmakers were seeking finishing funds. Several possible outlets were shown rough footage, with the idea they’d buy TV rights. The film was expected to be a hot property at Sundance, as the team behind it won the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury and Audience prizes for Man on Wire.

HBO then stepped up for all rights, and the feature rights will be shopped on its behalf. Submarine Entertainment’s Josh Braun and Icon Entertainment International brokered the deal.

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