Written and directed by Justin Simien, Dear White People takes a satirical look at race relations in the age of Obama. Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell, Kyle Gallner, Malcolm Barrett, Brittany Curran, Marque Richardson, and Dennis Haysbert star in the Sundance prize winner that follows a group of black students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release the film October 17. Check out the first official trailer:
EXCLUSIVE: After a long chase, Resolution has signed Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott, the duo whose horror comedy Cooties debuted at Sundance last January. The film got good notices at Park City for its darkly comic horror premise of zombie-like kids terrorizing their school. The film was produced by Elijah Woods company SpectraVision, and stars Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, and Jorge Garcia. Lionsgate bought it after its premiere at the Egyptian Theater. Murnion & Milott are also commercial directors at their company Honest, which is New York based. The pair continue to be managed by Principato/Young Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Cannes is racking up some pretty prolific sales, and that’s not even limited to the films playing here or being sold here. I’ve heard that Cinedigm is near closing on an acquisition deal for Song One, the Kate Barker-Froyland-directed film that stars Anne Hathaway and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January, but it’s closing here and calls for a multi-platform opening. Hathaway plays a young archaeologist whose street musician brother is hit by a car and falls into a coma. She develops a relationship with her brother’s favorite musician (played by Johnny Flynn). The deal will include a theatrical release through Film Arcade and it’s a near 7-figure minimum guarantee with a P&A commitment.
Related: Cannes: Directors To Watch
The film is financed by Worldview Entertainment, and produced by Chris Woodrow, Molly Conners, Jonathan Demme, Hathaway and Marc Platt. Hathaway is completely on board with the release plan through Film Arcade and Chris McGurk’s Cinedigm, and she will promote the film’s release aggressively. CAA brokered the deal. Lotus is selling international.
Related: Cannes 2014: A Look At Hot Titles
The Sundance Film Festival is long over this year but the moviemaking at the Sundance Institute is just getting into full swing this summer. Today the Institute announced the 13 diverse projects that will participate in its annual Directors and Screenwriters Labs starting later this month (see full list below). Set at the Sundance Resort in Utah, the Directors Lab goes from May 26 – June 19 while the Screenwriters’ Lab runs from June 21-26. And the young filmmakers will have a plethora of experience to draw from. Sundance founder Robert Redford is joined as a Creative Advisors for the 2014 Fellows by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow as well as Oscar wining Little Miss Sunshine and Hunger Games: Catching Fire scribe Michael Arndt, Miguel Arteta, John August, Walter Bernstein, Scott Z. Burns, Joan Darling, Deena Goldstone, Keith Gordon, Twilight helmer and Sundance alumni Catherine Hardwicke, Ed Harris, Azazel Jacobs, Brian Kates, Christine Lahti, Kasi Lemmons, Josh Marston, Pamela Martin, acclaimed author and screenwriter Walter Mosley, Howard Rodman, Ira Sachs, Marjane Satrapi, Susan Shilliday, Peter Sollett, Dana Stevens, Wesley Strick, Chris Terrio, Joan Tewkesbury, Athina Tsangari, Tyger Williams, and Erin Cressida Wilson.
EXCLUSIVE: Just because spring has sprung doesn’t mean there isn’t still action coming out of January’s Sundance Film Festival. I’m told that Paramount is closing a low-seven-figure deal for Rudderless, the film that Shameless star William H. Macy directed. It closed the Park City festival. Paramount will acquire North American rights and several additional territories. It will start with a theatrical run in a deal that is taking shape with the Samuel Goldwyn Co. The film will be released later this fall.
Macy stars with Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne, and Felicity Huffman in a musical drama about the power of a parent’s love. Scripted by Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, the film revolves around a grieving father in a downward spiral who stumbles across a box of his recently deceased son’s demo tapes and lyrics. Shocked by the discovery of this unknown talent, he forms a band in the hope of finding peace in the wake of his loss. Keith Kjarval of Unified Pictures and Brad Greiner are producing.
WME Global is closing the deal. Macy makes his feature directorial debut on the film. Radiant’s Mimi Steinbauer is selling foreign.
Rich Hill, the Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz documentary that won a 2014 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, has been acquired by TV series Independent Lens and music distributor The Orchard. Independent Lens, which airs on PBS, funded and aired Droz Tragos’ debut film Be Good, Smile Pretty, which went on to win an Emmy for Best Documentary. The Orchard will distribute Rich Hill theatrically in 18 markets, as well as across digital outlets via its fest and docu label Opus Docs. The pic follows the stories and lives of three teenage boys and their families living on the edge of poverty in the town of Rich Hill, MO, as they deal with daily challenges of growing up. Zac Bright and Kevin Iwashina of Preferred Content and Linda Lichter of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler and Feldman brokered the deal on behalf of the filmmakers; head of acquisitions Danielle DiGiacom negotiated the deal for The Orchard.
EXCLUSIVE: Just more than a week after Sundance Selects picked up North American rights to Hellion, the pic’s writer-director Kat Candler has signed with ICM Partners. In competition in this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Hellion is Candler’s feature debut and stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, who was also a co-exec producer. Newcomer Josh Wiggins and Juliette Lewis co-star in the the film, which focuses on a family falling apart fast after the death of the mother. Candler adapted Hellion from her own short film that screened at Sundance two years ago. The film is produced by Kelly Williams & Jonathan Duffy and executive produced by Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Sarah Green. It is scheduled to be released theatrically and on VOD later this year and to play at SXSW this week. Candler continues to also be represented by attorney Deena Kalai.
Magnolia Pictures acquired the Sundance documentary Life Itself, which covered the life of beloved film critic Roger Ebert. Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame directed the picture, which is being eyed for summer release followed by a broadcast on CNN.
Gravitas Ventures plans an early summer theatrical and digital release for writer-director Michael Tully’s Ping Ping Summer, which had its world premiere last month in the NEXT section at the Sundance Film Festival. The coming-of-age comedy set in 1985 Maryland stars Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris and Robert Longstreet and follows awkward 13-year-old Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) as he attempts to live up to that name by becoming a master breakdancer, ping pong player and ladies man all before the end of summer break. George Rush, Brooke Bernard, Ryan Zacarias, Billy Peterson, Jeffrey Allard and Michael Gottwald produced in association with Epic Match Media, Compass Entertainment and Nomadic Independence. Submarine’s Josh Braun and David Koh negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers, with CEO Nolan Gallagher for Gravitas, which had success at the 2013 Sundance fest securing worldwide VOD rights to the Dave Grohl docu Sound City.
Sony Pictures Classics confirmed that it has acquired distrib rights to Infinitely Polar Bear, starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana, the film that marks the directorial debut of Maya Forbes (who also scripted the autobiographical story). The film, set in the 1970s, follows an eccentric father who tries to win back his wife by taking responsibility for their two young, hard-to-handle daughters. Sony will distribute the picture in North America, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
EXCLUSIVE: This year’s Sundance Film Festival is over but for three participants a whole new ride is about to begin. ICM Partners have signed up Special Jury Prize winners Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter’s David Zellner and Nathan Zellner as well as Pierre Boulanger of God Help The Girl. The signings for the trio are in all areas. The Zellner Brothers remain managed by Mosaic. Boulanger is repped by Agence Oz in Paris, Curtis Brown Group in the U.K., Mosaic and law firm Nelson Davis Wetzstein, LLP.
Written, directed and co-starring the Zellner brothers and based on an urban legend, Kumiko features Oscar-nominated Rinko Kikuchi as a lonely Japanese woman who believes a pile of money buried in the movie Fargo is actually real. So she sets out over sea and land to Minnesota to find it. In competition in this year’s U.S. Dramatic category, Kumiko took home a Special Jury Award for Musical Score at the Sundance Awards on January 25. Part coming of age tale and part indie-pop musical, God Help The Girl is the directorial feature debut of Belle and Sebastian lead singer Stuart Murdoch. The film starring Boulanger with Emily Browning and Olly Alexander, among others, GHTG won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury …
EXCLUSIVE: Albert Brooks has been set to star with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year, the J.C. Chandor-directed drama that was just acquired for domestic distribution by A24 at the Sundance Film Festival. Shooting on the film is just getting underway. Co-financed by Participant Media and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, the drama takes place in New York in 1981, a year in which the city had one of its highest tallies of violent crime. An immigrant and his family are trying to grow their heating oil business and their ambition collides with the crime element.
Brooks will play Isaacs’ character’s attorney. The film is produced by Before The Door’s Neal Dodson and Washington Square Films’ Anna Gerb and Chandor, the filmmaker’s partners on All Is Lost and Margin Call. Participant’s Jeff Skoll is involved in producing capacities as well.
Catch up on the stories you missed this week:
Quentin Tarantino Shelves ‘The Hateful Eight’ After Betrayal Results In Script Leak
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: Learning today that his script The Hateful Eight leaked after he gave it to a small circle of actors, Quentin Tarantino tells me that he’s so upset that he has decided that he will not direct that film next.
Rupert Sanders Set To Helm ‘Ghost In The Shell’ For DreamWorks
By Mike Fleming Jr. – EXCLUSIVE: DreamWorks has made a deal with Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders to direct Ghost In The Shell, a live-action film based on the Japanese manga futuristic police thriller that has a new script from William Wheeler.
Sundance: ‘Whiplash’ & ‘Rich Hill’ Win Grand Jury Awards; Dramatic Directing Goes To Cutter Hodierne For ‘Fishing Without Nets’
By Dominic Patten and Jen Yamato – It was the first major deal of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and tonight Whiplash was the big winner at the fest’s Awards Ceremony. The Damien Chazelle-directed film about a young drummer, played by Miles Teller, and his demanding teacher, played by JK Simmons, took both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award.
Sundance Awards: ‘Whiplash’ & ‘Rich Hill’ Win Grand Jury Prizes; Dramatic Directing Goes To Cutter Hodierne For ‘Fishing Without Nets’
It was the first major deal of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and tonight Whiplash was the big winner at the fest’s Awards Ceremony. The Damien Chazelle-directed film about a young drummer, played by Miles Teller, and his demanding teacher, played by JK Simmons, took both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award. “This is awesome, thanks so much,” said Chazelle accepting the pic’s Audience Award earlier in the evening. Little did he know the fest hit would go on to win Sundance’s top dramatic prize. The U.S. Documentary Award went to the Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos-directed Rich Hill, about three small town Missouri boys seeking better from their sometimes bleak environment. Also making waves with buzzy Sundance awards tonight were first-time director Justin Simien, whose conversation-sparking Dear White People nabbed a Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent; the Ethiopian World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award winner Difret, exec produced by Angelina Jolie; and the Nick Cave docu 20,000 Days On Earth which snagged both Best Directing and Best Editing in the World Cinema Documentary category.
Hosted by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, this year’s Awards started over 30 minutes later than its scheduled 6PM PT kick-off time. Once things got going, after a lurid but lame routine by the hosts, it moved fast. Like last year when Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who had his own directorial feature debut Don Jon premiere at Sundance 2013, hosted the awards ceremony, Offerman and Mullally both have films at the festival. The Parks & Recreation star fronted Nick Offerman: American Ham, which premiered on January 23 in Salt Lake City, and Mullally is one of the voices in the English-language version of the animated pic Ernest & Celestine, which was screened January 18 as part of the new Sundance Kids selection. Offerman and Mullally opened with a monologue that centered more on their sex life than indie film. “In short, we have seen your movies and we have found them arousing,” deadpanned Offerman.
EXCLUSIVE: In a deal that is closing right before the conclusion of the Sundance Film Festival, RADIUS-TWC is acquiring worldwide distribution rights to Fed Up, the Katie Couric-narrated documentary about the alarming and rising rate of obese children in America. Several distributors chased the film, because of its hot button topic that is similar to the embraceable issue examined in Bully. I’ve heard the deal was near $2 million.
Fed Up was directed by Stephanie Soechtig, and produced by Sarah Olson and Eve Marson. Along with narrating, Couric is exec producer with Laurie David, Regina Scully, Heather Reisman, and Atlas Films’ Michael Walrath and Michelle Walrath. Deal was negotiated by Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.
Beyond chronicling the futile efforts of several young people to shed weight, including a 250-pound 15-year old boy and a 212-pound 12-year old girl, the film reveals a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public. The result is a humungous health epidemic. The filmmakers trace the historical pattern and places the blame squarely on the food manufacturers that after WWII moved away from natural foods in favor of sugars and processed ingredients as a way to drive profits. As a result, we have a lot of fat kids who develop problems not normally seen in ones …
Sundance buzz title The Babadook has been acquired by IFC Midnight, which snagged U.S. and Latin America rights to the chiller from Aussie newcomer Jennifer Kent. Essie Davis stars in the pic as a widowed single mother who connects with her troubled son (then six-year-old Noah Wiseman) by reading a bedtime storybook that unleashes a shadowy monster in their home. Kent wrote and directed the Sundance Midnighter selection which also stars Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton produced with Kristian Moliere, with backing from Screen Australia. Jonathan Page, Michael Tear, Jan Chapman, and Jeff Harrison exec produced the pic which earned raves from critics in Park City and put Kent on the map as a helmer to watch.
EXCLUSIVE: A24 is hot on the trail of its third film acquisition of the Sundance Film Festival. I’m hearing the label is near a deal for U.S. rights to Life After Beth, a Jeff Baena-written and -directed comedy that stars Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Dane DeHaan, Paul Reiser, and Anna Kendrick. This is going down as part of a deal for international territories that will bring the price to around $3.5 million for all the deals. It includes a DirectTV component that is part of A24′s partnership. The logline: Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love as his world is upended. WME Global and CAA repped the film, which is in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and made its debut last Sunday at the Library Theatre. XYZ is brokering the foreign deals. Stay tuned. The film is financed by Starstream Entertainment and Abbolita Productions, and is produced by Liz Destro and Michael Zakin of American Zoetrope, with whom A24 worked on The Bling Ring.
UPDATE: Magnolia Confirms Domestic Deal At Sundance For ‘Frank,’ The One That Has Michael Fassbender Wearing The Giant Head
UPDATE, 3:16 PM: Magnolia Pictures has confirmed news that Deadline broke yesterday: It has acquired North American rights to Frank, starring Michael Fassbender. Read the full release below the original story.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, THURSDAY AM: Magnolia is zeroing in on a low seven-figure domestic deal for Frank, the Lenny Abrahamson-directed film about a band that is led by an eclectic genius lead singer who, everywhere he goes, wears an oversized head, even on stage. Now, this has been one of the most intriguing titles, given that the actor playing him is Michael Fassbender, the hunky Irishman who was just Oscar-nominated for his role in 12 Years A Slave.
The film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Domhnall Gleeson and the vantage point is a fledgling musician who joins the band. The film is repped by WME Global, and while the deal flow has been a bit on the slow side, that agency has managed to close a deal through all of the six days of the fest. I wrote about how Graham Taylor’s Sundance team of Mark Ankner, Liesl Copland and Alexis Garcia got minted as partners, and maybe that was the extra motivation, but they bagged the fest’s first big deal on the opening night film Whiplash, and haven’t let up. Frank first premiered last Friday night at the Eccles Theater.
UPDATE, 2:58 PM: Sony Pictures Classics has confirmed Deadline’s report from yesterday, acquiring Ira Sachs’ Sundance pic Love Is Strange for North America, Germany and Scandinavia. Read the release below after the original story.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: Sony Pictures Classics is acquiring Love Is Strange, the film scripted and directed by Ira Sachs that stars Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Darren Burrows and Charlie Tahan. The timely film is about two longtime gay lovers who finally get married. One of them then gets fired and is unable to pay the rent. The couple must move in, separately, with a nephew and his family in Brooklyn and the two gay cops next door. The film got a strong response when it premiered last Saturday at the Eccles Theater. The deal is being made by WME Global. The film also got a French distribution deal with Pretty Pictures right after its premiere. SPC previously acquired the opening-night film Whiplash, and then the comedy Land Ho!