Sundance 2013: Round-Up #1

By @cj_prin
Sundance 2013: Round-Up #1

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival is currently kicking into full-gear over in Park City, Utah and so far there’s been plenty to talk about. We here at Way Too Indie have been following as much information about the films screening so far, and if you’re having a hard time following the festival here’s some of the more major news coming out of Sundance.


The ultimate goal of every film at Sundance is to get a nice big distribution deal, and so far there have been two examples setting new records for the fest. Don Jon’s Addiction, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, has scored a huge deal with Relativity Media for $4 million dollars with a $25 million commitment to P&A. The offer is a bold one, especially since the film comes with an R rating and JGL hasn’t proven himself to be a winner at the box office, but Relativity must be confident in the material. The film, a romantic comedy about a sex addict, will most likely get a wide release in the summer.

The other big deal at the festival, and one of the highest ever for Sundance, came from Fox Searchlight. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Way, Way Back got a whopping $10 million pickup from the studio, but the fact that Searchlight wanted it so bad isn’t too much of a surprise. Faxon and Rash won Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars last year for The Descendants. That film was a box office success for the studio, and The Way, Way Back‘s coming-of-age tale looks to be a crowd pleaser. The film will get a summer release which might be a sign that Searchlight will use a release strategy that’s similar to Beasts of the Southern Wild which also got picked up at Sundance.

Some other interesting acquisitions include:

-The Weinstein Company snagging rights for Fruitvale. The film is a hit with critics (more on that below) so an Oscar push might be in the cards later this year.

-Sony Pictures bought rights for Austenland, a romcom inspired by Jane Austen’s novels. Reviews have been mixed, but Sony Pictures (and more specifically Sony Pictures Classics) have a good track record so it might be better than its gimmicky premise suggests.

-IFC has distribution for Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love. Not too shocking that IFC got a deal since they distributed The Trip (Winterbottom and star Steve Coogan’s last collaboration), so expect a platform release on VOD and in theatres sometime soon.

The Spectacular Now has been gaining buzz for its two main stars, and A24 has already planned to release it in theaters this summer. A24 is a newer distributor but they’ll be in charge of releasing Spring Breakers this year so they must be doing something right.


Escape From Tomorrow – It’s a film that flew under everyone’s radar before the festival started, but now that it screened it’s easy to understand why. The film starts with a man finding out he’s been fired on the last day of his family vacation at Disney World, and then proceeds to portray his mind unraveling over the course of the day. The big news item with this movie is that they actually did shoot it at Disney World and Disneyland without Disney’s permission, making critics baffled at how the filmmakers were able to successfully shoot the film without getting into trouble. No one has any clue about what Disney will do, but based on their previous handling of cases it’s likely that this movie will never see the light of day again. Critics have enjoyed the film too, with Indiewire calling it a phantasmagorical nightmare that’s reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It’s unlikely that any distributor will even get a whiff of this movie, but hopefully there will be a chance to see it one day.

Escape From Tomorrow film
Escape From Tomorrow

Fruitvale – The Weinstein Company’s sale of Fruitvale more or less confirmed that something must be going right for this film. Inspired by the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant during New Year’s Day in 2009, Fruitvale opens with cell phone footage of the incident that took Grant’s life (multiple videos taken at the time showed a cop shooting Grant for no apparent reason; the cop claimed he mistook his taser for his gun and got off with a light sentence sparking a series of protests) before rewinding 12 hours to show the last day of Grant’s life. Oscar winners Octavia Spencer and Forest Whitaker star, but most of the praise has been directed towards Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Grant. Jordan is familiar to most people as one of the teens in Chronicle, and The Hollywood Reporter said it will serve as a springboard for Jordan’s career.

Fruitvale film

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – Starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a couple on the run from the law, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has had plenty of terms thrown around including ‘ethereal’, ‘searing’ and getting comparisons to Terrence Malick’s films (specifically Badlands). Lowery’s western will most likely get some sort of distribution deal down the line, but so far it looks like a picturesque and thought-provoking western that’ll be perfect for the arthouse.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints film
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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