Sundance 2008 Acquisitions Begin

BY CYNDI GREENING, PARK CITY, UTAH (CINEMA MINIMA) — Festival 2008 is full under sail and the acquisitions have begun. Given the Writer’s Strike and the possibility of a future with limited purchase options, there is some expectation that the mini-major studios and distributors such as Sony Pictures Classics, Magnolia Pictures and IFC Films will heat up the buying at the festival.

UP THE YANGTZE was the first acquisition announced at the festival. The Three Gorges Dam, an enormous and hotly contested symbol of the Chinese economic development, provides the backdrop for the film. Beautifully shot and edited, the film tells Yu Shui’s story. Among the two million losing their livelihood to the dam, the Yu family must send their daughter off to work.

HBO Documentary Films said it picked up THE BLACK LIST: VOLUME ONE. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders directed the movie which features interviews with black cultural figures and icons ranging from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Sean Combs to Colin Powell.

u23d.jpgOf great personal interest to me is U2 3D. The film is a feature-length compilation of U2 concert footage shot using a new generation of digital 3D cinema technology in which the blue and red cardboard glasses of the earlier 3D films have been replaced by sleeker polarized black glasses. The film’s technology is the work of two companies: Burbank-based 3ality and Beverly Hills-based Real D. At the Sundance premiere, the film will be shown in Dolby 3D Digital Cinema.

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Sundance Prep: Discussing Distribution

Risky Business book cover BY CYNDI GREENING. MESA, ARIZONA (CINEMA MINIMA) — Seven days until the 2008 Sundance Film Festival begins. A couple hundred films will be screened in the shadow of the Wasatch range and many of them will acquire distribution during the festival. Distribution is the “holy grail” of independent filmmaking. Elusive and extremely difficult to secure, selection in the Sundance Film Festival often anoints indie product as viable. In little over a week, we will be covering the distribution deals that thrust the new indie filmmakers into the industry.

As we complete the Zambian feature and documentary, we too are looking at distribution. According to Risky Business, the book by Mark Litwak on indie financing and distribution, the three things that make a film more appealing to a distributor are …

  • Star Power … participation by recognized industry creatives
  • Festival Fever … selection in a key festival
  • Great Reviews … recognition by film critics

According to Litwak, there are between 800 and 1,000 indie films available for sale at any given moment. So your film is competing with a glut of product. Presenting the strong selling points of your films is the key to distribution. Oh sure, there are tons of panels, books and articles on the many potential distribution avenues … including the web, DVD, tape and international markets. So, I spent most of the day, recalling our Zambian production adventures and trying to think of why that might be interesting to a potential audience (and therefore a distributor).

Because of the scenes she was editing, Pamela Jo kept reminding me how grumpy I had been on certain shooting days … oh the hours and hours and hours we waited … and while the clock ticked, I kept wondering if we’d ever get the film done. Knowing our return flights had already been booked, the clock reverberated like a prescient death knell. To this day, it amazes me that we finished shooting both films. The next few months will reveal if the story is of interest to an audience. We will document the process for you indie filmmakers.