Category Archives: Sundance Film Festival

Netflix snags NOLA-shot ‘Mudbound’ in $12.5 million deal: report

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Mike Scott, NOLA.com

Mudbound, the New Orleans-shot race drama that debuted this month at the Sundance Film Festival to sweeping acclaim, has been picked up by Netflix. The online streaming service paid $12.5 million for distribution rights to director Dee Rees’ film, the biggest deal to come out of this year’s fest, according to Variety and other industry publications.

With Mudbound being hailed as an instant contender for next year’s Oscars, Netflix will reportedly release the film simultaneously online and in theaters, following it with an award-season campaign. It is unclear how soon Netflix plans to release the film.

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Based on Hillary Jordan’s 2008 novel of the same name, “Mudbound” tracks the complicated relationship between two families — one white, the other black — living in rural Mississippi just after World War II. Carey Mulligan plays a refined Memphis woman who relocates with her new husband (Jason Clarke) and their two young daughters to the Delta. Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige play the heads of a black family that farms cotton on a leased part of Mulligan and Clarke’s land.

Also starring are Garret Hedlund and New Orleans native Jason Mitchell.

(Source: nola.com)

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2017 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GLOBAL INDEPENDENT CREATIVITY REACHES NEW HEIGHTS

Ceremony Caps Snowy Festival; Top Prizes Go To Dina, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.,  Last Men in Aleppo, The Nile Hilton Incident 

Chasing Coral, Crown Heights, Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language) and Gook Win Audience Awards

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Park City, Utah — After 10 days, 119 feature films and three feet of snow, an evening of humor and humanity marked the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony, with host Jessica Williams emceeing and jurors presenting 27 prizes for feature filmmaking in Park City, Utah. Honorees, named in total below, range from sharp comedies to provocative and timely documentaries and represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Human stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Dina (U.S. Documentary), Last Men in Aleppo (World Documentary), I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. (U.S. Dramatic) and The Nile Hilton Incident (World Dramatic). Chasing Coral, showcased in the Festival’s environmental program The New Climate, won an Audience Award in the U.S. Documentary category.

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John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival (Photo via twitter)

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “This has been one of the wildest, wackiest and most rewarding Festivals in recent memory. From a new government to the independently organized Women’s March on Main, to power outages, a cyberattack and snow at record levels, the work of our artists rose above it all and challenged and changed us these last 10 days. I am most proud that, through it all, we have formed a community that is bound tighter by the art we make and the ideas we support.”

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Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute (Photo via Sundance Institute)

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, added, “Let’s take the amazing energy we feel here at the Festival when we share stories with one another, and work together on behalf of the arts for the future we want to see.”

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2017 Festival, where 119 feature-length and 68 short films — selected from 13,782 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside new episodic work, panels, music and New Frontier. The ceremony was live-streamed; video is available at youtube.com/sff.

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s jurors were Diego Buñuel, Julie Goldman, Robert Greene, Susan Lacy, Larry Wilmore, Gael García Bernal, Peter Dinklage, Jody Hill, Jacqueline Lyanga, Jeannine Oppewall, Nai An, Sonia Braga, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Carl Spence, Marina Stavenhagen and Lynette Wallworth. Festival audiences voted for the Audience Awards in each of the U.S. and World Competitions and NEXT.

Feature film award winners in previous years include: Weiner, Sand Storm, The Birth of a Nation, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.

FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Larry Wilmore to:
Dina / U.S.A. (Directors: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini) — An eccentric suburban woman and a Walmart door-greeter navigate their evolving relationship in this unconventional love story.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Peter Dinklage to:
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Macon Blair) — When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Lynette Wallworth to:
Last Men in Aleppo / Denmark, Syria (Director: Feras Fayyad) — After five years of war in Syria, Aleppo’s remaining residents prepare themselves for a siege. Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud, founding members of The White Helmets, have remained in the city to help their fellow citizens—and experience daily life, death, struggle and triumph in a city under fire.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Sonia Braga to:
The Nile Hilton Incident / Sweden, Germany, Denmark (Director and screenwriter: Tarik Saleh) — In Cairo, weeks before the 2011 revolution, Police Detective Noredin is working in the infamous Kasr el-Nil Police Station when he is handed the case of a murdered singer. He soon realizes that the investigation concerns the power elite, close to the President’s inner circle. Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Mohamed Yousry, Yasser Ali Maher, Ahmed Selim, Hania Amar.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented by Barbara Kopple to:
Chasing Coral / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented by Taylor Sheridan to:
Crown Heights / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Ruskin) — When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice. Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Barbara Kopple to:
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Piscatella) — When the Chinese Communist Party backtracks on its promise of autonomy to Hong Kong, teenager Joshua Wong decides to save his city. Rallying thousands of kids to skip school and occupy the streets, Joshua becomes an unlikely leader in Hong Kong and one of China’s most notorious dissidents.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Taylor Sheridan to:
Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language) / Mexico, Netherlands (Director: Ernesto Contreras, Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras) — The last two speakers of a millennia-old language haven’t spoken in 50 years, when a young linguist tries to bring them together. Yet hidden in the past, in the heart of the jungle, lies a secret concerning the fate of the Zikril language. Cast: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Hoze Meléndez.

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented by Bridget Everett to:
Gook / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Chon) — Eli and Daniel, two Korean American brothers who own a struggling women’s shoe store, have an unlikely friendship with 11-year-old Kamilla. On the first day of the 1992 L.A. riots, the trio must defend their store—and contemplate the meaning of family, their personal dreams and the future. Cast: Justin Chon, Simone Baker, David So, Curtiss Cook Jr., Sang Chon, Ben Munoz.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Susan Lacy to:
Peter Nicks for his film The Force / U.S.A. (Director: Peter Nicks) — This cinema verité look at the long-troubled Oakland Police Department goes deep inside their struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson and an explosive scandal.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Jody Hill to:
Eliza Hittman for her film Beach Rats / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman) — An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Marina Stavenhagen to:
Pascale Lamche, for her film WINNIE / France (Director: Pascale Lamche) — While her husband served a life sentence, paradoxically kept safe and morally uncontaminated, Winnie Mandela rode the raw violence of apartheid, fighting on the front line and underground. This is the untold story of the mysterious forces that combined to take her down, labeling him a saint, her, a sinner.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Athina Tsangari to:
Francis Lee, for his film God’s Own Country / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Francis Lee) — Springtime in Yorkshire: isolated young sheep farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker, employed for the lambing season, ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path. Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Gael Garcia Bernal to:
Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith, for their film Ingrid Goes West / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Spicer, Screenwriters: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith) — A young woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram “influencer” and moves to Los Angeles to try and befriend her in real life. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking was presented by Julie Goldman to:
STEP / U.S.A. (Director: Amanda Lipitz) —  With dreams of becoming the first in their families to attend college, a group of seniors from an inner-city Baltimore girls high school strives to make their step dance team a success against a backdrop of social unrest in a troubled city.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling was presented by Robert Greene to:
Strong Island / U.S.A., Denmark (Director: Yance Ford) — Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented by Diego Buñuel to:
Editors Kim Roberts and Emiliano Battista for Unrest / U.S.A. (Director: Jennifer Brea) — When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story—and four other families’ stories—fighting a disease medicine forgot.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: The Orwell Award was presented by Diego Buñuel to:
ICARUS / U.S.A. (Director: Bryan Fogel) — When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold—exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography was presented by Gael Garcia Bernal to:
Director of Photography Daniel Landin for The Yellow Birds / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriters: David Lowery, R.F.I. Porto) — Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Iraq War. After an unthinkable tragedy, the returning soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace. Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, Jennifer Aniston.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance was presented by Jacqueline Lyanga to:
Chanté Adams, in Roxanne Roxanne / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell) — The most feared battle MC in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend. Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Director was presented by Jeannine Oppewall to:
Maggie Betts, for her film Novitiate / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Maggie Betts) — In the early 1960s, during the Vatican II era, a young woman training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, sexuality and the changing church. Cast: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography was presented by Marina Stavenhagen to:
Cinematographer Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva for Machines / India, Germany, Finland (Director: Rahul Jain) — This intimate, observant portrayal of the rhythm of life and work in a gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India, moves through the corridors and bowels of the enormously disorienting structure—taking the viewer on a journey of dehumanizing physical labor and intense hardship.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision was presented by Carl Spence to:
Motherland / U.S.A., Philippines (Director: Ramona S. Diaz) —  Taking us into the heart of the planet’s busiest maternity hospital, the viewer is dropped like an unseen outsider into the hospital’s stream of activity. At first, the people are strangers. As the film continues, it’s absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling was presented by Lynette Wallworth to:
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World / Canada (Directors: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana) — This powerful documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music history—featuring some of the greatest music stars of our time—exposes a critical missing chapter, revealing how indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and, through their contributions, influenced popular culture. Cast: Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Martin Scorsese, Tony Bennett, Steven Tyler, Iggy Pop.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented by Athina Tsangari to:
Cinematographer Manu Dacosse for Axolotl Overkill / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Helene Hegemann) — Mifti, age 16, lives in Berlin with a cast of characters including her half-siblings; their rich, self-involved father; and her junkie friend Ophelia. As she mourns her recently deceased mother, she begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic, and much older, white-collar criminal. Cast: Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Mavie Hörbiger, Laura Tonke, Hans Löw, Bernhard Schütz.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision was presented by Sonia Braga to:
Free and Easy / Hong Kong (Director: Jun Geng, Screenwriters: Jun Geng, Yuhua Feng, Bing Liu) — When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results. Cast: Xu Gang, Zhang Zhiyong, Xue Baohe, Gu Benbin, Zhang Xun, Yuan Liguo.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenplay was presented by Nai An to:
Screenwriter Kirsten Tan for Pop Aye / Singapore, Thailand (Director and screenwriter: Kirsten Tan) — On a chance encounter, a disenchanted architect bumps into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. Excited, he takes his elephant on a journey across Thailand in search of the farm where they grew up together. Cast: Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Penpak Sirikul, Bong.

The following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

SHORT FILM AWARDS:
Jury prizes and honorable mentions in short filmmaking were presented at a ceremony in Park City on January 24. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to: And so we put goldfish in the pool. / Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa). The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Lucia, Before and After / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Anu Valia). The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: And The Whole Sky Fit In The Dead Cow’s Eye / Chile, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francisca Alegría). The Short Film Jury Award: Non-Fiction was presented to: Alone / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley). The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Broken – The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck / Germany (Directors: Volker Schlecht, Alexander Lahl, Screenwriters: Alexander Lahl, Max Mönch). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Dadyaa — The Woodpeckers of Rotha / Nepal, France (Directors and screenwriters: Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet, Cinematographer: Chintan Rajbhandari),
and a Short Film Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Laps / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charlotte Wells, editor Blair McClendon).

The Short Film jurors were costume designer and wardrobe stylist Shirley Kurata, comedian, actor and writer Patton Oswalt and filmmaker David Lowery. The Short Film program is presented by YouTube.

GLOBAL FILMMAKING AWARDS:
The winning directors and projects of the 2017 Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Awards, in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world on the basis of their next screenplay, are:
Yalda (Iran) / Massoud Bakhshi

Mignonnes (France) / Maimouna Doucoure

The Hanged (Brazil) / Fernando Coimbra

Untitled Rock Opera (Poland) / Agnieszka Smoczynska

The Sundance Institute / NHK Award was presented to: I Came By (United Kingdom) / Babak Anvari

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE
The 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to Marjorie Prime, written and directed by Michael Almereyda. The filmmaker received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | AMAZON STUDIOS PRODUCERS AWARDS
Anish Savjani and Neil Kopp (producers, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.) and Joslyn Barnes (producer, Strong Island) received the 2017 Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards. The award recognizes bold vision and a commitment to continuing work as a creative producer in the independent space, and grants money (via the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and Documentary Film Program) to emerging producers of films at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Manchester by the Sea, Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshine, sex, lies, and videotape, Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2017 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, AT&T, DIRECTV, Omnicom, Stella Artois® and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – American Airlines, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Creators League Studio, Daydream, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Jaunt, Kickstarter, Oculus and the University of Utah Health. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Sponsor seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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(Source: Press release courtesy of sundance.org)

More distribution deals struck at Sundance ’17

Posted by Larry Gleeson

From the Salt Lake Tribune Staff

Another space of distribution deals have been made this week at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival:

• Fox Searchlight bought worldwide distribution rights to “Patti Cake$,” director Geremy Jasper’s crowd-pleasing tale of a white New Jersey girl (Danielle McDonald) who pursues his dreams of being a rap star. It played in the U.S. Dramatic competition.

• Fox Searchlight also picked up worldwide distribution rights to Amanda Lipitz’s documentary “Step,” which follows the progress of a step team at an inner-city Baltimore school. Fox Searchlight also acquired the remake rights. The movie played in the U.S. Documentary competition.

• Sony Pictures Classics has bought worldwide rights to the comedy “Brigsby Bear,” which played in the U.S. Dramatic competition. Directed by Dave McCary and filmed in Utah, the movie stars Kyle Mooney (who co-wrote the screenplay) as a young man whose life is upended, and he discovers the children’s TV show he watched his entire life was made for an audience of one.

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Roadside Attractions and FilmNation teamed up to secure North American rights to “Beatriz at Dinner,” starring Salma Hayek as a holistic therapist who encounters a businessman (John Lithgow) at a dinner party. The movie, which played in the Premieres section, was directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White.

• Amazon picked up the true-life drama “Crown Heights,” starring Lakeith Stansfield as a Brooklyn man wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit. The movie was directed by Matt Ruskin.

• Amazon also has picked up worldwide theatrical rights to “City of Ghosts,” Matthew Heineman’s documentary (in the U.S. Documentary competition) about a citizen-journalist group risking life and limb to get out information about the Islamic State’s atrocities in Syria. The movie was produced by A&E Indie Films, and A&E will retain the TV rights.

• IFC Midnight has acquired U.S. rights to “78/52,” director Alexandre O. Phillippe’s documentary (which played in the Midnight section) that dissects the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

• RLJ Entertainment landed U.S. rights to the Midnight title “Bushwick.” The movie, directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott and starring Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista, is set in a near-future in which a secessionist Texas militia invades Brooklyn.

(Source: stltrib.com)

Marjorie Prime Wins Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize at 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Winners of Commissioning Grant, Episodic Storytelling Grant and Lab Fellowship Revealed

Park City, Utah — At a reception during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival today, the beneficiaries of $60,000 in grants from Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation were revealed. Doron Weber, the Vice President of Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, announced the winners: Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime won the Feature Film Prize; Adam Benic’s Levittown (Sundance Institute | Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Episodic Storytelling Grant); Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler’s Bell (Sundance Institute | Sloan Lab Fellowship); and Jamie Dawson and Howard Gertler’s Untitled Smallpox Eradication Project (Sundance Institute | Sloan Commissioning Grant).

The reception was preceded by an all-female panel on women in science and their onscreen portrayals (or lack thereof), with discussion of half a dozen films about women in science that were supported and championed by Sloan, including the hit film Hidden Figures. These activities are part of the Sundance Institute Science-In-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute (Photo via Sundance.org)

“Support for these artists and their projects is more timely than ever,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, “Telling nuanced, human stories about science and technology is the most effective way to drive understanding of the forces that play such a major role in shaping our world today.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Sundance for the 14th year in a row and award the 2017 Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance to Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie

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Doron Weber, Vice President at the Sloan Foundation (Photo via Sloan.org)

Prime,” said Doron Weber,  Vice President at the Sloan Foundation. “With cool intelligence, wit and poignancy — allied to a deft directorial hand and a stellar cast — Almereyda explores the emotional landscape of artificial intelligence and dramatizes the emerging impact of intelligent machines on our most intimate human relationships. Sloan is also delighted to award three new screenwriting grants at Sundance focusing on scientists and inventors who helped shape the modern world as part of our “non-profit movie studio for science ” and a national development pipeline which has resulted in 20 feature films to date.”

 

Marjorie Prime: Winner of Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Marjorie Prime has been awarded the 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and will receive a $20,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The Prize is selected by a jury of film and science professionals and presented to outstanding feature films focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character.

Marjorie Prime / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda) — In the near future—a time of artificial intelligence—86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? Cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins.

The jury presented the award to the film for its “imaginative and nuanced depiction of the evolving relationship between humans and technology, and its moving dramatization of how intelligent machines can challenge our notions of identity, memory and mortality”

As previously announced, this year’s Alfred P. Sloan jury members are: Heather Berlin, Tracy Drain, Nell Greenfieldboyce, Nicole Perlman and Jennifer Phang.

Previous Alfred P. Sloan Prize Winners include: Ciro Guerra, Embrace of the Serpent (2015); Mike Cahill, I Origins (2014); Andrew Bujalski, Computer Chess (2013); Jake Schreier and Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank (2012); Musa Syeed, Valley of Saints (2012); Mike Cahill and Brit Marling, Another Earth (2011); Diane Bell, Obselidia (2010); Max Mayer, Adam (2009); Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer (2008); Shi-Zheng Chen, Dark Matter (2007); Andrucha Waddington and Elena Soarez, House of Sand (2006); Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man (2005); Shane Carruth, Primer (2004) and Marc Decena, Dopamine (2003). Several past winners have also been awarded Jury Awards at the Festival, including the Grand Jury Prize for Primer, the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for Sleep Dealer and the Excellence in Cinematography Award for Obselidia.

To support the development of screenplays with science or technology, Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provide three different opportunities for screenwriters through a Commissioning Grant, a Lab Fellowship and an Episodic Storytelling Grant. All provide a cash award to support further development of a screenplay and to retain science advisors, along with overall creative and strategic feedback throughout development.

Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant

Jamie Dawson and Howard Gertler will receive a $12,500 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Previous winner’s include Alex Rivera’s La Vida Robot and Robert Edwards’s American Prometheus.

Untitled Smallpox Eradication Project (U.S.A.) / Jamie Dawson (Writer) and Howard Gertler (Producer)
In 1965, the World Health Organization orders a massive operation to eradicate the deadly smallpox virus from the human population.  A ragtag band of very different personalities — from ashram hippies to tenacious scientists to tactical bureaucrats — clash and collaborate as they fight to pull off the impossible.

Jamie Dawson is a New York native and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Film Program.  He has sold or optioned work to companies such as BCDF Pictures, Manage-ment/Dan Halsted, Formation Entertainment, and Permut Presentations.  Projects in development include: The Rabbit Garden, his Black List script about controversial author Jerzy Kosinski (Being There) with producer David Permut and director Janusz Kaminski; and Swan Song, a television series based on the award-winning, cult classic novel by Robert McCammon (Boy’s Life).

Oscar-nominated producer Howard Gertler’s credits include David France’s How to Survive a Plague, which premiered in competition at Sundance 2012 and was released by IFC Films/Sundance Selects; in addition to the Academy Award nomination, the film collected New York Film Critics’ Circle, Peabody, IFP Gotham, IDA and GLAAD Media Awards. He’s both an IFP/Gotham and Film Independent Spirit Award winner, the latter of which he won for producing John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus, which premiered in the official selection in Cannes and was released worldwide. His upcoming films include John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties, produced with See-Saw Films, Film4, Ingenious and Screen Yorkshire, to be released by A24 and Studiocanal UK in 2017.

 

Sundance Institute / Sloan Lab Fellowship

Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler will receive a $15,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Previous winners include Logan Kibbens’s Operator, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter, and Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything.

Bell (U.S.A.) / Darcy Brislin (Co-Writer) and Dyana Winkler (Co-Writer)
At a pivotal point in history, hearing society began a golden age of communication with the advent of the telephone, while deaf society plummeted into a dark age with the eradication of sign language and spread of eugenics. At the helm of both trajectories stands a single man—Alexander Graham Bell. This project was the recipient of the 2016 Sundance Sloan Commissioning Grant.

A Boston native, Darcy Brislin studied Art History and French at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She received an MFA in screenwriting and directing from EICAR, the International Film School of Paris, where she met co-writer Dyana Winkler. Currently based in Los Angeles, Brislin has written screenplays with Sundance award-winning director Ondi Timoner and has a feature film in development entitled Crown Chasers, with Maria Bello attached to produce.

Dyana Winkler is a writer, director, producer based in Brooklyn. Her most recent film, a feature-length documentary entitled United Skates, is currently in post production and has received awards from the Sundance Institute, New York State Council For the Arts, Fledgling Foundation, Film Independent, Chicken & Egg, IFP, and many more. Winkler met her writing partner, Darcy Brislin, in Paris, France, while completing their MFAs in screenwriting and directing, and discovered their shared passion for casting new light on historical figures. They went on to write their first screenplay Turing, and have teamed up for a second time with Bell, which was the recipient of the 2016 Sundance Sloan Commissioning Grant.

Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Storytelling Grant: Levittown

Adam Benic will receive a $12,500 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Levittown (U.S.A.) / Adam Benic (Writer, Creator)
A one-hour drama series about visionary WWII veteran, Lieutenant William Levitt, who on his 40th birthday broke ground on the largest private construction project in American history. Alongside his attorney father and architect brother, Will fights against an antiquated industry to fill the massive postwar housing need, thus building the world’s first mass-produced suburb, Levittown, Long Island.

Adam Benic is a Writers’ Assistant on TNT’s Animal Kingdom, and formerly a Showrunner’s Assistant on Hulu’s Shut Eye, CBS’s Extant, and a graduate of AFI’s MFA Screenwriting program. Adam hails from Long Island, New York where he grew up in a Levitt home.

 

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshine, sex, lies, and videotape, Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2017 Festival sponsors to date include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, AT&T, DIRECTV, Omnicom, Stella Artois® and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – American Airlines, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Creators League Studio, Daydream, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Jaunt, Kickstarter, Oculus and the University of Utah Health. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Sponsor seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

 

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Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The New York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.

Sloan’s Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about scientists, science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past 15 years, Sloan has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country—including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC—and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the-best Student Grand Jury Prize administered by the Tribeca Film Institute. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, the San Francisco Film Society, the Black List, and Film Independent’s Producing Lab and Fast Track program and has helped develop such film projects as Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Mathew Brown’s The Man Who Knew Infinity, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter, Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything, Musa Syeed’s Valley of Saints, and Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess.

The Foundation also has an active theater program and commissions about twenty science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theater and Manhattan Theatre Club, as well as supporting select productions across the country. Recent grants have supported Nick Payne’s Incognito, Frank Basloe’s Please Continue, Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Informed Consent, Lucas Hnath’s Isaac’s Eye, and Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, recently on London’s West End.

The Foundation’s book program includes early stage support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, now a major motion picture that was awarded the San Francisco Film Society Sloan Science in Cinema Prize in 2016.

(Source: Press release courtesy of Sundance Media Relations)

*(Featured photo via zimbio.com)

 

 

 

 

Japanese Short Wins at Sundance

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

And so we put goldfish in the pool. Wins Grand Jury Prize

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Park City, Utah — Winners of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival jury prizes in short filmmaking were announced today by Sundance Institute at a ceremony in Park City, Utah. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize, awarded to one film in the program of 68 shorts selected from 8,985 submissions, went to And so we put goldfish in the pool., written and directed by Makoto Nagahisa. Full video of the ceremony is at youtube.com/sff. The Short Film program is presented by YouTube.

This year’s Short Film jurors are Shirley Kurata, David Lowery and Patton Oswalt.

Short Film awards winners in previous years include Thunder Road by Jim Cummings, World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt, SMILF by Frankie Shaw, Of God and Dogs by Abounaddara Collective, Gregory Go Boom by Janicza Bravo, The Whistle by Grzegorz Zariczny, Whiplash by Damien Chazelle, FISHING WITHOUT NETS by Cutter Hodierne, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker and The Arm by Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis.

The short film program at the Festival is the centerpiece of Sundance Institute’s year-round efforts to support short filmmaking. Select Festival short films are presented as a traveling program at over 50 theaters in the U.S. and Canada each year, and short films and filmmakers take part in regional Master Classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in several cities. Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and in partnership with The Guardian and The New York Times’ Op-Docs, provides grants to makers of documentary shorts around the world, including new filmmakers in Cuba featured in a Special Event program at this year’s Festival.

2017 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Jury Awards:

The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to: And so we put goldfish in the pool. / Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa) — One summer day, 400 goldfish were found in the swimming pool of a secondary school. This is a story about the four 15-year-old girls who put them there.

The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Lucia, Before and After / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Anu Valia) — After traveling 200 miles, a young woman waits out Texas’s state-mandated 24-hour waiting period before her abortion can proceed.

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: And The Whole Sky Fit In The Dead Cow’s Eye / Chile, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francisca Alegría) — Emeteria is visited by the ghost of her patrón, Teodoro. She believes he has come to take her to the afterlife—but he has more devastating news.

The Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction was presented to: Alone / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley) — This investigation into the layers of mass incarceration and its shaping of the modern black American family is seen through the eyes of a single mother in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Broken – The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck / Germany (Directors: Volker Schlecht, Alexander Lahl, Screenwriters: Alexander Lahl, Max Mönch) — This animated documentary about Hoheneck, the main women’s prison in former East Germany, is based on original interviews with former inmates. It’s a film about political imprisonment, forced labor and enormous profits on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

A Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Dadyaa — The Woodpeckers of Rotha / Nepal, France (Directors and screenwriters: Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet, Cinematographer: Chintan Rajbhandari)— Atimaley and Devi’s village is haunted by memories. When a dear friend leaves the village without saying goodbye, the old couple faces a dilemma: keep living with the memories or leave the village for good?

A Short Film Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Laps / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charlotte Wells, editor Blair McClendon) — On a routine morning, a woman on a crowded New York City subway is sexually assaulted in plain sight.

 

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The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshine, sex, lies, and videotape, Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2017 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, AT&T, DIRECTV, Omnicom, Stella Artois® and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – American Airlines, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Creators League Studio, Daydream, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Jaunt, Kickstarter, Oculus and the University of Utah Health. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Sponsor seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

 

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Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home.

 

(Source: Sundance Press Office)

Horizon Awards Announced in Park City during Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE HORIZON AWARD SUPPORTS EMERGING FEMALE FILMMAKERS WORLD-WIDE 

The Horizon Award co-founders, Elwes, Howell, and Vachon, have partnered with new and returning sponsors: The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, Sundance Institute, Women In Film (WIF) Los Angeles, The Black List, CreativeFuture, The Creative Mind Group, ScreenEngine, MPRM, Twitter, MPAA, WME, and ShivHans Pictures  for the 3rd Annual Awards in Park City.

PARK CITY, UTAH (January 23, 2017) – The Horizon Award co-founders (Cassian Elwes, Lynette Howell Taylor, and Christine Vachon) proudly announced the winners of the 3rd Annual Horizon Awards on last night, January 22, 2017, at the WME Lounge in Park City, Utah during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.  The six directors who judged the final 53 films to select the 2 winners were: Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight), Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry, Carrie), Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader, Addicted to Fresno), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, Æon Flux), Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar), and Vicky Jensen (Shrek, Shark Tale).  Brittany “B Monét” Fennell and Andy Villanueva were the two (2) female directors, who submitted their self-directed short film (two minutes or less) through the website (www.horizonaward.org), and were awarded their cash prize during this event.  As part of their award, The Horizon Award made it possible for both Ms. Fennell & Ms. Villanueva to experience an all-expense paid mentorship to the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, in addition to a cash prize.

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Pictured above: top left to right, Christine Vachon (Co-Founder), Lynette Howell Taylor (Co-Founder), Cassian Elwes (Co-Founder), and Shivani Rawat; bottom left to right, Brittany “B Monet” Fennell (Award Winner), Sharon Lawrence (Actress), Dee Rees (Director), Andy Villanueva (Award Winner), Carey Mulligan (Actress), and Jack Black (Actor). (Photo credit: Dan Campbell/Horizon Award))

Among the presenters were Jack Black (The Polka King, Kung Fu Panda), Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, Suffragette), Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue, Shameless), and Dee Rees (Director of Mudbound, Pariah).

We were also delighted to announce that CEO, Shivani Rawat and ShivHans Pictures generously donated $25,000 to the Horizon Award winners for continuing education and sponsorship on film projects.  ShivHans Pictures was one of the producers of The Polka King that premiered at Sundance with directors: Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky with cast: Jack Black, Jason Schwarzman, Jenny Slate, and others.

“Being a woman in a largely male-dominated field presents challenges, one of which is balancing the serious gender and diversity gap within the filmmaking community.  As a young, Indian-American female producer myself this is a personal challenge, which is why ShivHans Pictures is proud to support this year’s women filmmakers as a patron of the Horizon Award.” —Shivani Rawat

The 3rd Annual Horizon Award partnered with new and returning sponsors: The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, Sundance Institute, Women In Film (WIF) Los Angeles, The Black List, CreativeFuture, The Creative Mind Group, ScreenEngine, MPRM, Twitter, MPAA, WME, and ShivHans Pictures.

The Horizon Award Co-Founders have been in Park City to represent each of their films at the Sundance Film Festival.  Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, and Killer Films are with their four films: Beatriz at Dinner, Lemon, Mercy, and Where is Kyra.  Cassian Elwes and Elevated is with Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, and Garrett Hedlund.  Following an amazing 2016 Sundance Film Festival with her film, Captain Fantastic, Lynette Howell Taylor is currently working on the HBO mini-series, American Lion, with Sean Penn as well as with Brie Larson on her directorial debut, Unicorn Store.  Lynette has snuck away from post-production to support The Horizon Award at Sundance 2017.

ABOUT THE HORIZON AWARD RECIPIENTS:

Brittany “B Monét” Fennell is a graduate of Spelman College.  She studied writing and directing at New York University and was granted the Graduate Film Department Fellowship.  She associate produced a short film “Strings Attached” that premiered at Cannes Court Metrage.  Recently, shot a feature length documentary called Little Sallie Walker with Stephanie Person, the first African-American professional skateboarder.  She also worked at Beyoncé’s production company Parkwood Entertainment.  Last year she completed a short documentary #RiseUpOctober with Dr. Cornel West, about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  Currently, she is developing her short film “Q.U.E.E.N.” into a feature and working on a short film for the Bureau of Creative Works that will be featured on VHX in 2017.  This year she was named a directing fellow for Film Independent’s fellowship Project Involve.

Andy Villanueva is a Mexican immigrant, multi-disciplinary artist and co-founder of Project Slut.  She has been fighting for young women’s rights since she was 15.  She is currently double majoring at York University and studying Human Rights & Equity Studies & Cinema.

ABOUT THE HORIZON AWARD FOUNDERS, SPONSORS, & GRANTS:

Founded by acclaimed independent film producers Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club), Lynette Howell Taylor (Captain Fantastic), and Christine Vachon (Carol), The Horizon Award make it possible for two young women to experience an all-expense paid mentorship to the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, in addition to a cash prize.  Elwes, Howell, and Vachon have partnered with new and returning sponsors: The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, Sundance Institute, Women In Film (WIF) Los Angeles, The Black List, CreativeFuture, The Creative Mind Group, ScreenEngine, MPRM, Twitter, MPAA, WME, and ShivHans Pictures in this effort.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-11-54-03-amThe Horizon Award is an annual competitive accolade, with a cash prize, established to support emerging female directors and address the significant disparity between the numbers of female-to-male directors, a hot topic that is the subject of an ACLU inquiry into management and labor hiring practices in Hollywood.  The American film and television industry is in need of significant change to better represent the diversity of this country.  At a time when women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population, just 7.5% of the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 were made by female directors.  One of the most glaring statistics:  approximately 50% of people in film school are women, 25% of films in competition at Sundance Film Festival are directed by women, yet only 2% of the top-grossing films in 2014 were directed by women.  The Horizon Award wants to be part of the change.

 

The Horizon Award team is incredibly grateful for the continued support of The Adrienne Shelly Foundation.  This year, the Adrienne Shelly Foundation is returning with a $5,000 Film Grant to be awarded in partnership with The Horizon Award at The Sundance Film Festival in January 2017.  Named in honor of actress/filmmaker, Adrienne Shelly, the grant supports women filmmakers to move forward in their careers.  Commenting on the grant, Founder and Executive Director, Andy Ostry said: “Our grants support women filmmakers.  Yet just 6% of the 250 top grossing films last year were directed by women.  That’s a shameful statistic, which is why our mission is so critical.”

*Featured photo: left to right, Cassian Elwes (Horizon Award Co-Founder, Carey Mulligan (Actress), and Andy Villanueva (Award Winner).(Photo credit: Dan Campbell/Horizon Award)

(Source: Melanie Márquez, Senior Publicist at M4PR )

Sundance Institute and The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation Collaborate to Support Diverse Independent Filmmakers

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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Foundation Backs Institute’s Annual Screenwriters Intensive, Year-Round Diversity Work

 

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute and The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation will collaborate to support diverse independent artists, they announced today at a reception at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. As part of a two-year commitment, the Foundation will support the Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive and year-round work with diverse independent filmmakers and artists.

The Screenwriters Intensive, part of the Institute’s Feature Film Program, provides the opportunity for 10 emerging screenwriters from underrepresented communities to hone their craft in a two-day workshop focused deeply on the creative process. It works in partnership with the Institute’s Diversity Initiative, which emphasizes diversity as a longstanding and core value of all Institute programs. The Initiative encompasses efforts to reach new communities of storytellers and artists across regions, genres, ethnicities, genders and orientations.

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Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute (Photo via zimbio.com

“Sundance is proud to work with storytellers from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, both at the Festival and in our artist development programs,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute. “We are so grateful for the generous support of The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation. Together, we will build momentum and awareness about the need to create a film and media landscape that reflects the full richness and diversity of our culture.”

 

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Jada Pinkett Smith

“We are honored and energized to collaborate with Sundance Institute to cultivate stories and storytellers reflective of the world at large, and we view today as the beginning of a productive, purposeful and powerful alignment with an enduring institution,” said Jada Pinkett Smith.

For over two decades, The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation has generously supported individuals and organizations dedicated to advancement in the areas of education, health, sustainability and arts. The Foundation’s new initiative, Careers in Entertainment (CIE), introduces youth to careers in the media and entertainment industry through mentorship and internship opportunities. CIE enables students to learn from the industry’s most creative and successful leaders across television, film and music.

The Institute’s support for diverse artists extends throughout its more than 35-year history. Artists supported by the Institute include Ava DuVernay, Robert Rodriguez, Ryan Coogler, Lee Daniels, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and Dee Rees. Current programs include Fellowships for Latino and Asian-American artists. The Institute’s formalized Diversity Initiative was created with founding support from the Time Warner Foundation.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation
Dedicated to the betterment of the world around us, The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation assists individuals, charities, and organizations in the areas of education, health and sustainability.  Learn more about The Will & Jada Smith Foundation and the Careers in Entertainment initiative on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

# # #

(Source: Sundance Press Office)

Annapurna launches marketing, distribution operation

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Jeremy Kay

The timely development comes as industry sources predict Megan Ellison’s team is in Sundance looking to make a statement buy as the festival wraps up its first weekend.

The full-service distribution and marketing operation will kick off with the inaugural release of Kathryn Bigelow’s Untitled Detroit Project in theatres on August 4.

Marc Weinstock, who recently joined the company as president, will oversee the new division alongside president of marketing David Kaminow and president of distribution Erik Lomis.

The addition of a deep-pocketed buyer adds to speculation over who will make the big acquisition plays in Park City.

Prior to the festival there was talk that YouTube Red, Facebook and Apple could be the ones to watch besides Netflix and Amazon Studios. While those first three companies are making inroads into feature content and have the money to step up, the focus now turns to Annapurna.

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Marc Weinstock (Photo via HollywoodReporter.com)

“Kathryn’s Untitled Detroit Project is exemplary of the type of films we will be distributing,” said Weinstock. “I couldn’t be more confident in the team we are establishing to distribute and market the film in a way that is as creative and masterful as her film is.”

 

Bigelow’s film takes place against the backdrop of Detroit’s 1967 riots. Bigelow is producing with Ellison and Matthew Budman. Mark Boal, who wrote the script, and Colin Wilson are also producers with Greg Shapiro serving as executive producer.

The release date will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the riots and stars an ensemble cast that includes John Boyega, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor and Jeremy Strong.

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Megan Ellison, producer and founder of Annapurna Pictures (Photo via Screendaily.com)

“Kathryn took a chance on me six years ago and I’m honored that she has put her faith in me and my team once again,” said Ellison, referring to Zero Dark Thirty. “I could not be more excited to be launching this new part of our company with such a groundbreaking filmmaker, tremendous collaborator, and dear friend.”

Bigelow added: “Megan has been such a huge supporter of filmmakers as a producer and the fact that she is now offering a full-fledged distribution and marketing home run by such innovative and creative executives is great news to all of us. I am thrilled to be working with them.”

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Pictured above, Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, Untitled Detroit Project, is slated to be Annapurna Pictures’ inaugural combined marketing and distribution operation. (Photo via The  AV Club)

 

(Source: screendaily.com)

 

 

Actress Kristen Stewart Makes Her Directorial Debut at the Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Kelsie Gibson

Kristen Stewart marked a major milestone in her career at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, on Thursday. For the first time, the actress appeared at the festival as a director as she attended the premiere of her 17-minute short, Come Swim, which was produced in collaboration with Refinery29 for its Shatterbox Anthology, a collection of short films directed by women.

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Kristin Stewart, third from left, poses with her team on the red carpet. (Photo credit: Getty Images/Joe Scarnici)

Rocking black pants, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket, Kristen looked casual and cool as usual as she posed with her team on the red carpet. “I feel amazing,” she told reporters at the Prospector Square Theater. “I’m so happy that so many actual eyes get to see it in the theater.”

Kristen Stewart is joining the growing number of Hollywood women who’ve moved behind the camera, partnering with Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology for her directorial début, Come Swim. A surrealist journey through the imagination’s wild currents, Come Swim conjures a stunningly kaleidoscopic portrait of one man’s emotional interior — it’s unbounded darkness and desire. Click here for a behind-the-scenes look

 

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(Sources: popsugar.com, refinery29.com)

Sundance: Exploring the Implications of Amazon’s New Distribution Play

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Dan Shoenbrun

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Earlier this week, Amazon Video Direct (AVD, a department within Amazon focused on self-publishing distribution tools for filmmakers) announced an intriguing new opportunity available to Sundance 2017 feature filmmakers. Dubbed the “Film Festival Stars” program, AVD is offering, in exchange for a two-year worldwide SVOD (subscription VOD) contract (with one-year exclusive) an up-front “cash bonus” to Sundance titles on a sliding scale based on section ($100,000 for US Narrative Competition titles, $75,000 for US Documentary Competition Titles, and $25,000 for titles in the NEXT, Midnight, Kids, World, New Frontiers, and Spotlight sections). The deal also offers a preferential rate on Amazon’s standard payouts per stream.

Though AVD framed this announcement as a “self-distribution opportunity,” it was greeted with debate from a subset of influential independent producers on Facebook, who pointed out that it sounded less like “self-distribution” and more like a traditional, albeit standardized SVOD distribution deal. The point was raised that the initial exclusivity clause would all but rule out other distribution opportunities (as SVOD is the most lucrative revenue stream on most independent films in 2017), and that what was here being referred to as a “cash bonus” was simply a rebranded version of what other distributors referred to as an MG (or “minimum guarantee”). Further concern was raised over the fact that this standardized “cash bonus” publicly assigned an across-the-board standard price point to all Sundance films premiering in a given category. Would this devalue the market overall? $100k or $25k, after all, would hardly be considered “recouping” for most films premiering at Sundance.

This is a depressing fact, but to my eyes Amazon’s numbers are actually quite generous when you consider the fact that this is a deal aimed not at the major, star-driven films premiering at the festival, but rather at those films that won’t land a big sale. There are certainly plenty of Sundance films that will not be offered worldwide MGs for nearly as high an amount as those offered here.

So is there a downside to filmmakers and producers having this additional opportunity available to them?

Probably not, at least not in the immediate future. But in my opinion this announcement should worry one subsection of the industry: niche and micro-budget distributors. By naming a standardized price that many distributors can’t hope to match, Amazon wagers that there are filmmakers out there willing to choose upfront money over the less quantifiable benefits that a smaller distributor will offer in lieu of an MG (marketing, PR, P&A, theatrical bookings).

I queried AVD about their Film Festival Stars program via email, and tried to ask questions that I’d want to know more about if I was a filmmaker or producer considering this deal, or a distributor fretting about the future of my business. They replied with these responses attributed collectively to the AVD team.

Filmmaker: Can you clarify how Amazon Video Direct differs from Amazon Studios? Are the films participating in Amazon Video Direct also available to stream for free to all Amazon Prime members?

AVD: Amazon Original Movies is interested in films for acquisition purposes — they are looking to purchase, co-finance, pre-buy and invest in premium original content that will be theatrically released and can be viewed exclusively by Prime members. Amazon Video Direct is a service offered by Amazon Video that enables filmmakers and other content creators to make their titles available to Amazon customers worldwide, including millions of Amazon Prime customers, through a self-service publishing interface without the need for complex negotiations or contracts. The Film Festival Stars program, from Amazon Video Direct, is a program focused on filmmakers, beyond those targeted for direct acquisition by AOM and Prime Video teams at Sundance, who want to self-distribute their films by providing additional opportunities to make their films available to Amazon Prime members. The opt-in nature of Amazon Video Direct and Film Festival Stars is what makes it unique.

Filmmaker: Will similar offers (with upfront “publishing bonuses”) be made to filmmakers premiering at other US festivals like SXSW and Tribeca? Or is this deal unique to Sundance?

AVD: At this time, the Film Festival Stars program is only open to films chosen as official selections at Sundance 2017.

Filmmaker: Can you speak a bit about how you determined the pricing tiers offered in this deal? The numbers imply that you have generally determined that US Dramatic Competition films are 25% more valuable than US Documentaries, and four-times more valuable than films in the Foreign and Midnight sections. How did you arrive at these estimates?

AVD: As an opt-in program, we are not placing value on individual or classes of films. The non-recoupable up front bonus for filmmakers who opt-in to the program is intended to pay for a portion of the marketing and theatrical costs typically associated with films in these categories. Every title that is published in the program will earn double the per-hour royalty rate we pay with our standard terms.

Filmmaker: Why is exclusivity important to AVD’s business plan?

AVD: We require exclusivity to justify the substantial up-front cash bonus (non-recoupable) and elevated per-hour royalty rate. AVD is investing in the film with an up-front bonus (marketing dollars), and in exchange ask it to be exclusive to Prime members through SVOD for the first 12 months (starting after a 6-month window).

Filmmaker: Some producers have criticized the windowing of this deal (which requires films start streaming by September), arguing that smaller films considering self-distribution need more time to exhaust all distribution options, and to realistically plan and execute a theatrical release. How did you arrive at this deadline, and what is your response to those who say its in a filmmaker’s best interest to wait longer before choosing a VOD partner?

AVD: There are many high-quality films screened at major film festivals that are ultimately not acquired for full service distribution. The Film Festival Stars program is designed to provide a new distribution pathway alternative for a broader set of films screened during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Each film is unique and we believe expanding distribution options for filmmakers will result in more great films reaching a bigger audience. We also feel it is important to ensure filmmakers retain the flexibility to pursue additional distribution options outside of our SVOD exclusivity terms.

Filmmaker: I imagine many filmmakers will find themselves torn between this AVD offer and offers from smaller, niche distributors who are making lower monetary bids but with a more tailored, hands-on approach to things like P&A and theatrical. Taking into account that smaller distributors are still able to place films on major streaming platforms (including Amazon), and that self-distribution can be quite a time-consuming and costly endeavor, what would your argument be to a filmmaker to go with AVD outside of the money offered?

AVD: The “opt-in” nature of Film Festival Stars is what makes it unique.  Filmmakers who do not choose to participate in the Film Festival Stars program are free to choose whether they want to license their SVOD rights on the standard program terms. With the Film Festival Stars program we are creating another option for filmmakers as they craft a holistic distribution strategy, which may include self-distribution or working with other distribution partners. The filmmaker is making the choice and in control.

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(Source: filmmakermagazine.com)