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5 items from 2017

How Sundance Is Trying to Make Smaller Films Profitable With Self-Distribution

3 August 2017 9:00 AM, PDT | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

Producer Danielle Renfrew Behrens was never under the illusion that her quiet indie “Columbus” would spark a bidding war after it premiered at Sundance. But when popular video-essayist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada’s directorial debut became one of the best reviewed films at the 2017 festival, she did assume there would be distribution offers that, at the very least, would make her investors happy.

Read MoreSundance 2017 IndieWire Critics Poll Results: Best Film

It didn’t quite work out that way. “We did get offers, but they didn’t make sense for us,” said Behrens in an interview with IndieWire. “The film would have had a respectable release, but we wouldn’t have recouped based on that offer.”

That experience led “Columbus” to become one of two inaugural recipients of the Creative Distribution Fellowship, the Sundance Institute’s new workshop for completed films seeking help with marketing and distribution. The other recipient is “Unrest,” a documentary that also premiered at Sundance in January 2017. The fellowship comes with a sizable grant – the biggest Sundance has ever handed out – to support the costs of self-distribution.

This was never part of the plan. Behrens — who has been producing moderately-priced indies (“The Queen of Versailles,” “Grandma”) for close to 20 years and whose company Superlative Films raised the financing for “Columbus” — admits that she was caught off-guard. Not only were distributors offering lower-than-expected money upfront, but she also lacked faith that bidders would put the resources behind “Columbus” to make sure it found its audience.

“I’ve had success selling films and have been happy with the marketing of them,” said Behrens. “But for this film to be successful, it needs a team that will get under the hood and do a lot of outreach and really target it to [potential] niche audiences.”

The financial side of independent film is always a gamble, but in the case of “Columbus,” Behrens believed the risk was if Kogonada could deliver on his unique vision with his first feature film. Once he did, the producer was confident “Columbus” was a strong candidate to tap a few different niche audiences that went beyond the arthouse film crowd responding to the great reviews.

Read MoreSupercut Guru Kogonada: How He Leapt from Small Screens to Sundance Next with the Mysterious ‘Columbus

The film is set against the unlikely modern architecture mecca of Columbus, Indiana, which Kogonada fully incorporated into his script and concise geometrical framing. With proper marketing, Behrens assumed, the film could be a must-see for followers of modern art, architecture and design. Additionally, at a time when audiences are hungry for more diverse storytellers, “Columbus” was a breakout debut from an Asian American filmmaker that featured an Asian American character as its lead, played by John Cho.

“Koganada is so specific and I felt like I owed it to him to feel like the marketing and positioning of the film was done with as much precision and passion as he made the film,” said Behrens. “I’m not ready to walk away from it and give it to someone else unless I feel like I know they are going to care about it as much as I do.”

All signs pointed to the producer taking on the responsibility of self-distribution, but the costs were steep. The approach would involve laying out even more money for publicity and advertising, but it also meant that Behrens would have to delay her plans for future projects.

“For me, it was a little bit of a risk, because it’s me telling my investors we have offers that weren’t going to be amazingly lucrative, but they were going to be money in our pocket very quickly and I would be onto the next thing,” said Behrens. That’s when Sundance’s Creative Distribution Initiative came into play.

This article continues on the next page.

Related storiesSundance-Backed Political Documentary Caught in Censorship Nightmare'Columbus' Trailer: Discover Why This John Cho Drama Is One of the Great Indie Debuts of 2017Sundance Institute Announces 8 Projects for Annual Documentary Edit and Story Lab »

- Chris O'Falt

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Magnolia Pictures Cannes-bound with 'Permanent'

11 May 2017 4:12 PM, PDT | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Exclusive: Company plans Us release later this year.

Magnolia Pictures will launch international sales in Cannes on the comedy Permanent starring Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson.

Colette Burson wrote and directed the 1980’s-set coming-of-age story about a young teenager who desperately wants a perm to make a fashion statement at school.

When her clueless parents take her to a hairdressing academy to save money, things go wrong. Newcomer Kira McLean rounds out the key cast.

Magnolia head of worldwide sales Scott Veltri and director of international sales Lorna Lee Sagebiel-Torres will introduce Permanent on the Croisette.

Magnolia plans a Us release later this year for the 2929 production in partnership with Park Pictures and Washington Square Films.

Mary Ann Marino, Haroula Rose, Sam Bisbee, and Joshua Blum produced the film.

Executive producers are Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Ben Cosgrove, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Lance Acord, and Danielle Renfrew Behrens. »

- jeremykay67@gmail.com (Jeremy Kay)

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Magnolia Pictures acquires 'Lucky'

7 April 2017 2:53 PM, PDT | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Separately, Kino Lorber takes Dawson City: Frozen Time, and Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World.

Magnolia Pictures has picked up Us and international rights from Xyz Films to John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut Lucky.

Magnolia head of worldwide sales Scott Veltri and director of international sales Lorna Lee Sagebiel-Torres will represent international rights in Cannes.

The comedic drama about mortality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection stars Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr. and Tom Skerritt.

Lukcy premiered at SXSW and Magnolia plans a theatrical release later in the year on the story about a 90-year-old atheist’s spiritual journey.

Danielle Renfrew BehrensSuperlative Films produced along with Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, and John Lang of Divide/Conquer. Ira Steven Behr, Richard Kahan, Sumonja, and Sparks. Jason Delane Lee served as executive producers.

Lucky is an uplifting, beautifully crafted paean to one of the most iconic actors of any era,” Magnolia President »

- jeremykay67@gmail.com (Jeremy Kay)

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Magnolia Nabs ‘Lucky’ Starring Harry Dean Stanton (Exclusive)

7 April 2017 10:58 AM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Magnolia Pictures has acquired U.S. and international rights to the comedic drama “Lucky,” John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut.

Lynch is an in-demand character actor who has played showy roles in the likes of “Fargo” and “Zodiac.” “Lucky” follows a 90-year-old atheist who goes on an unexpected journey toward enlightenment. The film boasts a star turn by Harry Dean Stanton of “Paris, Texas” and “Big Love” fame. The cast includes David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., and Tom Skerritt.

In a rave review, Variety’s Joe Leydon wrote, “an unassumingly wonderful little film about nothing in particular and everything that’s important.”


SXSW Film Review: ‘Lucky

Lucky,” which world premiered at SXSW, will be released theatrically by Magnolia later this year.

“‘Lucky’ is an uplifting, beautifully crafted paean to one of the most iconic actors of any era,” Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles said. “John has truly captured »

- Brent Lang

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Visit films to sell Berlinale selections 'the bomb', 'Dayveon'

8 February 2017 11:00 AM, PST | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Exclusive: Ryan Kampe arrives at the Efm with a sales roster that includes Sundance premieres Family Life and Columbus, Rotterdam entries X500 and Rat Film, and Oscar-nominated Tanna.

Kevin Ford, Smriti Keshari, and Eric Schlosser’s Berlinale Special selection documentary the bomb screens on Friday and explores the power and fascination of nuclear weapons. the bomb premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year as a multimedia installation.

Amman Abbasi’s feature directorial debut Dayveon premiered at Sundance last month and screens in Forum on Friday. Newcomer Devin Blackmon plays the eponymous 13-year-old grieving the loss of his older brother who falls in with a local gang. FilmRise acquired North American rights after the premiere in Park City.

Alicia Scherson and Cristián Jiménez’s Family Life premiered at Sundance before going to the Rotterdam Film Festival. Jorge Becker, Gabriela Arancibia, Blanca Lewin and Cristián Carvajal star in the story of a lonely fabulist who concocts a tale »

- jeremykay67@gmail.com (Jeremy Kay)

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2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2012 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2003

5 items from 2017

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