Who has a deal heading to Sundance?

The premiere Park City festival offers theatrical and tv broadcast distributors a prime opportunity to sign some top-notch docs - if they're still available. Check out the status of some of the non-fiction flicks in competition at this year's Sundance Festival.
January 17, 2001

This year’s Sundance doc lineup speaks to everything from gay Boy Scouts and African-American heroes to a Babe-ascopic look inside of a chicken’s world. The directors are an array of award-winning doc vets and festival newcomers. As always, some will arrive at the festival with signed deals and previous festival screenings under their belt, others in hope of catching the attention of a potential distributor. Aspirations of theatrical release abound.

Chain Camera, a flick produced by Kirby Dick for US$500,000, was part-funded by cable company Cinemax Reel Life and will tentatively air later this year. The second-time Sundance contender (1997 Sick: the Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Super Masochist) is looking for a theatrical distributor for his retrospective of a group of high school students who record their testimonies on contemporary urban teenage life then pass the camera on like a chain letter.

George Butler’s cinema-bound The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition ($3 million) has a deal already in place with brokerage firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter for distribution abroad, possibly in Germany and England, and six additional offers. Endurance was described in various mags as one of the top three hits after Quills and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Scout’s Honor producer Tom Shepard was folding hundreds of pink Boy Scout ties to be handed out at the festival when contacted by RealScreenPlus. He said SH has limited theatrical distribution potential and is ‘made more for public television and the AV educational market.’ Two-thirds of its $300,000 budget was awarded in federal money vis-à-vis the Independent Television Service (ITVS). The film will air on PBS this summer.

The Natural History of the Chicken, a Mark Lewis Radio Pictures Inc. Production (in association with PBS, UK’s Channel 4 and Washington-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises), is part of a natural history trilogy in-the-works. Made for $600,000, Chicken debuted as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s non-fiction line-up last year. Worldwide television and home video distribution rights are held by DDE.

Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind by Stanley Nelson cost upward of $400,000 to make and was funded mainly by WGBH in Boston. It will air in February on the award-winning PBS strand ‘The American Experience’ and is still looking for an international distributor.

Southern Comfort is a trans-to-trans romance (female-to-male transsexual Robert Eads falls for male-to-female transsexual Lola Cola) directed by Kate Davis. The film premieres at Sundance, then goes on to open at NYC’s Film Forum Art House and show in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panoramic division in February. HBO came in for the finishing funds of Southern Comfort‘s $200,000 to $275,000 budget and will air SC later this year.

Bestor Cram and Mike Majoros’ Unfinished Symphony was completed in December, just in time for Sundance. It examines a 1971 Vietnam War protest organized in Lexington, Massachusetts, that lead to the largest arrest in the state’s history. Lexington Oral History Projects and various other grant organizations and donators raised a working budget of $170,000. Set to 60-minute Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki, this flick is fresh off the press and looking for a TV distributor.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.