The hot hot buzz titles at Sundance have been brokered, and while nobody involved in that festival seems to have yet caught up on sleep, the festival is fast fading in the rear view mirror. So what happens to the films that came in with big hopes but haven’t yet sold? Are they headed to the movie equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys? Hardly, says Voltage chief Nicolas Chartier.
He came to Sundance with two films, and watched the Joe Gordon-Levitt-directed Don Jon’s Addiction quickly sell for close to a festival record $4 million with a $25 million P&A commitment for summer release by Relativity Media. His other Sundance pic, The Shia La Beouf-starrer The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman directed by Fredrik Bond, didn’t walk off the slopes with a deal.
Now, Gordon-Levitt plays a chronic dolphin flogger in Don Jon’s Addiction, but the movie he directed is a crowd-pleasing R-rated comedy aimed at the kind of mass audience that cuddled up to Ted. Charlie Countryman is a darker proposition; La Beouf plays the title character, who falls for a beauty claimed by a mobster, and spends most of the movie on the business end of an over-sized fist. Chartier, who’ll take the film to Berlin next week, is still bullish on the film’s domestic prospects, and he’s content to wait as long as he has to for the right suitor to emerge. That’s why he hasn’t hurried to close a deal even though several offers are on the table.
“Charlie is distinguished by its mix of tones and genres,” he said. “It deliberately goes from love story to action, to violence, with comedic and dramatic moments. So you get one reviewer who understood none of that, someone who I think just hates Shia, and then you have others who get what Fredrik was doing. Fredrik, who this year has two of the five commercials nominated by the DGA as best of the year, wanted to do a movie that was True Romance for 2013, with a young guy falling in love, and violent gangsters and a cool soundtrack by Moby. Doing the Don Jon deal made us ambitious, or greedy depending on what word you choose, but we’re holding out for a bigger release, more money and most importantly a distributor who really believes in the movie. You forget, but when you sign on, you’re entering into a marriage for the next 20 years on that movie.
“In the end, you only need one offer. When we did The Hurt Locker, only Summit stepped up and that worked out just fine for us,” said the feisty Frenchman. “You need one person who understands the film, believes in it and will champion it. I’m not nervous. We were negotiating Don Jon and it was 4 AM and we weren’t reaching the number we wanted. We had just gotten them up $500,000 and somebody on our side said, it’s 4 AM, why don’t we close? I said, we just made half a million in one hour and I’m very okay with staying up another hour and trying to get more. Here, I don’t care if I close this in a week or longer, just as long as we get the value of the two years it took to make the movie, and someone as passionate as Shia, Fredrik and I feel about it.”
I didn’t see Charlie Countryman in Park City (I only saw Don Jon’s Addiction, matching my average of one film per festival before planting myself in a hotel waiting for deals; thank goodness JGL’s film was a thousand times more fun than Kevin Smith’s Red State premiere), but I’ve heard this domestic deal is right around the bend. My prediction: Chartier will have a domestic deal done before he says Guten Tag to the driver picking him up at the airport next week. Most if not all of the other Sundance films will also find homes over the next few weeks because there are just so many new distributors looking for product.