EXCLUSIVE: The first major deal at the Sundance Film Festival is nearly done, with Sony Pictures Classics close to closing a deal for Whiplash that is in the vicinity of $2.5 million for North America, Germany and Australia. This was the festival’s opening night film. It stars Miles Teller as a school drummer with potential who strives for perfection under the tutelage of a ruthless band conductor, played by J.K. Simmons. Writer/director Damien Chazelle originated Whiplash as a prize winning short at last year’s Sundance and came back with a feature length film this time. Austin Stowell also starred.
The film played through the roof, and got stellar reviews after its Thursday night bow. Yesterday, the festival was buzzing about the film, and word around was that distributors including Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate and A24 were kicking the tires. But it was SPC partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard that swooped in to close the deal. The auction has been going on from Friday night through early Saturday. A humorous break in the action came when a Farmers Insurance commercial came on (the TV was playing in the background) featuring the insurance company’s spokesman — Simmons. Will provide more details when I get them. Most of the film’s foreign rights sold to Sony, so there is symmetry to this deal. WME Global repped the film.
This could get the deal flow going, after the Lionsgate/CNN Films buy of the opening-night docu Dinosaur 13. It should continue with last night’s premiere of the Michael Fassbender-starrer Frank, and Lynn Shelton’s Laggies with Chloe Moretz, Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell also creating some buzz here. I’ve seen a report that Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate is chasing the latter and that was the rumor, but Searchlight is not bidding on the picture. Stay tuned.