EXCLUSIVE: After an all-night auction, The Weinstein Company closed a seven-figure deal for distribution and remake rights to Undefeated, a high school gridiron documentary that made its premiere Sunday night at South by Southwest at 9:45 PM. Buyers began huddling up as soon as it was finished.
Directed by Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, Undefeated tells the Cinderella story of an underprivileged football team from the perspective of three student athletes from inner city Memphis and a volunteer coach. The film is a Blind Side-caliber underdog story with heart. The Manassas Tigers football team was so woefully underfunded that the school made by money by hiring the team out to serve as the punching bag team that traveled to the home stadiums of wealthy Tennessee teams for their homecoming games, where the home teams would give the visitors a whipping. Things began to change in 2004, when former high school coach and lumber salesman Bill Courtney volunteered to help. When he arrived, the team had 17 players, crappy equipment and terrible practice facilities. By 2009, Manassas was beating up on those wealthy nearby football teams in an effort to make the playoffs for the first time in the school’s 110-year history.
WME Global’s Mark Ankner brokered the deal on behalf of Zipper Brothers Films’ partners Glen and Ralph Zipper. They produced with Rich Middlemas, Lindsay, Seth Gordon and Ed Cunningham, with Exclusive Media Group’s Nigel Sinclair and Guy East among the executive producers. TWC’s David Glasser, Peter Lawson and Daniel Guando negotiated with WME.
“TJ and Dan have made a film of astounding power from the very first rough cut, we knew we were seeing something unfold that was magical,” said Sinclair. “I’m extremely happy this film has found the right home at The Weinstein Company.”
The idea of an all-nighter certainly helps SXSW’s perception as a place for distributors to discover acquisition titles. It’s the second documentary to sell during the festival so far, as Kino Lorber announced this morning it acquired US rights to El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.