Indie Wire

L.A. Film Festival Exclusive: Family Tension Explodes In Clip From 'Weepah Way For Now' With Aly And AJ Michalka

By Edward Davis

A younger generation of viewers likely know siblings Aly and AJ Michalka from the stints on Disney television, or as the musical duo 78violet, but the sisters have taken a confident step into the world of indie filmmaking with "Weepah Way For Now." Inspired after watching Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" to try something in a similar spirit, their effort arrives soon at the L.A. Film Festival and today we have an exclusive clip.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes the Michalkas along with Mimi Rogers, Dan Byrd, Amanda Crew, Madeline Zima, Liam Aiken, Jon Heder, Tyler Labine, Gil Bellows, Ryan Donowho, Gale Harold, Erin Cummings, plus narration by Saoirse Ronan, the story follows musical sisters Elle and Joy, who spend their last week before going on tour visiting friends and preparing for the going away party they intend to host. Their apprehensions about throwing the party is universally validated when their divorced mother and father as well as both of their ex-boyfriends converge on the party, leaving tragedy in the wake of what they had envisioned as a unifying celebration. And in the scene below, you can see how the tension at the party soon boils over.

Directed by Stephen Ringer, "Weepah Way For Now" premieres at LAFF on Tuesday, June 16th.


Man From Reno

Aly and AJ Michalka Confront Tragedy in Drama 'Weepah Way for Now' (Exclusive Video)

by Austin Siegemund-Broka

The sisters, one who stars on 'iZombie' and one on 'The Goldbergs,' produced the film, which will premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Aly and AJ Michalka first hit stardom with their band Aly & AJ, which aired a concert on Disney Channel, leading the sisters to TV movies (MTV'sSuper Sweet 16) and series (The CW's Hellcats). They more recently scored roles in a couple hit TV comedies, with AJ newly promoted to series regular on ABC's The Goldbergs and Aly playing the lead's best friend on The CW's iZombie.

Their careers take another turn with Weepah Way for Now, an independent film from writer-director (and Aly's husband) Stephen Ringer in which they star and also produced with Ringer and Kerry Barden. The film will premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 16 and centers on two sisters dealing with adulthood and family tragedy in the week before they leave on a music tour. The Hollywood Reporter exclusively debuts a new clip from the drama.

In the scene, the sisters share their doubts with their divorced mother (Mimi Rogers) about her new fiancé ("His name is Lou. Say it out loud: Lou") while arguing over their own boyfriend issues.

The film features narration from Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel) voicing a third sister who died at birth. Amanda Crew (Silicon Valley), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Dan Byrd (Cougar Town), Tyler Labine (Deadbeat), Madeline Zima (Californication) and Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal) round out the cast.

The Los Angeles Film Festival opened Wednesday with Paul Weitz's Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin, and will run through June 18, with films on the program including The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Infinitely Polar Bear, The Overnight and the Russell Brand documentary Brand: A Second Coming. Pre-festival screenings of Pixar's Inside Out and Rick Famuyiwa's Sundance hit Dopetook place earlier this week.


Backstreet Boys

Gravitas Ventures Records Deal For Colin Hanks’ Documentary ‘All Things Must Pass’

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to All Things Must Pass, the Colin Hanks documentary about the demise of Tower Records. It world premiered at SXSW, and now a September theatrical release is planned. The pic, from Hanks and Sean Stuart’s Company Name, digs into the onetime record giant’s rise (it made $1B in 1999) under rebellious founder Russ Solomon, its tragic fall (it filed for bankruptcy in 2006), and its legacy.

The deal is a nice milestone for the documentary, which took Hanks and Stuart more than four years to complete after securing initial funding from a Kickstarter campaign. “It’s already been an incredible journey, making this film with such a talented team — from our amazing group of producers to our writer and editor, and our phenomenal film subjects,” Hanks said. “We could not be more thrilled.” Both are from Sacramento, where the record giant got its start.

Talking heads include Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Elton John, and David Geffen. The cast includes Tower Records founder Russ Solomon, Michael Solomon, Heidi Cotler, Mark Viducic, Stan Goman, and Bob Delanoy. Stuart produced the pic, Glen Zipper executive produced and Steven Leckart wrote it.

The deal was struck by Gravitas founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher with Marc Bortz and Kevin Iwashina from Preferred Content and Josh Braun and Dan Braun from Submarine on behalf of the filmmakers.

Originally posted at


Trevor Noah Sees Childhood Under Apartheid as License to Speak His Mind


JOHANNESBURG — Years before he was chosen to succeed Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” before he made his debut on that Comedy Central news satire or appeared on any American television program, a rising stand-up named Trevor Noah explained why his racial background was both empowering and confining.

Speaking from his native South Africa in 2008, Mr. Noah, the son of a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, said that his countrymen had variously accepted and rejected him as being black, and embraced and denied him as being mixed race.

Never fitting in anywhere, Mr. Noah said in a documentary film called “You Laugh but It’s True,” was the ultimate license to speak his mind.

“You’ve lived everywhere and nowhere,” Mr. Noah said. “You’ve been everyone and no one. So you can say everything and nothing.”

Now 31 and seemingly plucked from out of nowhere to follow Mr. Stewart, one of America’s most influential and outspoken late-night hosts, Mr. Noah has been provided an unparalleled platform on which to share his voice.

Though his comedic sensibilities are largely unknown in the United States, they have been fundamentally shaped by South Africa’s legacy of apartheid, his challenging upbringing in that still-developing democratic nation and by a racial identity that is no more easily categorized in his home country than in the one where he is about to become a television star.

These experiences have imbued Mr. Noah with a kind of fearlessness when it comes to talking about the complexities and contradictions of race, the hypocrisies that persist in South Africa and how his personal story embodies them. The result is a strain of comedy distinctive to him, in which race is often dominant but rarely in the way Americans experience it.

In a 2013 routine on “Late Show With David Letterman,” Mr. Noah talked of being taken aback when someone told him he did not look like he was from Africa and had grown up “in the shade.”

“Africa’s not a color – it’s a place,” Mr. Noah said.

Few if any topics seem too delicate for him to make fun of – for better or worse, as illustrated by a controversy this week over some questionable jokes he made on Twitter about women and Jews.

But, like the man he will follow at “The Daily Show,” when Mr. Noah is told a subject is off limits, he seems to want to go right for it.

In an interview over the weekend, before his “Daily Show” appointment was announced, Mr. Noah spoke of being part of “a new young generation of comedians of color, in a space where our parents didn’t have a voice that was recognized.”

He added, “Comedy plays an important role in us weathering the scars of apartheid.”

Over the past few years, Mr. Noah has gained rapid success and a reputation for his prodigious talent and hard work in a South Africa now mature enough to find humor in its apartheid history and lingering racial divisions.

Propelled by a breakthrough 2009 stand-up show, “The Daywalker,” a 75-minute set that relates the story of his upbringing, he has built a comic arsenal that melds a wide knowledge of national and global politics with a range of voices and accents – an impersonation of a drunken Nelson Mandela holding court at his 91st birthday party – and an unsparing self-scrutiny.

His jokes may spring from brutal circumstances, but they are told with an air of straightforward ease, by a performer who is mindful but not resentful of the past.

In one routine from “The Daywalker,” Mr. Noah recounts the experience of traveling to Britain, where another comedian tells him not to call himself “colored,” an appropriate South African term for people who are biracial.

Mr. Noah recalls this comedian telling him: “You call yourself ‘mixed race,’ all right? That’s the P.C. term.”

“On the flip side,” Mr. Noah adds cheerfully, “you come to South Africa and say to a colored person, ‘Excuse me, are you mixed race?’ They’ll probably be like, ‘Your ma’s mixed race.’ So you must be careful.”

Born here in 1984, Mr. Noah grew up in the final years of apartheid, when South Africa’s white-minority government became an international pariah, backed by a dwindling number of allies, particularly Israel, its longtime economic partner and arms supplier. To this day, as a result, many blacks, as well as whites who supported the liberation movement, tend to reflexively criticize Israel and support the Palestinian cause.

Apartheid remained a rigid system where race determined many aspects of one’s life, including choices of culture and entertainment. The apartheid government, for instance, financed separate film industries for blacks and whites.

Relations between blacks and whites were illegal, and when Mr. Noah was born, his parents could not put his father’s name on his birth certificate. His family had to engage in elaborate ruses to hide the fact that Mr. Noah was their child.

In “You Laugh but It’s True,” Mr. Noah talks about being shuttled between his mother’s home in Soweto, a black township near here, and a Johannesburg apartment in an all-white neighborhood where his father lived.

At his father’s residence, his mother posed as the housemaid so that they could live under one roof.

In his 20s, when Mr. Noah began to pursue comedy, it was an almost unthinkable career path for him. Though white comics had performed for white audiences here for decades, stand-up was an unknown form of entertainment among most nonwhites.

Mr. Noah said in his interview that comedy “wasn’t something I knew existed.” When friends first turned him on to the work of Eddie Murphy, Mr. Noah knew him only from his movie roles.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, have you heard of this Eddie Murphy guy?’” he recalled. “And I was like, ‘Yes, “The Nutty Professor,” of course.’ I couldn’t believe he was a stand-up first.”

When South African blacks entered into a fledgling stand-up scene after apartheid, their routines focused primarily on race and politics. But as stand-up comedy boomed here in recent years, a younger generation of black performers began incorporating their personal experiences.

Takunda Bimha, a comedy manager who represented Mr. Noah from 2006 to 2008, described him as a hungry talent who performed relentlessly before any audience, whether at corporate functions or beer promotion events in the black townships.

“Trevor was right there in the trenches, performing at clubs where five people would turn up because people didn’t know what stand-up comedy was or appreciate what the art form was all about,” Mr. Bimha said in an interview.

Among fellow comedians, Mr. Noah became known for his obsessive attention to his work and his extreme ambition.

“You could get onstage, and when you come off, he could give you a full page on what you should improve or not improve,” said Loyiso Gola, 31, a comic who hosts the South African TV satire “Late Nite News.”

Kagiso Lediga, a 36-year-old stand-up, said that from early on Mr. Noah knew where he wanted to take his career.

“He used to say to us, ‘Look, it’s really cool here, but I want to be a comedian in the world,’” Mr. Lediga recalled. “It’s not by chance or luck that he’s in the position that he is.”

In 2009, Mr. Noah embarked on his one-man show “The Daywalker.” From 2010 to 2012, he performed widely throughout the United States, though he said he did not have the specific aspiration of becoming a star in America.

“You must remember, I came from a world where I was the first person in my family to be on an airplane,” he said. “I was the first person to go to a school where there were children that weren’t just black. The first to have friends of a different race.”

He added: “America was a thing I saw on TV — that wasn’t a real world. That wasn’t within my realm of dreaming.”

But his trajectory changed when he was scouted by Mr. Stewart and his “Daily Show” staff about two years ago, and he made his first appearance on the program last December.

In February, Mr. Stewart announced his plans to step down, and Mr. Noah soon emerged as a potential candidate to succeed him, though he said that he did not lobby for the job.

“I’m not a big Hollywood guy,” Mr. Noah said. “I don’t know how the machine works. I leave that to people better than myself.”

But, he added, “Jon said to me that he believed in me, which was an amazing thing.”

It is too soon to know how Mr. Noah might adapt “The Daily Show” to his tastes, or tackle the frustrating specifics of American government and news media. But he said that his new viewers expect him to live up to Mr. Stewart’s standards, and he knows he must earn their continued attention.

“As a comedian, I’m forced to have a tough skin,” he said. “Until people laugh, they are detractors. You walk into a new audience where nobody knows you, they go: ‘Make us laugh. Show us what you’re made of. Prove why we should be listening to you.’”


What the Trevor Noah Doc You Laugh But It’s True Reveals About the Future Daily Show Host

By Jay Deshpande

Trevor Noah and his mother Patricia in You Laugh But It's True, now streaming on Netflix.

The announcement of Trevor Noah’s ascendancy to Jon Stewart’s Daily Showthrone has lots of people asking: Who is Trevor Noah? There’s no shortage of clipsthat show the South African comedian’s finely calibrated combination of showman’s charm and warm but incisive social commentary. But if you want to see where he comes from, the best way is the documentary You Laugh But It’s True, streaming now on Netflix and (for $1.99) on Vimeo on Demand.

David Paul Meyer’s 2011 movie (filmed in 2009) shows Noah still in the early days of his comedy career. The doc follows the comic as he prepares for his first one-man show in Johannesburg. Twenty-five years old at the time, Noah had only been working the stand-up scene for two years. But it shows why he is such an appealing figure—both for his comedic abilities and for what he represents.

Honestly, You Laugh But It’s True is not very funny. In fact, the film has more in common with many documentaries about hip-hop, focusing more on Noah’s rise from the inner city and from a background where he faced institutional prejudice than on his technical mastery. Stand-up comedy today gets a lot of attention for its artistic craftsmanship; this documentary, however, is all about identity, not artistry. Noah in 2009 was far from the consummate performer he is today: Even his own manager is shown having reservations. “There’s still so much more of his comedy that he could develop and improve on,” he says.

In the documentary, Noah shows himself as a master code-switcher. Unlike many of his South African contemporaries, he excels at performing for mixed audiences, and he is self-assured in his role as an ambassador abroad. But even when he isn’t being especially funny, he reveals a hunger for success and a vision of what he wants to represent. At his best, his work has what made Jon Stewart so powerful: He wields humor as a political instrument, but with surprising grace.

The film reveals the opposition that Noah faced in South Africa’s nascent stand-up scene, especially from older white comics. And it shows the double bind of his identity. His mixed-race background makes him a representative for the country as a whole and garners him a lot of attention, but it also means he is saddled with expectations and has to step up to the plate. In the end, the success of his comedic debut paved the way for an international audience, which has grown steadily since 2009 and has now brought him to Comedy Central.

One of the great things about You Laugh is that it shows the grim realities of struggling to make a name in comedy: quiet rooms, flubbed punch lines, and having to play corporate functions where you might be there for little more than filling time while the band tunes up. But it also shows what has consistently made Noah so magnetic: his onstage confidence, his good looks, and his pitch-perfect impersonations. Ultimately, the documentary highlights how Noah responds to having big responsibilities put on his shoulders—how he was able to rise to the occasion and shine. Now that he has to fill some of the largest shoes in the comedy world, that ability to show courage under pressure may prove to be his greatest strength.


Backstreet Boys

Gravitas Tries On ‘Sneakerheadz’ Shoe-Collector Doc In Theatrical/VOD Joint Deal

Gravitas Ventures has picked up Sneakerheadza doc about the subculture of athletic-shoe collectors that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this month, as part of a broader dual-release deal involving several entities.

The doc from directors David T. Friendly (Little Miss Sunshine producer) and Mick Partridge (Seven Days in Utopia, Mercy) is set to debut this fall in theaters and on video on demand on the same day.


As part of the deal between Gravitas, Submarine Deluxe, Complex and AT&T, the phone company will carry the film on its U-verse VOD platform. The film also will be available through the U-verse mobile app and on  AT&T sponsored the film during its SXSW spotlight, joining the project soon after shooting wrapped, and will also have bonus content on the U-verse platform’s Buzz Channel. Additional content will be available at

The doc follows the extreme tactics that hard-core sneaker collectors employ to score a rare pair of shoes from retailers, and tracks the rise of sneakerhead culture in Japan, the United States and beyond.

Director Friendly wrote the film and produced the project with Partridge. Executive producers were Christopher C. Chen, Michael Finley, Andy Friendly, Stephen P. Rader and Wale. Marc Ecko of Complex will now join the project as an executive producer. Wale is among the music and pop culture notables in the film, alongside Samantha Ronson, Futura, DJ Clark Kent and others.

Nolan Gallagher negotiated the deal for Gravitas and Dan Braun, David Koh, Josh Braun and Ben Braun from Submarine negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers.

Originally posted at

Man From Reno

Gravitas Picks Up Thriller ‘Man from Reno’


Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to Dave Boyle’s thriller Man from Reno, which will have a limited theatrical release in New York City and Los Angeles on March 27 before going wider April 10. A VOD release is planned for the summer.

The film — which is nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards and was named best dramatic feature at last summer’s Los Angeles Film Festival while also picking up prizes at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Dallas Asian Film Festival — involves a small-town Latino sheriff, a reclusive Japanese novelist and a mysterious drifter.

It will be the fourth film that Boyle, who directed and co-wrote Reno, has released through Gravitas. The deal was negotiated by Chad Miller, VP Filmmaker Relations and Acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures.

Article originally published at The Hollywood Reporter:

Gravitas Ventures

VOD market set to more than double

The video-on-demand (VOD) market is expected to grow from $25.30 billion in 2014 to $61.40 billion in 2019, research has revealed.

That makes the CAGR a healthy 19.4% during the forecast period, according to the report from MarketsandMarkets.

The firm said that major forces driving this market are the need to reach audiences on any device, delivering the best possible viewer experience, enabling time-shifting and scalability.

“VOD solutions helps the viewers to reach any connected device, offering a key competitive advantage in terms of consumer reach despite of various challenges involved such as diversified bit rates, operating systems, digital rights management (DRM) and multiple screen formats,” it explained. “As customers want to acquire large number of programmes, they demand high quality videos, and this is where an emergence of OTT and IPTV occur. Therefore, TV no longer considers itself a push industry, because viewers are now pulling the content they require.”

As the TV experience is changing rapidly from a traditional linear TV, OTT viewers are surpassing IPTV viewers, it added — so VOD providers are consolidating their grounds in the highly competitive market through mergers and acquisitions to build feature-rich solutions and attain better market visibility.

In terms of regions, North America is expected to be the biggest market in terms of revenue contribution trough 2019, while Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa are expected to experience increased market traction.

Originally posted at Rapid TV News

Being Evel

Sundance: Evel Knievel Documentary ‘Being Evel’ Sells to Gravitas Ventures


Daniel Junge wrote and directed the film, which counts Johnny Knoxville among its producers

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to acclaimed documentary “Being Evel,” which chronicles the story of notorious stunt performer Robert “Evel” Knievel.

A co-production between HeLo and Dickhouse Productions, the film, which recently premiered at Sundance, was written and directed by Daniel Junge and produced for HISTORY Films by Brendan Kiernan, Justin Moore-Lewy and Mat Hoffman as well as Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville.

Gravitas Ventures founder/CEO Nolan Gallagher announced that the film will launch into theaters and VOD this summer.

In the history of sports, few names are more recognizable than that of Evel Knievel. Long after the man hung up his famous white leather jumpsuit and rode his Harley into the sunset, his name is still synonymous with the death-defying lifestyle he led. Notoriously brash, bold, and daring, Knievel stared death in the face from the seat of his motorcycle, but few know the larger-than-life story of the boy from Butte, Montana.

After an adolescence riddled with petty thievery and general rabble-rousing, Knievel set his sights on superstardom, a feat he achieved when televisions around the world aired the startling crash footage of his 1967 attempt to jump the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The jump was spectacular, but the failed landing that sent him skidding like a ragdoll across the asphalt was the main attraction. Throughout the 1970s, his legacy as King of the Daredevils spawned action figures, movies, and a generation of kids who wanted to be just like Evel.

Featuring insights from current action sports superstars who were inspired by Evel’s iconic career, Oscar-winning director Junge immerses the audience in an incredible life story.

Producer and star Johnny Knoxville remarked “Damn excited to be partnering with Gravitas on our documentary ‘Being Evel!”

“We’re so proud of this film and excited to get it out the world. We love that Gravitas shares our excitement and we believe they are the right partner to bring the film to the largest possible audience,” said Junge.

“Gravitas is going to bring the right energy to bringing the widest possible audience to this film which received an overwhelmingly positive reaction at Sundance,” added Molly Thompson, senior VP of features for A+E Studios/ HISTORY Films.

“Evel Knievel and this film flat out kicked ass. We are thrilled to work with Daniel Junge, Mat Hoffman, Brendan Kiernan, Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine and A+E Studios/History Films  to do everything we can to spread this story of a true iconoclast to audiences of all ages,” said Gallagher.

Junge’s recent films include “Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary,” “Fight Church” and the Oscar-winning documentary short “Saving Face.”

Knoxville is best known as the audacious creator and star of the “Jackass” MTV television show and major motion pictures.

The deal for “Being Evel” was negotiated by Gallagher for Gravitas and Submarine’s Josh Braun on behalf of the filmmakers.

Originally posted at The Wrap

Digital Home Entertainment

Sundance: Sales Are Booming, but Will Filmgoers Respond?

Reporting by Ramin Setoodeh (Film Editor, New York) and Brent Lang (Senior Film and Media Reporter)

Robert Redford opened this year’s Sundance by underscoring how the annual film festival, which he started 31 years ago, was about embracing diversity and change, two qualities that often slip through the cracks of Hollywood’s studio system. It was a refreshing message against a backdrop of a business that saw ticket sales drop by more than 5% in 2014.

Indeed, in the snow-covered streets of Park City, it didn’t look like the movie business had gone cold. Buyers acknowledge that Sundance inspired passionate bidding wars and marked enthusiasm for releasing innovative stories on the bigscreen. A number of competing newer distributors such as the Orchard, Amplify Releasing and A24 helped drive prices up, even as digital players like Amazon and Netflix have yet to land a high-profile sale.

But all this buying fever doesn’t necessarily guarantee profits. No Sundance acquisition from 2014 made more than $8 million theatrically, and the highest-grossing festival title, “Boyhood,” which drew $24.9 million in receipts, was released by financial backer IFC. The reason the prices have climbed isn’t that moviegoers are embracing arthouse pictures with greater fervor; the bull market is due to the presence of the added players, hunting for product in an effort to prove themselves in the ever-changing landscape of the movie business.

Even before Sundance officially started, buyers didn’t waste any time, snapping up “Results” (Magnolia) and “Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight). The biggest Sundance deal as of Wednesday was that for “Brooklyn,” which sold to Fox Searchlight for $9 million. The tale about an Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) who arrives in New York in 1952 is already been buzzed about for next year’s Oscars (thanks to a script adapted by Nick Hornby from the novel by Colm Toibin). The distributor also landed “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” dubbed as this year’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” for $6 million and a percentage of the backend.

Open Road Films (domestic) and Sony (international) picked up “Dope,” a high-school comedy in the tradition of John Hughes, for $7 million, after a heated bidding war against the Weinstein Co., Focus Features and others.

The strength of the market is evident in the prices. Last year’s top seller, “The Skeleton Twins,” fetched only $3.5 million from Roadside Attractions. Sundance 2015 has already seen several higher sales and a smattering of other deals in that price range, including IFC Film’s $3 million bid for “The D Train” (one of the biggest deals the company has ever made) and Relativity’s $3 million buy of “The Bronze,” the raunchy, opening-night comedy about a washed-up Olympic gymnast (Melissa Rauch).

This edition of the festival is “now back to being a seller’s market,” says Arianna Bocco, senior VP of acquisitions at Sundance Selects/IFC Films. Adds Rena Ronson, co-head of UTA’s Independent Film Group: “This year was so different. People seemed to jump early and on movies they like right away.”

That might have been a result of better product in the market, as festgoers noted the mainstream potential for many of the Sundance favorites. “I don’t think there’s any shortage of quality movies at the festival this year,” says Paul Davidson, senior VP of film and television at the Orchard, which landed “The Overnight” for $4 million.

The Orchard, which has been around since 1997 as a music sales company, is now expanding into film distribution and wanted to make a big splash at Sundance. “We really feel like we found a gem at the festival,” Davidson says. “We’re super-excited to hit the ground running and release the movie.”

The sex comedy, starring Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman, will open on June 19.

Many of the filmmakers at Sundance also feel that the indie business is booming again. “From the get-go, the general atmosphere has been more upbeat and more positive,” says John Battsek,producer of the Sundance documentary “Listen to Me Marlon.” “There are more ways of generating income for these films and now that means buyers see value across multiple platforms, which is good for acquisitions.”

As usual Sundance offered a berth for new voices. Director Sean Baker shocked audiences when he revealed in the end credits of “Tangerine,” a comedy about two transgender prostitutes, that his movie was shot entirely with an iPhone 5s. “It was less to do with me wanting to surprise the audience,” Baker says. “I’ll be very frank: If I heard a film was shot on the iPhone, I probably would be interested, but it wouldn’t be my first choice to see it in a theater.” The buzz from the premiere on Friday and stellar reviews led Magnolia to scoop up the title in a latenight deal on Monday.

Sundance veterans believe that the rise of video-on-demand and digital distribution are establishing more secure revenue streams for arthouse pictures. They insist that this year’s festival won’t be a repeat of such ’90s disasters as “The Spitfire Grill” and “Happy Texas,” which clinched big deals at Sundance only to bomb at the box office.

“It’s not like the old days where if one movie got sold it was a victory here,” says Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics. “Every movie will end up somewhere, but there’s so many different types of people that are buying film. People are buying films for Netflix. They’re buying films for VOD. Studios are looking to fill slots with movies here. It’s the most diverse group of people walking the streets that I’ve ever seen.”

Jeff Deutchman, VP of acquisitions at Alchemy, which bought the Nicole Kidman drama “Strangerland” for more than $1 million, also agreed that the competition shaped the narrative of this year’s festival. “If you look at the way that films have been performing in the marketplace, there’s no massive indication there’s a bigger market for films than there was a year ago,” Deutchman says.

In an age where digital sales are beginning to outpace box office revenues for some films, the Sundance imprimatur carries weight. Apple’s iTunes, for instance, has a Sundance vertical, and most digital distributors lean heavily on a film’s festival bonafides in their marketing.

“It helps cut through the clutter,” says Nolan Gallagher, founder and CEO of Gravitas Ventures. “The name Sundance resonates with audiences.”

Originally posted: