The Sundance Film Festival always breeds great talent to start out the year. In fact, Sundance 2017 included the premieres of films such as Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, Wind River, A Ghost Story, Mudbound, The Big Sick, and Ingrid Goes West. Creatives minds and studio executives come together with film fans thrown into the middle to create a crazy atmosphere where serious news occurs. But what exactly went down at Sundance 2018?
A New Buyer Was on the Prowl
MoviePass made waves when it announced that it was reducing its movie-viewing service to a mere $10 per month back in August. At Sundance 2018, they made their next big move by entering the film financing market, partnering with distributors to co-finance films in a new division of their company entitled MoviePass Ventures. Obviously, MoviePass will leverage their ownership of films to make their email subscribers aware of each film’s existence. The subscription service will essentially use free marketing tactics to help raise awareness of each movie which will most likely lead to increased box office returns.
MoviePass made quick work of its announcement by partnering with The Orchard to co-finance American Animals which debuted at Sundance to positive reviews. All you MoviePass subscribers out there probably already got an email about the purchase.
Return Buyers Were Not Happy
Unfortunately, buyers that returned to the festival weren’t as enthusiastic about Sundance 2018. After last year in which multiple high-profile purchases were made, buyers reflected that Sundance 2018 deserved descriptions like “awful” and “boring.” In fact, studios like Amazon and Netflix (two studios that have dominated the festival in recent years) walked away without buying a single film.
The only eight-figure deal was Assassination Nation which came from a joint venture between AGBO and Neon. However, other multi-million dollar deals were inked during the festival. Films such as Puzzle, Colette, and Blindspotting earned deals of $5 million, $4 million, and $3 million respectively. But, Sundance 2018 came nowhere close to matching the spending flurry of Sundance 2017.
Is This a Bad Thing for Independent Films?
All is not lost for films that premiered at Sundance 2018, however. Many noted that the films that released at the festival this year are more genre specific, meaning that will play to more specific audiences (and received less bids from buyers as a result). Howard Cohen, co-founder of Roadside Attractions, exclaimed the following:
“There weren’t that one or two films that galvanize a festival as there have been in previous years, but there were many good films. The complexion of any festival reflects the movies, and there were many that were interesting or varied or that dealt with the zeitgeist even if there wasn’t one that made a big splash.”
There’s always ebbs and flows to the indie circuit. Some years, you just don’t get those breakout hits like The Big Sick or Call Me by Your Name. While major players in the indie circuit remained quiet, it allowed for companies like Neon to snatch up films and increase its library of films. Moreover, a lot of other solid films premiered at the festival, but they were already owned by a studio and not up for sale.
So Then What Films Stood Out?
This film is apparently insane, and it gets to that level even before Nic Cage snorts cocaine off of a broken shard of glass. Mandy follows Cage in a revenge thriller that never pulls punches, meaning that we get to see crazy Nic Cage in a story that actually warrants it.
Interestingly enough, Eighth Grade is the directing debut of comedian Bo Burnham. After it premiered at Sundance 2018, many claimed it as almost a hauntingly real depiction of those awkward teens years. Circling around the social media influence of growing up, many have said that the film is staggeringly accurate and earnest in its discussion of younger people. Naturally, A24 already owned the rights to the film before Sundance 2018 started.
Sorry to Bother You
David Ehrlich of IndieWire described Sorry to Bother You as “Get Out on acid that aligns the visual wit of Spike Jonze with the political sensibilities of Spike Lee.” Starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, Sorry to Bother You marks the directorial debut of rap veteran Boots Riley.
Akin to Ingrid Goes West, we follow Madeline (obviously) as she is leaves supervision of her mental health issues to find a new community outside of what she currently knows. She finds peace in a theater group, but those involved may have other plans.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic (similar to a best picture award), The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows the story of a teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) that is forced to enter a gay conversion camp by her conservative parents.
People are billing The Tale as a great embodiment of the #MeToo movement. The film is the directing debut of Jennifer Fox who tells a semi-autobiographical narrative with the help of Laura Dern in the lead role.
Private Life is one of the many Netflix productions to come out in 2018. Starring Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, the story follows this central couple as they turn to their niece to see if she would donate an egg for fertilization. While the niece is willing to help, her mother (Molly Shannon) is less than pleased.
Monsters and Men
Monsters and Men is a three-pronged story that circles around one central event: a cop shooting a black man. Through this triptych film, we see how this tragic event affects everyone involved.
Some critics have noted that Blindspotting sometimes swings for the fences and misses badly. However, when the film gets it right, it really works. Through the eyes of two Oakland natives, we see how members of certain communities handle the gentrification of their hometown, everyday life, and criminal activity.
Many were surprised that Hereditary wasn’t pushed for more of the mainstream awards at Sundance 2018 as many are calling it the best film of the festival. Critics have noted its chilling themes that are displayed very vividly. It appears that A24 has another horror hit on its hands, and it might even play to large audiences.
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