The Sundance Edition

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Soderbergh’s secret project, Will Ferrell’s ultimate trip, double Kristen Stewart and a Sasquatch.

(Today’s edition will be entirely focused on the films premiering at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival)

Let’s go!


SODERBERGH AT SUNDANCE

Steven Soderbergh is the king of secret projects.

His new film Presence, premiering at Sundance, is a horror-thriller.

It was shot and edited in six months over the summer under an indie SAG wavier. The logline is razor thin: A family moves into a suburban house and becomes convinced they’re not alone.

Soderbergh is no stranger to Sundance. His acclaimed 1989 film S-x, Lies, and Videotape debuted at Sundance and captured the audience award, eventually leading to his directing major hits like the Oceans 11 and Magic Mike series. Alongside these successes, he consistently works on ultra low-budget projects, often simultaneously with his high-profile films.

The same year he made Ocean’s Eleven (2001), he also directed Full Frontal (2002), shot in under a month on digital video, starring Julia Roberts and David Duchovny (trailer).

In 2018, he directed, shot, and edited Unsane, a psychology ward horror film using the iPhone 14 (trailer), and six months ago, he released a Michael Cera sci-fi series, Command Z, on his website (trailer).

Soderbergh is the epitome of a rapid-paced filmmaker who, no matter the cost, makes a movie. He does not wait on decision-makers. And no matter whether he’s producing something big budget like Logan Lucky ($30M), where he used clever tactics to go around the studios, he just green lights himself.

This kind of self-belief has fueled his passion for passing it forward to young directors, first Christopher Nolan in 2002, allowing him to direct the film Insomnia, for which Soderbergh was initially hired. And then most recently with Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity, which played at Sundance last year.

It’s the Sundance circle of life.

For More:

Download the Sundance program here.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Most films playing at Sundance are looking for big distribution deals, hoping to strike it rich like these indies:

A few films in 2024 already have distribution lined up, like Searchlight Pictures’ Suncoast, which stars Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney.

Here’s the Sundance synopsis:

A teenager who, while caring for her brother along with her audacious mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eccentric activist who is protesting one of the most landmark medical cases of all time.

Harrelson, as an eccentric activist, seems inspired.

Amazon is another big Sundance player. They spent $41M in 2019:

Currently, they’re distributing a Frida documentary by Carla Gutierrez, the editor of RBG (2018).

From Sundance to Marvel to Sundance. Directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden made their narrative directorial debut with Half Nelson (2006), with a young Ryan Gosling playing a school teacher with a bad drug habit (trailer).

The directing duo returned to the festival with Sugar (2008) and Mississippi Grind (2015) before going on to direct Captain Marvel (2019).

It’s great to see them return to their roots with Freaky Tales.

Here’s the Sundance logline:

In 1987 Oakland, a mysterious force guides The Town’s underdogs in four interconnected tales: Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads, a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality, a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption, and an NBA All-Star settles the score—basically another day in the Bay.

Pedro Pascal and Ben Mendelsohn star.

Following her splashy The Wolf of Wall Street performance, Margot Robbie starred in Z for Zachariah, a small 2015 Sundance sci-fi.

She’s currently producing her first Sundance film, My Old Ass, under her production company LuckyChap Entertainment.

Here’s the logline:

The summer before college, bright-yet-irreverent Elliott comes face-to-face with her older self during a mushroom trip. The encounter spurs a funny and heartfelt journey of self-discovery and first love as Elliott prepares to leave her childhood home.

The film stars Aubrey Plaza.

Robbie’s company has been involved in a number of high-profile IP bidding wars and has produced two hits this year: Saltburn and Barbie. It’s exciting to see Robbie helming a production company with such good taste.

A different side of Will Ferrell in a Sundance documentary. Here’s the Will & Harper logline:

When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition, and America.

According to Sundance programmers:

“You expect it to be funny because it’s Will Ferrell and some other recognizable guests who come from the comedy world… It’s a story of friendship, which audiences are going to be taken with. And they get to see a different side of Will Ferrell.”

Here’s a first-look photo of the journey. Looks epic!


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Kristen Stewart stars in two Sundance films. The first is Love Me:

Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.

The second is Love Lies Bleeding:

Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

The latter is part of Sundance’s delightful Midnight section, which offers pulpy fair (e.g., Mandy).

Stewart continues to take prestige festival parts like in Cronberg’s Cannes premiering Crimes of the Future (2022) and Pablo Larrain’s Venice premiering Spencer (2021) as her big-budget films like Columbia Pictures’ Charlie’s Angels (2019) and 20th Century Fox’s Underwater (2020) have mostly tanked.

Although Jason Schwartzman was never cast in A Serious Man, one could see him fitting right in. His Sundance 2024 film, Between the Temples, is about:

A cantor in a crisis of faith finds his world turned upside down when his grade school music teacher reenters his life as his new adult bat mitzvah student.

Schwartzman broke into the scene starring in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998) and then later in David O’Russell’s I Heart Huckabees (2004). Since then, he has mostly had bit roles in Wes Anderson films (Asteroid City (2023), The French Dispatch (2021), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), etc.)

Although he’s excellent in bit roles, it’ll be great to see him starring in a movie that allows him to explore a character in more depth.

First look photo here.

A double dose of Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg returns behind the camera for his second feature as a director/writer, A Real Pain:

Mismatched cousins David and Benji reunite for a tour through Poland to honor their beloved grandmother. The adventure takes a turn when the pair’s old tensions resurface against the backdrop of their family history.

His first feature, When You Finish Saving the World, marked a strongly directed yet mildly scripted Sundance debut (trailer).

Eisenberg also stars in a film about Sasquatch. It’s called Sasquatch Sunset:

This film chronicles a year in the life of a singular family. Captures the daily life of the Sasquatch with a detail and rigor that is simply unforgettable.

Produced by Lars Knudsen (Hereditary, The Witch, Midsommar), so it’s bound to be wild.


DOCUMENTARY

Skywalkers: A Love Story:

To save their career and relationship, a daredevil couple journey across the globe to climb the world’s last super skyscraper and perform a bold acrobatic stunt on the spire.

The director and the producer Jeff Zimbalist previously directed The Two Escobars, which played at Cannes in 2010.

From director Lucy Lawless (Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess) comes a doc about CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth:

New Zealand–born groundbreaking CNN journalist risks it all to show the reality of war from inside the conflict, staring down danger and confronting those who perpetuate it.

Never Look Away. The first-look image is badass.

The Painter and the Thief (2020) was a magnificent documentary about love, both revealing and masking our true nature (trailer). The director, Benjamin Ree’s next doc is Ibelin:

Mats Steen, a Norwegian gamer, died of a degenerative muscular disease at the age of 25. His parents mourned what they thought had been a lonely and isolated life, when they started receiving messages from online friends around the world.

Ree’s unflinching portraiture is sure to make this project pack a punch.


TECH SECTION

Do you remember Mavis Beacon? The software, launching in the 80s, became synonymous with learning how to type. But what happened to the woman whose avatar would guide you through the lessons (reminder image)? That’s what Neon’s Seeking Mavis Beacon from director Jazmin Jones tries to answer.

It sounds fun, but we’re guessing it’ll take a dark turn like Sundance’s Tickled (2016, trailer). Quote of the century: “This ticking empire is way bigger than we ever imagined.”

This next documentary, Love Machina seem like it’s ripped from Black Mirror:

Futurists Martine and Bina Rothblatt commission an advanced humanoid AI named Bina48 to transfer Bina’s consciousness from a human to a robot in an attempt to continue their once-in-a-galaxy love affair for the rest of time.

As AI slowly integrates into our lives, this quote from biologist E.O. Wilson has never been more relevant:

“We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.”

Let’s hope we figure out a way to upgrade our emotions or institutions.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

A24’s four projects:

1. A Different Man:

Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare, as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost.

The film is produced by indie powerhouse Christine Vachon and directed by Aaron Schimberg, who is adept at portrayals of characters with facial deformities.

His previous film, Chained For Life (2019, trailer), starring Adam Pearson (Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson scene clip) – covered similar ground.

2. I Saw The TV Glow:

Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.

Seems to be a natural progression for Jane Schoenbrun, whose directorial debut, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – Sundance 2021, covered similar territory (trailer).

3. Kristen Stewart’s Love Lies Bleeding (detailed in Actor’s Spotlight).

4. Look Into My Eyes documentary:

A group of New York City psychics conduct deeply intimate readings for their clients, revealing a kaleidoscope of loneliness, connection, and healing.

Haley Elizabeth Anderson has been named by Filmmaker Magazine as a director to watch. Here’s the logline for her film Tendaberry:

When her boyfriend goes back to Ukraine to be with his ailing father, 23-year-old Dakota anxiously navigates her precarious new reality, surviving on her own in New York City.

Sundance describes the feature as:

“[The] moving debut feature is an intimately scaled character study and an open-hearted love letter to Brooklyn. Tendaberry’s elliptical narrative unfurls in an intricate patchwork of lyrical handheld cinematography, found footage fragments, spectral home movies, and documentary digressions.”

This marks the producer Carlos Zozaya’s third feature at Sundance (We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, Tyrel).

Darren Aronofsky produces Little Death:

Two young drug addicts enter the home of a TV writer before spending the night traveling around LA and thinking about life, death, and morality.

The first-look image of David Schwimmer feels like a Requiem for a Dream flashback.

Focus Features is distributing The American Society of Magical Negroes:

A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier.

Produced by Eddie Vaisman, whose film A Thousand and One took the top prize at Sundance last year.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Renate Reinsve, best actress winner at Cannes for The Worst Person in The World (2021), stars in the Norwegian film Handling the Undead:

On a hot summer day in Oslo, the newly dead awaken. Three families faced with loss try to figure out what this resurrection means and if their loved ones really are back.

Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

The Ireland/UK film Kneecap features Michael Fassbender:

There are 80,000 native Irish speakers in Ireland. 6,000 live in the North of Ireland. Three of them became a rap group called Kneecap. This anarchic Belfast trio becomes the unlikely figurehead of a civil rights movement to save the mother tongue.

We hope to see Fassbender spitting bars.

Saoirse Ronan appeared in two films at Sundance in 2015:

Since then, she’s captured our hearts in Lady Bird. She returns to Sundance with The Outrun:

After living life on the edge in London, Rona attempts to come to terms with her troubled past. She returns to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands — where she grew up — hoping to heal.

Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot.


FESTIVALS

Sundance runs Jun 18-28.

In-person tickets to Sundance can be purchased here. Online here.


See you Friday!


Written by: Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

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