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Suckdance: Money, Deals and Talent-Hunting in Park City

by Anthony Kaufman
January 19, 2006 3:52 AM
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Variety published its big Sundance Film Festival/10 Directors to Watch special issue today. If you don't have a subscription, the themes and stories are familiar. (Big, new specialized distributors are looking to make a splash, but are denying this to be the case; big stars are lending their names to indie pics, which should seduce big new specialized distributors, etc.) As a label, "Suckdance" is a bit harsh, but I find the reduction of the event to dollar signs a little disheartening. Even Manohla Dargis's New York Times Sundance preview eventually turned into an another tireless screed on the death of independent film.

For Variety, I contributed the aptly titled story "Who's your sugar daddy?", which examines the growth of high net-worth individuals looking to capitalize on the independent film business. From real estate and lending moguls to one Belgian industrialist, it seems every millionaire wants to be the next Bob Yari (financier of "Crash"). And while I'm no believer in trickle-down economics, Bush Administration policies that make the rich richer may have influenced the number of indie films being financed these days.

As for Variety's 10 to Watch, I'm proud to have profiled Ryan Fleck (along with his partner Anna Boden). While I mean no disrespect to Patrick Stettner, Neil Burger (both of whom I also profiled), Bennett Miller or the rest of the estimable group, Fleck strikes me as the only guy on the list who really deserves the accolade. Stettner and Milller and Joe Wright ("Pride and Prejudice") are already being watched (Miller's been nominated for a DGA award, for chrissakes). Fleck and Boden's feature debut, on the other hand, "Half Nelson," is a humble, handheld earnest piece of work from two passionate individuals that doesn't have a distributor and doesn't have the kind of flashy industry clout that the rest of these guys have already drawn. Like last year's Sundance gem "Down to the Bone," "Half Nelson" deals with drug addiction and no easy resolutions, two traits that the industry may find troubling, but Fleck and Boden are unafraid to tackle. I hope their Sundance is not sucky, but fruitful and full of awards.

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