By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 26, 2011 at 8:40AM
It is astonishing how quickly now a talent can soar from zero to 60 with the debut of a micro-budget film at a festival. At Sundance, I interviewed writer-actress-producer Brit Marling as Another Earth screened for Fox Searchlight (video below). Her rising star is the main reason that as soon as Searchlight looked at Mike Cahill's micro-budget sci-fi dramatic competition entry Another Earth, they swiftly pursued a deal, persevering over the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features, and signed all the paperwork early the next morning for less than $1 million for all English-speaking territories, with no P & A commitment.
Searchlight's fourth pick-up at the fest was more about discovering new talent--Marling and her co-writer and director Cahill--than making big bucks in theatrical release.
It would be hard to imagine an aggressive wide release on this film, which boasts no stars and is minimally austere at best. But the straightforward drama about what happens to a young astrophysicist with a bright future who glimpses a new planet out her car window and slams into another car, killing a man's wife and child, is compelling and well-made. William Mapother (In the Bedroom) co-stars and composer Will Bates (Fall On Your Sword) supplies an effective atmospheric score.
At Sundance, both Cahill and Marling have jump-started serious Hollywood careers. Marling had a second film in the fest as well, NEXT's The Sound of My Voice, which she also co-wrote, produced and starred in with writer-director Zal Batmanglij, another pal from Georgetown. They structured the film in chapters so that it could function as a series of webisodes with potential as a pick-up for television. UPDATE: It also screened at SXSW, where it was also picked up by Searchlight, which is developing their follow-up project, The East.
With Another Earth and The Sound of My Voice, these filmmakers prove yet again that with the micro-budget production paradigm of high-def hand-held cameras, low-cost actors and found locations, there is no barrier for entry. On Another Earth Cahill and Marling filmed in her mother's house and edited with a laptop and Final Cut Pro. "The technology is allowing young filmmakers to do it now. You don't have to wait for permission to do this anymore," Marling says. "Now you just need to pick a start date."