The 37th Sundance Film Festival has come and gone for another year, and with it were a number of breakout films from new indie directors all vying for their film’s spot in the limelight and hoping to snag that oft-talked about but rarely seen, distribution deal.
This year’s Grand Jury Prize went to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, also picking up the US Dramatic Audience Award.The combined win seems to have become a bit of a tradition in the last number of years, with last year’s winner Whiplash and 2013 winner Fruitvale Station appealing to both industry judges and audiences alike.
This was Gomez-Rejon’s second time in the directors chair on a feature, after many years directing television (Glee, American Horror Story).
The most surprising breakout film this year, has to be Sean Baker’s Tangerine. Not only due to its subject matter – transgender prostitutes working in the seedier side of Hollywood – but because the feature film was shot almost entirely on an iPhone 5S.
According to Variety, shooting with anamorphic adapters on iPhones gave Tangerine “not only a more intimate, caught-on-the-fly feel, but also a bracingly cinematic widescreen look that takes on an almost radioactive glow in the harsh glare of an L.A. winter.”
The anamorphic lenses allowed Baker to shoot with a cinematic aspect ratio of 2:35:1, going so far as to say, “I wouldn’t have made the film without that. I think it really elevated the look.”
Describing the film’s aesthetic, Baker told The Verge that he wanted to go with something very different for the look.
“With a lot of these social realist films, the first thing you do is drain the color,” Baker says. “We went the other way. We pumped the colors and put the saturation through the roof. Just because the world there is so colorful, and the women are so colorful. We wanted it to match them.”
However, not all the film’s cast was onboard with the use of the iPhone 5S, with James Ransone (who plays a pimp in the film) saying, “I’m like, Jesus Christ, man, I was on The Wire. I’ve ended up in iPhone movies!”
Ransone did appreciate the flexibility of using an iPhone to shoot, but made a point of noting: “You still need to know how editing works. You still need to know how sound works. You still need to know how a camera works,” he says. “You can’t just go out and shoot.”
“Yes, you can make a beautiful-looking film on a shoestring budget,” he says. “But you have to know 100 years worth of filmmaking.”
Tangerine was picked up by Magnolia Pictures in a worldwide distribution deal, for a reportedly high-six figure deal (source).
Hollywood also likes to premier films at the festival, hoping to generate audience buzz prior to theatrical release. This year saw Sundance festival founder Robert Redford, with co-stars Nick Offerman and Nick Nolte debut their feature A Walk in the Woods.
Other big budget features to get screen time was the Brad Pitt produced, Jonah Hill and James Franco buddy film, True Story. Along with Bachelorette director Leslye Headland’s follow up film, Sleeping with Other People, starring Alison Brie (Community) and Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses).
The feature length film of British childrens animation Shaun the Sheep was a festival favourite with kiddies. The stop-motion character first hitting the big screen in A Close Shave, part of the Wallace & Gromit franchise of films.
Redcarpet video interviews courtesy of MovieMag.