As expected, documentary buzz was at a heightened pitch during the first busy weekend of the Sundance Film Festival. There was the opening night screening of The Queen of Versailles, plagued or propped up, depending on your perspective, by a lawsuit from its main subject.
And there was the big reveal about why West of Memphis producer Peter Jackson had seen a need for another West Memphis Three documentary. The film points the finger for the gruesome killing of three boys directly at one victim’s stepfather, a man who has not been charged with the crime.
But, more than anything, there was the hot business of selling documentaries to distributors, and on that score, there was one man at the center of it all: Josh Braun.
Before the festival even started, Me @ The Zoo, about Internet celebrity, was picked up by HBO Documentary Films. Other doc sales that quickly followed: Sony Pictures Classics bought Searching for Sugar Man, about a long-forgotten musician, and Magnolia acquired Versailles, which is about, and let’s be careful here, a real estate empire tainted by the recession.
The sales agent responsible for selling each of those three films was none other than Braun, who’s known for his doc know-how, business savvy and for just being an all-around nice guy — all of which makes him a very desirable agent for documentary directors. He’s worked on Oscar winners such as The Cove and Man on Wire, Super Size Me, Spellbound and the list goes on. He’s no slouch. And he’s started off this year’s Sundance with a bang.
There’s still plenty of festival to go, and, sure, the spoils may go to those who wait. Indeed, we’re still waiting to hear from superstar sales agent John Sloss and distributors like IFC, Village Roadshow and bigger players like The Weinstein Company, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight.
And there is plenty of good stuff out there for them to gobble up. Films such as rapper Ice-T’s The Art of Rap, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia, and Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In are all up for grabs.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them soon, real soon. They may just be working out a deal in a Park City bathroom stall this very minute.