This year's Sundance Film Festival has barely started and already I'm writing the first of what I expect to be a number of news items about distribution deals taking place during or related to the festival. Distribution deals with studios and other major players have become a big part of what Sundance is all about, like it or not ... for many indie films, this is their best chance of finding theatrical, DVD and/or TV distribution for their features and documentaries. The following documentaries are now among the lucky ones:
  • The Sundance Channel bought the television rights to the six-hour film Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman, which will premiere in North America during the festival. The length of the film makes it ideal for television, and Sundance Channel intends to air it as a six-part miniseries. The autobiographical documentary was directed by Jennifer Fox, whose previous film, the ten-hour An American Love Story, also premiered at Sundance back in 1999.
  • A&E IndieFilms bought the North American television rights for the documentary My Kid Could Paint That, which will have its world premiere at Sundance this year. The film is about four-year-old painter Marla Olmstead, whose artwork has become internationally known, and is directed by Amir Bar-Lev. The deal is unusual in that it makes A&E IndieFilms an equity partner for potential theatrical distribution, which of course they hope to secure during the festival.
  • Atopia acquired the North American distribution rights to the documentary The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez, which debuted at Sundance in 2006. German director Heidi Specogna filmed this look at the first American soldier to be killed in Iraq in 2003. Atopia is a production and distribution company based in Montreal; recent releases include the French-language Canadian features On the Trail of Igor Rizzi and Missing Victor Pellerin. Atopia intends to release The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez in U.S. and Canadian theaters this March, followed by a summertime DVD release.