'Crooked Arrows'Lest you think that product placement is limited to big-budget, big-star movies, be assured that independent filmmakers are not entirely adverse to the idea of exchanging screen time for financial or promotional support. Crooked Arrows, an independent sports film scheduled to begin production this spring, will be exclusively sponsored by Reebok, according to AdAge.com. Reebok will use the film as a springboard to promote its lines of lacrosse equipment and apparel. Owing to the early involvement of Reebok, the filmmakers have been able to "secure [the] bulk of their financing, and also guarantees distribution for a nationwide release of at least 250 theaters in 2011."

The official site for Crooked Arrows makes comparisons to "heroic team sports movies," such as Bad News Bears, Hoosiers, Mighty Ducks, and Miracle. The story follows a mixed-blood Native American who becomes the coach of his reservation's high school lacrosse team, competing against "the better equipped and better trained players of the elite Prep School League," per the synopsis. Steve Rash (Bring It On: All or Nothing, Road Trip: Beer Pong) will direct.

Jacques Vroom, marketing director for the film, pointed out: "Normally to raise money, you take a movie to festivals and pray someone picks it up for distribution. With independent movies, the reality is these deals are rare." It's a dilemma that's facing all the filmmakers coming to Sundance and Slamdance this week. Along with tremendous excitement, there's also the genuine concern that some very good films will never see the inside of a movie theater again, simply because, in a tightening market, only a few will be anointed with the oil of a distribution deal and thus (hopefully) recuperate some or all of the production cost.