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Sundance Mixes Indies And Hollywood

While the bulk of film professionals and hopefuls who have crowded into the ski resort of Park City for this week's Sundance Film Festival represent the high and low of the independent film world (those with VIP connections, and those scrambling to get meetings and into lavish parties), Sundance has become a place for Hollywood producers and bigshots to hobnob with their contemporaries and, heaven forbid, young filmmaking talent. This makes for a very odd mix, since these communities rarely ever come together. But with the vagaries of the film business, where "small" films such as JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING can yield big, fat Hollywood box office, no one can really discount anything. This may, in fact, be Sundance's greatest accomplishment.....putting everyone into this same mix and seeing what alchemy results.

While the usual suspects will certainly be evidence (Cinetic Media's John Sloss doing all-night deals; Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard greeting the hoipolloi; William Morris Independent's Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson hawking projects and networking like crazy), this year's Festival will also host some rather unlikely Sundance types. From big studio producers to a television production banner to the son of a former Disney CEO -- all are making their way to Park City.

Producer Mark Johnson, best known for such big studio productions as THE CHRONCILES OF NARNIA and RAIN MAN, is involved with two films at the festival: the Southern melodrama BALLAST and the Maria Bello missing-wife saga DOWNLOADING NANCY. Sacha Gervasi's only film credits are screenwriting the Warner Brothers hairdressing comedy THE BIG TEASE and Steven Spielberg's THE TERMINAL. But here is, doing the Main Street crawl, with no distributor in place for his directorial debut, the low budget mockumentary ANVIL!, billed as the new THIS IS SPINAL TAP.

And whoa....there's Oscar winners Barry Levinson (RAIN MAN) and producer Art Linson, both veteran studio talents, coming to Sundance with their Hollywood spoof, WHAT JUST HAPPENED, with a stellar cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro. The film has got mainstream distribution via Warner Brothers, but is produced by the digital film production company 2929 Entertainment and was made for the half the catering budget of most of DeNiro's earlier films. I guess at this point, Barry Levinson is as much as an independent filmmaker as anyone else.

Rawson Marshall Thurber, who directed the hit comedy DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY and is attached to Imagine Entertainment's big screen version of the Tom Selleck television series MAGNUM P.I. (not exactly big indie cred), is also doing the indie thing, with the world premiere screening of THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH, an adaptation of a Michael Chabon novel, produced by Groundswell Productions. The film, which stars Sienna Miller, Peter Saarsgaard and Nick Nolte, comes to the Festival without US distribution in place. So, at the starting line of the Sundance FF marathon, I guess all filmmakers are created equal (at least for a few days).

Sandy Mandelberger, Sundance FF Editor on

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