Hot pix await Sundance pickups

As the Sundance Film Festival hits the halfway mark, Park City is bracing for a major influx of industry heavyweights today. The first stretch limo appeared on Main Street late Tuesday, and the Barking Frog restaurant is starting to resemble Monday night at Morton’s.

And while several films in the dramatic competition, such as Boaz Yakin’s “Fresh,” Rose Troche’s “Go Fish” and ScottMcGehee & David Siegel’s “Suture” have distribution deals in place — the first film with Miramax, the others with Samuel Goldwyn Co. — a number of other competitors, including “Nina Takes a Lover,””Floundering,” and “Clerks,” are still without distribution. Chances are these diamonds in the rough will get scooped up before prizes are awarded Saturday night.

Written and directed by Alan Jacobs, “Nina Takes a Lover” is in many ways the Cinderella back-story of the festival. The drama stars Laura San Giacomo as a married San Francisco businesswoman and Paul Rhys as her photographer paramour.

“Nina” was selected for the festival only two weeks ago, entering the competition after Kayo Hatta’s “Picture Bride” got behind schedule. Prior to getting tapped for Sundance, Jacobs was making films for a computer company in Silicon Valley. After this debut, he won’t have to go back to industrials.

The film has been playing well, especially with older female viewers. And it clearly has commercial potential with that same audience, though some have found its intentionally deliberate pacing a problem. The director explained that he wanted the tempo to make the audience feel as if they are being washed offshore and into the depths of the film. Jacobs is represented by International Creative Management.

“Floundering,” Peter McCarthey’s directorial debut, tells the story of an unemployed and unfocused Generation X-er. McCarthey has produced five features with directors as disparate as Alex Cox (“Repo Man”) and Keenan Ivory Wayans (“I’m Gonna Get You Sucka”).

James LeGros leads a cast that boasts John Cusack, Kim Wayans, Steve Buscemi and Billy Bob Thornton — an actor who is rapidly on his way to becoming the Seymour Cassel of the ’90s. Not only does he appear in “Floundering,” but he also turns in a haunting performance in director George Hickenlooper’s short “Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade.”

Finally, thanks to its ribald humor and $ 28,000 budget, “Clerks” has become a word-of-mouth favorite that many here are likening to Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” and Richard Linklater’s “Slacker.” Kevin Smith’s tale of a modern-day Eddie Haskell and Wally Cleaver stuck in their McJobs at a convenience store/video store in New Jersey has become a dark-horse contender for the audience award.

Although repped by CAA, “Clerks” still has no distributor. And Smith told Daily Variety Tuesday that barring a bolt from the blue, “I’ll be back at Quick Stop for my shift on Monday night.”

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