Fest fetes rock doc, experimental drama 'Primer'

PARK CITY — Getting in under the wire on Saturday just hours before music feature “DIG!” won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for best documentary, Palm Pictures acquired North American theatrical and DVD rights to the pic.

Also on the fest’s closing night, Sundance Channel sealed a deal for pay TV rights to the film, which the two companies will work together in promoting.

Directed and produced by Ondi Timoner and co-produced by Vasco Lucas Nunes and David Timoner, “DIG!” tracks the rise of two alt-rock music stars: Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Courtney Taylor, frontman for the Dandy Warhols.

A seven-year project culled from 1,500 hours of footage, the film looks at family, friendship, rivalry, personality disorders and the struggle of the independent artist.

“This was our favorite doc at the festival and a perfect fit for Palm Pictures,” said head of acquisitions and production David Koh. “We want to be the label of choice for documentaries with strong music themes.”

Other music films recently released by Gotham-based Palm include “Dark Days,” “Scratch” and “The Directors Series,” three DVD compilations showcasing the musicvideos of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham.

A number of other companies at Sundance were circling theatrical and TV rights to “DIG!” Palm chairman Chris Blackwell and Koh negotiated the pickup with Micah Green and Josh Braun for Cinetic Media, which represented the filmmakers on both deals.

“Ondi Timoner has made an incredibly exciting film that we feel will appeal to the Sundance Channel audience on a number of levels,” said Sundance Channel Entertainment VP of acquisitions Christian Vesper, who negotiated pay TV rights.

Palm also is among companies vying for North American rights to Sundance dramatic competition Grand Jury Prize winner “Primer.” ThinkFilms has made an offer and Magnolia Pictures and Sony Pictures Classics have signaled interest as well.

William Morris Independent was expected to close a deal as early as today on director Shane Carruth’s experimental drama. However, the top Sundance award may prompt the seller to stall for further offers.

Also expected to close early this week is “Super Size Me,” which won the directing award in the Sundance documentary competition. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock examines the relationship between a fast-food diet and ill health and obesity by eating exclusively at McDonalds for an entire month.

Cinetic Media already has locked a pay TV deal with A&E Network, which plans to air the doc later this year. Other cablers including HBO are believed to have been involved in early talks for rights, but backed away due to the high pricetag. One source involved in theatrical negotiations for the film said the TV deal went for $600,000-$700,000.

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