Artisan Entertainment, which last year walked away from Sundance with micro-budget The Blair Witch Project, has done it again, teaming with its foreign sales partner Summit Entertainment to acquire worldwide rights to Chuck And Buck, a low budget comedy which is in dramatic competition at the festival.
But unlike Blair Witch which Artisan itself bought for the world and then fed through Summit for international sales, Chuck And Buck is a joint acquisition between the prolific US independent and Summit, in which Artisan has a 5% stake. The price of the acquisition, which was shared 50/50 by Artisan and Summit, is in the $1m to $1.5m region.
Summit's Patrick Wachsberger and Artisan's Amir Malin were both enthusiastic about the picture which was also being bid for by USA Films. They decided to team up in the same way as Summit teamed with Paramount Classics to bid for Happy Texas last year.
"It's funny and emotional, unconventional and original," Wachsberger told Screen on Sunday after the deal was closed. "I saw it at the first screening [on Saturday] and then Amir saw the press screening and we both loved it. Artisan's marketing guy John Hegeman also thought it had a lot of potential and I think it has definite foreign potential."
Wachsberger says he plans to sell a few select territories this week during Sundance. This time last year he sold territories including Japan and France on The Blair Witch Project to finance Artisan's $1m acquisition costs.
Directed by Miguel Arteta, whose debut film Star Maps was bought by Fox Searchlight at Sundance 1997, Chuck And Buck is the story of an infantile 27 year-old (played by Michael White who also wrote the screenplay) who goes to visit an old schoolfriend in Los Angeles and proceeds to wreak havoc. Joining White in the cast are film-makers Chris & Paul Weitz, producer/directors of summer 1999 smash American Pie. The Weitzes have a close relationship with Summit which bought rights in non-English language territories to American Pie from Universal Pictures for a bargain $4m.
Chuck And Buck was shot on digital video by Blow Up Pictures the digital film-making arm set up by New York-based Open City Films, which produced last year's Sundance prize-winner Three Seasons. Open City's executive producers Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente, who take executive producer credits on the movie, also produced this week's number one film at the box office Down To You for Miramax Films.
Blow Up's philosophy is to make movies with budgets of no higher than $1m each, although most, like Chuck And Buck, are made for a fraction of that.