PARK CITY, UTAH (TheStreet) -- John Slattery, the Mad Men star at Sundance for his directorial debut in God's Pocket, is looking for a distribution deal, a much-valued commodity that Damien Chazelle, the 28-year-old director of Whiplash landed with Sony Pictures Worldwide in a transaction made public this week.
Slattery's film, which stars Christina Hendricks, also from AMC Networks' (AMCX) Mad Men, along with Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro, portrays a working-class man in 1970s Philadelphia who tries to cover up the death of his stepson in a construction accident. The film also marks Slattery's first full-length screenplay, and his initial foray into the murky waters of landing a distribution deal.
"There's all of this," Slattery said as he stood on the red carpet lineup leading into the sold-out premiere of the film which played Friday at the Eccles Theater in Park City. "It's all really nice but the reason people come here is to sell their film."
God's Pocket was filmed over the summer in Yonkers, New York, a tightly-packed working-class city north of the Bronx, that Slattery said more closely resembled his vision of Philadelphia forty years ago than the Pennsylvania city of today. Yonkers was also more conveniently located for his Brooklyn-based film team. Slattery's film is scheduled to play four times at Sundance, giving the actor-turned-director more chances to have his work shown by the right people.
"This is the biggest independent film market in the country," Slattery said. "It's an honor to get in, but once you do get in, the job is to sell it to somebody who will show it to the world -- hopefully."
Sony's deal for Whiplash covers only the film's international distribution, a transaction that the film's producer, David Lancaster, said would help to cover some of the film's expenses while he seeks a distribution deal covering the U.S. and Canada.
"We are open domestically and from a business perspective, we've drawn down some risk by taking some of the territorial offers and leaving enough on the table so that there's even more uplift covering some of our risk thus far," Lancaster said at the opening of Whiplash on Wednesday, the first night of the festival.
On Thursday, Robert Redford, the founder of Sundance, created a minor stir when he said that while he wasn't angry about not being nominated for best actor for his role in the film All is Lost, he wasn't particularly impressed with how the film's distributor, Roadside Attractions, the independent arm of Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF), handled efforts to push his candidacy.
The Oscar nomination process is fraught with aggressive campaigns by the dominant Hollywood studios in addition to distributors and a variety of investor interests. Landing a nomination equals more revenue, and winning an award can often determine whether a film is profitable or languishes in the red.
"Hollywood is what it is, it's a business and so when these films go to be voted on, usually they're heavily dependent on campaigns," Redford said on Thursday at a festival opening event at the city's historic Egyptian Theater. "In our case, I think we suffered from little to no distribution. And so as a result, our distributors - I don't know why -- they didn't want to spend the money, they were afraid, they were just incapable, I don't know."
Redford insisted that he was "fine" with the Academy's decision and spoke glowingly that All is Lost had brought him back to his roots as an actor, and that he much preferred going with an independent distributor even if that hadn't resulted in an Oscar nomination.
A spokesman for Roadside Attractions said in an e-mail that the company had no comment on Redford's statements about being passed over for a nomination.
--Written by Leon Lazaroff in Park City.