There is no better showcase for Hollywood's emerging talent than the Sundance Film Festival think first-time director Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station (which premiered there last year) or Carey Mulligan in 2009's An Education. It was clear from opening night that 2014's breakout would be Damien Chazelle, whose self-assured sophomore effort, Whiplash, starring Miles Teller as an ambitious drummer, played like gangbusters at the Eccles Theatre, setting off a bidding war. (Sony Pictures Classics snapped up theatrical rights for a reported $3 million.)
Other notable deals at the fest, which ran Jan. 16 to 26 in Park City, Utah? Lynn Shelton's Laggies and Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here both reportedly sold for around $2 million, to A24 and Focus Features, respectively. Fox Searchlight stayed loyal to its Another Earth filmmaker Mike Cahill, buying his equally ambitious follow-up, I Origins, starring Michael Pitt and Brit Marling.
As always, EW a leadership sponsor of the festival was at the heart of the action. And Sundance's brightest talents dropped by to smile and schmooze at our photo studio.
White Bird in a Blizzard
Though it's based on a 1999 Laura Kasischke novel, director Gregg Araki set this thriller about a woman's disappearance starring Mark Indelicato, Gabourey Sidibe, and Shailene Woodley in the late '80s. ''Music is an important part of the movie,'' noted Araki, who made his young cast playlists for inspiration. ''Lots of Cocteau Twins and Nine Inch Nails,'' said Woodley.
The Skeleton Twins
It stars Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, but this is no comedy. Director Craig Johnson called his dramatic second feature a ''non-romantic love story'' about estranged siblings. Hader remarked, ''I've never done anything like this.''
Ryan Reynolds' Jerry is a timid guy under court-ordered psychiatric supervision. His female co-workers think he's adorable, but the only friends he confides in are his dog and cat, who uh-oh talk back. Reynolds voiced both pets, as well as two other characters. ''The table read was very exciting,'' quipped Kendrick.
The darkly comedic film directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy was inspired by the life of British musician-comedian Chris Sievey, who created the masked persona of Frank Sidebottom in the mid-1980s.