Atlanta's indie-film scene has been waiting for the one film that will achieve the holy trinity: acceptance to an important film festival, theatrical distribution and national buzz. That elusive package would prove what locals already know -- that there are talented filmmakers in the city. It looks like The Signal is that film.
The Atlanta-made, low-budget film co-directed by Jacob Gentry (Last Goodbye), Dave Bruckner and Dan Bush about a violence-inducing transmission sent through the radio, cell phone and television lines already was big news for the Atlanta film scene when it was picked up for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
But good news turned to better when The Signal was acquired for a little more than $2 million by the art-house film distributor Magnolia Pictures soon after the film's Jan. 22 Sundance premiere. The acquisition deal generated buzz from The Hollywood Reporter and the online outlets indieWIRE and Ain't It Cool News.
New York-based Magnolia has distributed three recent Oscar nominees, including this year's Jesus Camp, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Capturing the Friedmans. Asked about how soon into The Signal screening he knew he would go after the film, Tom Quinn, Magnolia's head of acquisitions, says, "It was immediate. Within the first five minutes, I knew we were going to have a long night ahead of us. I looked to my manager of acquisitions, Ben Stambler, and said, 'This is good.'
"So the rest of the screening was spent figuring out the appropriate offer for a multiple-territory deal [all-English language rights]."
Atlanta actress and filmmaker Tracy Martin, who attended the midnight screening at the Egyptian Theater, was amazed at the packed 266-seat house and by the energy at the film's premiere.
"I saw four features and The Signal was by far the best," she says. "Great crowd. Everybody was stoked. There were so many people from Atlanta; there was a huge presence.
"It was a magical evening for Atlanta."
The Signal emerged from "Exquisite Corpse," one of the many Dailies filmmaking programs that have been produced in collaboration with PushPush Theater.
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