On a Friday evening back in 2006, The (Arguably) Most Powerful Person at the Sundance Film Festival trudged through 3 feet of snow, just so he could sit in a Ruby Tuesday not answering his phone.
“I just sat there, staring at my phone ringing off the hook, taking part in the bottomless salad bar,” said The (Arguably) Most Powerful Person at the Sundance Film Festival, who goes by the name of John Sloss.
The phone rang on that night of Jan. 20 because the movie Sloss was representing had just had its first screening at Park City’s Eccles Theatre. It was called “Little Miss Sunshine,” and Sloss knew it was a hit.
“It was playing like they’d pumped nitrous into the theater,” Sloss said. “I was down by the exit near the stage at Eccles, and I said [to my assistant], ‘We gotta get out of here or it’s going to get ugly.’ ”
Sloss and an assistant left the theater — through the wrong door. They ended up walking across Park City High School’s snow-covered football field. They got to the parking lot, climbed over a fence (on which the assistant cut his hand) and drove to the Ruby Tuesday at Kimball Junction.
“I had the cast and the producers all go to the Riverhorse to drink in the adulation, while we sort of disappeared and figured out what the best strategy was,” Sloss said.
By the next day, Sloss had brokered a deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures, reported at the time to be worth $10.5 million — then the largest distribution deal for a Sundance movie. “Little Miss Sunshine” went on to earn nearly $60 million at the U.S. box office — as well as winning two Oscars, for Alan Arkin’s supporting performance and for Michael Arndt’s original screenplay.
Beyond the deals: Taste » Sloss is The (Arguably) Most Powerful Man at the Sundance Film Festival not just because he made the largest deal in festival history.
He can lay claim to that title because he and his company, Cinetic Media, have represented some of the most prominent titles ever to play the festival: Hits like “Napoleon Dynamite,” Oscar nominees like “Precious” and “The Kids Are All Right,” and buzzed-about films like “Super Size Me” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
And he earns the title because Sloss and Cinetic don’t just make deals, but manage a film through the entire festival process and beyond. “We don’t make movies, but we do everything else to help the people who make and distribute movies do it better,” Sloss said.
Sloss’ reputation is well-known at Sundance. “Everyone knows he’s got great taste, and he’s got passion,” said Trevor Groth, programming director of the Sundance Film Festival. “But they hate that they’re going to have to buy a film from him. … He’s a cutthroat businessman. He doesn’t pull any punches with distributors.”Next Page »