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Meet Sundance’s (Arguably) Most Powerful Person
Dr. Susan Robinson, at her Albuquerque, N.Mex., clinit, in a scene from the documentary "After Tiller," an examination of the abortion issue. Courtesy Sundance Institute

"Before Midnight" • Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles as Jesse and Celine, who met in 1995's "Before Sunrise" and again in 2004's "Before Sunset." Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
|  IFC Films
Emile Hirsch (left) and Paul Rudd star in the comedy "Prince Avalanche," directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express").
A scene from the documentary "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," which will debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film is represented by John Sloss' Cinetic Media. Courtesy Sundance Institute
Entertainment lawyer John Sloss, founder of Cinetic Media, is one of the most prominent dealmakers for films at the Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy Cinetic Media
Entertainment lawyer John Sloss, founder of Cinetic Media, is one of the most prominent dealmakers for films at the Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy Cinetic Media
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Producers who work with him admire his drive.

“John is very protective of the films he brings in, and very strategic,” said Geralyn Dreyfous, the Utah film producer and co-founder of Impact Partners, which attracts investors for socially conscious documentaries. “He pushes for things aggressively, and I think the filmmakers appreciate having someone to do that for them.”

‘Wildly undercapitalized media conglomerate’ » Sloss’ movie love began at the University of Michigan in the ’70s, when pre-Netflix film societies brought non-mainstream movies to campus — and Sloss got involved in organizing such a society. “In college, I went to a film a night for four years,” he said. “Law was never a love. Law was a skilled trade.”

Sloss founded a New York law firm, Sloss Eckhouse LawCo, which represents movie producers, actors, directors and others in the industry. He later founded Cinetic Media, which has expanded from being a sales rep for independent films to what Sloss jokingly calls “a wildly undercapitalized media conglomerate for the 21st century.”

When Cinetic represents a movie, the involvement can take many forms. Cinetic can “shine a light on” a film to get festival programmers to notice it, Sloss said, adding: “Obviously it’s a meritocracy, but around the edges we can be helpful.”

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Once a film gets into Sundance, Sloss said, “we talk about what section it should be in, when it should premiere, what it’s premiering against. … That kind of strategic stuff is just as important as what happens on the ground at the festival.”

Something as seemingly inconsequential as screening time, Dreyfous said, can make or break a film.

“If your film is programmed [to premiere] on Monday, on Martin Luther King Day, when all the buyers are all leaving town, it’s not good,” Dreyfous said.

Sloss & Co. also teach filmmakers “how to contextualize the movie,” Sloss said — developing the ways filmmakers talk about the movie to the media, audiences and potential buyers.

“We help edit the press notes, we try to influence — to the extent we can — the catalog text, and help things as banal as setting up the party for the film,” Sloss said. “It’s not just buyers. It’s also about the press. It’s about the 50 to 75 people at Sundance who really inform how films are prioritized, and who actually takes the leap and buys them. Not all of those people are buyers.”

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Entertainment lawyer’s tenacity, passion for film help him successfully mix art and commerce.

At a glance

Sundance begins

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday night in Park City and runs through Jan. 27 in Park City and at venues in Salt Lake City, Ogden and at Sundance Resort.

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