Sundance Film Festival

The WINTER'S BONE Effect

Winter's BoneStill from Debra Granik’s WINTER’S BONE.

As the number of movie deals at Sundance continues to add up–there have been about 30 so far–and the indie film world rejoices that the hard times are over, there’s one film that’s been hovering in the ether in Park City. It’s crept up on blogs, and in conversation, as it did yesterday with Rena Ronson, an agent at UTA (which has pretty much owned the deal-making scene here), and Christian Vesper, SVP of Acquisitions for IFC and Sundance Channel.

The film is WINTER’S BONE. And the way it’s being discussed is in the context of “The WINTER’S BONE Effect.”  The assumption behind this statement is that this year’s sales frenzy is a direct result of Debra Granik’s little-movie-that-could, WINTER’S BONE, which was one of the big break-out hits last year. After taking home the Grand Jury prize, the film–a film about a young girl in the Ozarks searching for her father–went on to make nearly $8 million at the worldwide box office (it cost $2 million to make), and was just nominated for a whopping four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s Sundance “It” girl), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (John Hawkes).

On Tuesday, when the Oscar noms were announced, everyone in Park City was buzzing about Granik’s amazing fortune–she herself was reportedly “vibrating” over the news. It’s easy to understand why. It’s been a long time since a truly, truly indie movie — i.e., one that doesn’t have A-list stars working for a price, or that wasn’t packaged by Fox Searchlight — has been able to garner attention beyond the art house scene. (Granted, WINTER’S BONE’s box office take is still rather small in the scheme of things, but its Oscar attention will improve that.)

The Oscar noms only reinforced the faith in the film at Sundance, and it’s clearly been in the back of buyer’s minds as they scoop up movies. As for this year’s WINTER’S BONE? That remains to be seen…

For more of Nicole’s dispatches at the Sundance Film Festival see her blog on The Daily Beast.