Sundance Doc 'Catfish' Potentially Picked Up by Paramount?
I'm on my way home from Sundance today and as I was reading through Twitter, I noticed an interesting tweet from a friend who said that he was missing a screening of the documentary Catfish being held on the Paramount lot tomorrow night. If you haven't heard all the buzz yet, Catfish is one of the few breakout films from Sundance this year, getting some of the best buzz of the fest (even though it didn't win any awards). I took at look at the invite, which is a standard test screening invite, but it's being held on the Paramount lot - and I know that Paramount never shows films there unless its their own. So did Paramount buy the doc?
Let's not forget that just before Sundance began, Paramount made a big purchase, picking up the Audience Award winning doc Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim (also of An Inconvenient Truth, which Paramount released a few years earlier). Either Paramount is really interested in documentaries or they're looking for "the next" Paranormal Activity. For those that may have forgotten, Paranormal debuted at Slamdance (the sister fest of Sundance, also held in Park City during the exact same week) back in 2007, Paramount quietly bought it, and didn't unleash it until 2009, two years later (earning them $108 million).
Getting back to Catfish, on the test screening invite, they specifically mention that attendees should "have seen and enjoyed" films like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Slumdog Millionaire or An Inconvenient Truth. Is it a coincidence that they just named three of Paramount's biggest indie successes in the last few years? I think not. Erik Davis of Cinematical picked up on all the Twitter buzz as well, asking the same question: "Is 'Catfish' the Next 'Paranormal Activity'?" Obviously the films couldn't be more unlike each other (one is a documentary, the other is pretending to be a documentary). But maybe that's exactly it, maybe they think they can turn this into a huge hit, and they're testing it tomorrow for marketing reasons.
First things first, if they do pick up Catfish, they should change the title. I've seen the documentary (and it's one of my favorites of the fest) and I can tell you that the title has nothing to do with anything in it. At one point it's mentioned, but that line is pretty much irrelevant and has no connection with the rest of the story. But the key to this film's success is keeping its story a secret. Much like Paranormal or Cloverfield, its the experience of going in without knowing anything and watching the story unfold in front of you that makes it so incredible. Which is why we haven't spoken much about the story that I hope remains a secret.
Along with Blue Valentine (another fest favorite), Catfish was one of the films that I was hoping would be picked up by a powerful distributor that would know what to do with it (to turn it into a breakout indie hit). If Paramount has indeed quietly bought the film, then I'll be very excited to see what they can do with it, because they were able to turn Paranormal into a hit (then milk it for every last penny by turning it into a franchise). Catfish, on the other hand, is not only a great doc but it speaks lengths about the internet and society today. I'd love to see them turn it into an indie hit as well and I hope they're the ones releasing it.
We'll be following this story closely as it develops and keeping everyone informed about Catfish. If you're interested in learning more about this documentary and why it has so much buzz, read Brandon's review or the description from the Sundance guide. But don't read anything else about it - don't ruin the experience!