'The Signal' Director Describes Success at Sundance Filmmaker Jacob Gentry talks about his movie, The Signal, which has been bought by Magnolia Pictures at the Sundance Film Festival.

'The Signal' Director Describes Success at Sundance

'The Signal' Director Describes Success at Sundance

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Filmmaker Jacob Gentry talks about his movie, The Signal, which has been bought by Magnolia Pictures at the Sundance Film Festival.


Filmmakers enter their movies in the Sundance Film Festival hoping for good reviews, maybe a prize, and in the back of everybody's mind is the dream that a major studio will pick up their film for distribution. For Jacob Gentry, that dream became a reality this week when Magnolia Pictures picked up his entry, "The Signal." It's a film about people receiving electronic transmissions to their brains that drive them to madness and murder.

(Soundbite of film, "The Signal")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) I see it in the streets, (unintelligible). It's happening everywhere. People are going crazy in their head all over.

Unidentified Man #2: That TV got in your brain and has distorted your perception.

(Soundbite of screaming)

CONAN: Jacob Gentry joins us now from Park City, Utah. Jacob, congratulations.

JACOB GENTRY (Filmmaker): Thank you very much.

CONAN: And were you surprised the movie was picked up?

GENTRY: Yeah. I mean, we were surprised that we even got into Sundance, so this is all just enormously overwhelming and really, really exciting, especially when you've been making movies since - you know, I've been making movies since I was a little kid, so this is all a dream come true.

CONAN: So you're an overnight success now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GENTRY: Well, I mean I think it'll be successful if, you know, the movie's well received by the audience as well as it's been by some of the critics. So I would love to see that. That to me would be the success of the film.

CONAN: So when was your film screened?

GENTRY: It screened Monday night at midnight.

CONAN: And how long after that was it before you had a deal?

GENTRY: Well, basically, unbeknownst to me, they were apparently ready to make offers before the film was even over. I guess Magnolia was just extremely enthusiastic about the film. And after the Q&A, after the film was over, about 2:30 in the morning, I was yanked away into a room with our sales agents and my producer, Alex Motlog(ph), and we just - we were there until like 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning and then made the deal, and then we went back to our condo with everybody, cast and crew, and Magnolia and our sales people included, and we drank until 8:00 o'clock in the morning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I suspect you did. And did you immediately go out and buy a Mercedes Benz?

GENTRY: Oh, no. You know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GENTRY: You know, I don't think it works like that, but you know, I would love to, you know, put the money back into movies, you know.

CONAN: Obviously put the money back into movies, make another picture. Did you fund this picture yourself?

GENTRY: No, no. My production company, we have a private investor that funded the movie, and...

CONAN: So at the end of the day, what slice of the movie, you know, if it makes money, what percentage will you have?

GENTRY: You know, that's kind of, you know, in the paper, I mean in our contracts and stuff, but because it's my production company - POPfilms is the production company that put it out - I do have a good stake in it.

CONAN: Okay, so you're going to do okay.

GENTRY: Ultimately for me, it's - I mean, I know it's easy to say it's not about the money, but it's not really. For me, it's just, it's a sign that hopefully, you know, I'll be able to continue to make movies, and that's really what I've always wanted to do, and that's what those numbers signify, because ultimately when they publish those things, numbers and stuff like that, it doesn't mean, you know, they - we slide the movie across the table and they slide a suitcase full of cash over, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You wish, though.

GENTRY: Yeah. It's more - what works for us especially is just the idea that we are able to put movies out that, you know, hopefully can make money, and that will allow us to make more films, and that's really the goal.

CONAN: If you hadn't - you said you were surprised you got into Sundance at all. If you hadn't gotten into Sundance, what would you have done?

GENTRY: You know, I mean the expectation was just that we were going to make this genre movie and, you know, we did it in such a way and such a budget that we were sort of, you know, able to sell it overseas and, you know, try to - you know, horror films, genre films, horror and science fiction films, you know, are really popular right now, and they sell. You know, people actually really, really support those films. So we were in a good place before we even got here, and that's why it's all bonus.

You know, when you make an independent film, you submit it to Sundance, but you know the math of it, that's it's probably, it's very unlikely, you know, because everybody wants to be in. And it's kind of - it adds a certain sense of legitimacy to your movie, and that - and I mean especially with a genre movie, you know, a more avant-garde fare, or even more sort of somber movies or even, you know, more - I don't know. I don't know what even the term would be without, you know, sort of compartmentalizing anything. But you know, horror movies generally you don't think of as sort of the Sundance film.

CONAN: As festival movies, no. We just have a few seconds left, but when are we going to be able to see this in a theater?

GENTRY: Hopefully, you know - I mean, definitely this year, and hopefully as soon as possible. They're looking forward to putting it out there, but you know, I can't wait, I can't wait.

CONAN: Jacob Gentry, congratulations again, and good luck with it.

GENTRY: Thank you very much, and thank you for having me on the show.

CONAN: Jacob Gentry, co-director of "The Signal." His movie screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was bought by Magnolia Pictures. He joined us today from Park City, Utah, where he's I guess getting over his hangover.

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