Losing Sleep over Sleepwalker Worries


ElliottLester-27Oct2014Sleepwalker, directed by Elliott Lester, who, at the time was coming off his triumph for Nightingale, was completed and scheduled for release in 2015. The scriptwriter, Jack Olsen, is a relatively unknown. Sleepwalker would be his first feature film credit. Olsen has another film in production.

Elliott Lester was lucky and talented enough to get Brad Pitt’s company, Plan B to finance and enter a distribtution deal for Nightingale, which was only shown at film festivals and then released on HBO. You might want to compare Plan B’s roster to those of the production companies that financed Sleepwalker. Brad Pitt can really pick them. 12 Years a Slave, Selma, and The Big Short are among Plan B’s most recent releases.

My first concern is that the primary producer for Sleepwalker, Night and Day Pictures , hasn’t done much of note since Waitress in 2007,   if you can call that notable. Other films include Save the Date and Serious Moonlight, some of which debuted at large film festivals.  Only 7 films are listed on their website marquis ( which may be outdated). In the wings are such titles as Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant  and some movies for Lifetime (TV)  including  The Restless Virgins.   Cardboard Boxer, completed in 2013, received a lot of press and was  scheduled to be released in 2015. It didn’t make it to release yet.

Sleepwalker is not mentioned on the Night and Day website.

It may be that the strategy is to try film festivals again, but Sleepwalker is not on any list for Sundance, later this month and Tribeca FF  has just concluded receiving submissions.

My second concern is that the other production company, MarVista  (which is also a distribution company, but mostly for TV and on digital platforms) seems to concentrate on family films for TV ( with connections to Disney, Lifetime Hallmark and Nick cable stations). The feature films they list seem to be of the horror genre Most Likely to Die, Caught, and  A Deadly Adoption which premiered on Lifetime TV.  Aside from that – lots of B-grade romances, Christmas stories and pet films.

MarVista has a large library, but it appears that many of their works have been acquired after completion, and not original to them. MarVista’s latest film ( not original to the production company) is Terrordactyl scheduled for release in 2016 – probably for TV. ( sounds a little like a Sharknado rip-off).

Sleepwalker is not mentioned on their website.

Therefore, I wonder whether Sleepwalker is having distribution problems, or is there is some wider strategy to try it out at film festivals, not as competition, but for marketing screenings.

I’m learning more about the film business than I knew before, thanks to Richard Armitage, but not enough to know what’s going on here. I would have thought – I did think a while ago – that  after Nightingale, which showed outstanding directorial talent, and recent Hannibal, Hobbit and The Crucible accolades for star Richard Armitage,   distributors in the film industry would be chomping at the bit to get a look at Sleepwalker.

On the positive front, and in opposition to what’s happening with Sleepwalker, Pilgrimage  and  Brain on Fire have distributors.  Maybe we need a little Irish to get Sleepwalker  off the bench.




26 thoughts on “Losing Sleep over Sleepwalker Worries

  1. Reposted from the previous thread: As I recall, the path for Nightingale was that it went to one or more festivals, and after that Brad Pitt picked it up for HBO. So presumably it was picked up because it was a good film, although I’m sure it helped that David Oyelowo was recently starring in another high-profile film. I suspect you are correct that, like Urban, Sleepwalker has not yet found a distributor. Pilgrimage and Brain on Fire seem to have already crossed that hurdle, so we just need to wait for them to be released.


    • Pitt picked up Nightingale as reaction to the missed Oscar nomination for DO. So he decided to buy the rights for the distribution and finally made the agreement with HBO. If DO had a nomination, Nightingale wouldn’t probably have been picked.


      • There was a Feb. 2015 announcement that Plan B picked up Nightingale (via deadline.com), but the film appeared in June 2014 at the LAFF. So I assume that the distribution plan occurred much later.


  2. Sleepwalker is also not appearing at Sundance, which starts in a few weeks.

    Nightingale appeared at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival, which again for 2016 is in June. This seems like an appropriate venue, and the film was not completed in time for the 2015 LAFF. June is a while away, but I think Sleepwalker has a good shot of making it if nothing has happened before that.


  3. Thanks for this detailed report.
    What really worries me though, is Lester totally neglecting Sleepwalker. He made zillion of post/tweets for Nightingale and DO (rightly so) but not a word on Richard or on Sleepwalker. Remember Richard had an Olivier nomination and wonderful reviews for Hannibal. But not a word from Lester (that even hinted to other movies with DO). Now he is promoting his new film 478, with big Hollywood names. Still, not a word about Sleepwalker. My opinion is we’ll never see it. It’s a too little a movie for Lester to risk his new “status” as ascending director. It’s just a 1 million budget film, that certainly cannot compete with his recent exploits. He could prefer not seeing it released, like we don’t want people to see our school essays.


    • I don’t know if I completely agree withy ou – though clearly, I have some worries about the future of this film. It is possible ( don;t know the business well enough to have confidence in this) that Elliott Lester was only hired to direct Sleepwalker, with no other interest, such as producing, and therefore, right now things are out of his hands until something happens. There is always the chance that Sleepwalker is a really good film and that Lester did great job – but then, why haven’t we heard anything?


      • It’s possible, but it’s still a film he directed, and should be proud and interested in it. Unless what I say is correct and he just doesn’t consider it relevant to his career/CV. His silence is really embarassing.


        • I agree with CS Prof on the issue that maybe Elliott Lester has nothing to say about the film right now. No news. Also, who knows what constraints he under. Still, I wish we knew something.


      • I think it is fair to say that so far the movie is not setting the world on fire, but these small films are tricky. I think things are quiet because there is not yet news, and whatever is happening is behind the scenes. But I seriously doubt everyone has already given up on making money from it. It has a strong cast, a good director and what at least sounds like an interesting story. And if it was truly low budget like it seems, then they can make money from it more easily. I suspect they are looking around for the right opportunity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are trying the festival approach first. It was almost a year between Nightingale appearing at film festivals and then on HBO.


  4. Enchanted with his research and at the same time sad for “Sleepwalker”. I love to read news and views in your Blog and share on Twitter. Thank you dear, for bringing us information on the work of Richard, when we do not have time to research more deeply. Hugs!


  5. I’m puzzled at this point about the silence too, doesn’t really make sense to me. What does it take to get films released direct to DVD? Is that less expensive, or is it not typically done with this type of movie? I’m pretty ignorant of these matters, and there’s something about Lester that I just don’t get, and I can’t really explain it. (Is that vague enough? 🙂 All I know is I’d love to see the film someway, somehow! And I think other people would too! (Not just hardcore RA admirers.) Looking for the missing piece of this puzzle….


    • Well, today there are other kind of distributions cheaper than a dvd release, like iTunes or any other digital platform. You still need money to do it, of course. I guess they are still trying to show it to some festival (if they are interested at all) prior its online releasing. I think it’s what Urban producers should have done after Leeds festival.
      But Lester’s silence is inexplicable and not promising, like they decided to dump it 😦


    • All I know is what I learned from the Urban experience, and reading. I don’t think (hope not) that the plan for Sleepwalker is straight to DVD. But I did learn that getting a film to DVD is not as cheap as we think. I think I did a post ( or maybe it’s only in draft) on independent film distribution. It can be a nightmare, even for people with a track record.


  6. I would be very sad indeed if we don’t get to see this film. After all the things Richard Armitage has been in, TPTB still seem slow to realize that if he is in something people will pay good money to attend, watch, listen to (e,g, audio books) etc. Not being familiar with all the “in’s and out’s” of the whole process I’m truly grateful for those of you who have diligently researched it. I find it very interesting, even though it somehow makes me even more worried about the outcome! 😦


  7. I’m not on Twitter but wonder what reaction there’d be from Lester if someone tweeted him asking what’s happening with Sleepwalker? He may choose to ignore the tweet, of course, if he’s ‘moved on’ from the film…..


  8. Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:

    Sleepwalker – not exactly an update, since the only news I have, I had at the time of this post – which was that Elliott Lester “delivered” the film in August 2015. Maybe they ought to consider changing the title, since there are other Sleepwalker and The Sleepwalker titles out there already. What I don’t know, is whether Marvista, a co-producer, is also handling the distribution end of this.


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