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Update: Ponsoldt's "Smashed" picked up by Sony Pictures Classics

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Posted on January 6th 2012 in Announcement

UPDATE II: According to IndieWire, “Sony Pictures Classics is reportedly in final talks to acquire James Ponsoldt’s sophomore feature “Smashed,” which premiered at Sundance. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“The Thing,” “Scott Pilgrim”) and Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) as an alcoholic married couple, Kate and Charlie. … Produced by Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling, who produced “Like Crazy” who were honored at Sundance this year for their work on “Smashed” as well as “Nobody Walks” (Magnolia). The film was also produced by Jennifer Cochis.

UPDATE: “Smashed” written and directed by James Ponsoldt '10, a graduate of the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, was awarded a Special Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival. On, Saturday, January 28, the Festival’s final day, the award for independent film producing was conferred on “Smashed” producers Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz.

Robert Redford's world famous showcase for independent film, The Sundance Film Festival returns to Park City, Utah, January 19-29. The Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades, and as usual, TFT alumni and students are well-represented.

Here are some UCLA-related films at this year’s Festival:


Written and directed by James Ponsoldt '10, Professional Program in Screenwriting.


Kate and Charlie like to have a good time. Their marriage thrives on a shared fondness for music, laughter . . . and getting smashed. When Kate's partying spirals into hard-core asocial behavior, compromising her job as an elementary schoolteacher, something's got to give. But change isn't exactly a cakewalk. Sobriety means she will have to confront the lies she's been spinning at work, her troubling relationship with her mother, and the nature of her bond with Charlie.

Many films indulge the dramatic highs and lows of addiction. Refreshingly, Smashed is interested in the unglamorous middle path — what stumbling through recovery looks like. As Kate tests new boundaries and shoulders the consequences of her choices, this subtle story of imperfect transformation taps into truths about the challenges and losses intrinsic to living life honestly. Genuine performances and a grounded sense of place create an authentic, textured world where three-dimensional characters — neither all bad nor all good — occupy the uncomfortable grey zone of being human.

“The Other Dream Team”

Written and directed by Marius Markevicius MFA '02, Producers Program.

lithuanian basketball team featured in dreamteam at sundance

In 1992 the United States sent the Dream Team to the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Considered the greatest basketball team ever assembled, these players were expected to dominate and win the gold — and that's exactly what they did. Meanwhile, on another court, a basketball team from the newly independent nation of Lithuania was chasing a different kind of dream. A tiny country of three million people, Lithuania won the bronze medal, beating Russia, its former oppressor. 

Filmmaker Marius Markevicius skillfully crafts an inspirational David-versus-Goliath story, bouncing from the personal struggles of players living behind the iron curtain to their astonishing journey out of the clutches of communism into their unlikely partnership with the Grateful Dead and the glory of the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The Other Dream Team is a triumphant tale of freedom, guts, and pride — a rousing testament to the power of sports as a catalyst for cultural identity. – D.C.

Marius Markevicius graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and received his MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. He has produced several feature films and coproduced Like Crazy, the dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Markevicius also produced the 2010 feature Douchebag, which premiered at that year's Festival and had a theatrical release. The Other Dream Team, a documentary about Lithuania, his family's homeland, and basketball, one of his life's passions, is his directorial debut.

Playtime (Short)

Written and directed by Lucas Mireles '12, produced by Ryan Slattery '11

playtime movie poster at sundance

Inspired by Billy Wilder’s "People on Sunday (1930)", "Playtime" is a seamless journey through the lives of German youth on a Sunday afternoon. Jan (Jan Müller) awaits his date with the sexy Matilda (Marylu Poolman). But when Matilda shows up with Andy (Markus Klauk), Jan realizes she has more in mind for their afternoon together. Not interested in this ménage à trois, Jan leaves Matilda and Andy to their own fun. But their rendezvous is quickly interrupted by a group of children at play. The boys poke fun at Andy’s shortcomings, until he finally chases them away to a mysterious graveyard. There, one of the boys (Tim Lingens) gets lost in his imagination as the sun sets on this ordinary Sunday experienced through extraordinary lives.

This footage literally traveled around the world, beginning on a sunny summer day in Cologne, Germany, finding its way to Los Angeles to be finished, and to Park City, Utah, for its world premiere at Sundance.


Daughters of the Dust, written and directed by Julie Dash MFA ’85, is a milestone of African-American cinema, a revelation when it was screened as part of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s “L.A. Rebellion” series, in the same gorgeous new fully timed answer print that will be shown at Sundance. “Daughter’s” is Dash’s vibrant tribute to her Gullah ancestors, a celebration of their unique traditions and lifestyle, which these descendants of African slaves struggled to preserve on the seacoast islands off the Carolina and Georgia coasts. The first feature film by an African-American woman to receive a general theatrical release in the United States, the 1991 film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2004.

Bananas DP

Gabriel Noguez '08 was a cinematographer on the Swedish documentary Big Boys Gone Bananas!, and will travel to Sundance with the film. The personal documentary by Fredrik Gertten and Margarete Jangård is a record of their prolonged legal battle with the Dole Food Company, which filed a lawsuit over allegations raised in their earlier film, “Bananas.” Even before the film has been screened, Gertten and Jangård found themselves painted as villains due to Dole’s shrewd PR moves. "Big Boys Gone Bananas" is a case study of the power of individuals to fight back against corporate bullying.


heather lindell thats what she saidRay Bolger Musical Theater alumna Heather Lindell ’04 has a featured role in Carrie Preston’s That’s What She Said. A successful working actor, Lindell landed the role of Jan Spears on the soap “Days of Our Lives” on the the day she graduated from TFT – and was late for the audition due to traffic coming from the ceremony.

She also has extensive Broadway experience, from her debut in “Hairspray,” with Harvey Fierstein, to Gary Masrhall’s “Happy Days: The Musical.” Most recently she appeared in the Tony-winning 2010 revival of “La Cage aux Folles,” again with Fiersten.

From Jakarta with love

TFT alumnus Kyle Franke, a 2005 graduate of the UCLA Producers Program (and now a teacher there) is Head of Development at XYZ Films of Marina Del Ray. Franke will be in Park City representing the company's pan-Asian co-production "The Raid" ("Serbuan Maut"), a smash last year at Toronto in the Midnight Madness sidebar.

The film is a martial arts thriller, directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais, that showcases the Indonesian traditional martial art of Pencak Silat. Story follows an elite tactical team that invades an impenetrable derelict apartment building in Jakarta’s slums, hoping to take down a notorious drug lord. Stranded on the 6th floor, with no way out, the unit must fight their way through the city’s worst criminals to survive.
Toronto Review: 'The Raid' - One of the Best Action Movies in Years!

XYZ Films was founded by three Producers Program alumni, Nate Bolotin MFA ’07, Nick Spicer MFA ’06 and Aram Tertzakian MFA ’07.


Supported by the nonprofit Sundance Institute, the Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades, including "sex, lies, and videotape," "Maria Full of Grace," "The Cove," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Precious," "Trouble the Water," "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Winter's Bone," and, through its New Frontier initiative, has brought the cinematic works of media artists including Isaac Julian, Doug Aitken, Pierre Huyghe, Jennifer Steinkamp and Matthew Barney.
UCLA's impressive showing at last year's Sundance