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Swift sales for Sundance opening night features

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: January 18, 2014 - 8:28 AM

The first films to sell at this year's Sundance Film Festival are a doc about a Tyrannosaurus rex in South Dakota and a tyrannical music teacher in New York City.

CNN snapped up the opening night documentary feature "Dinosaur 13," a classic David and Goliath story with a scientific slant. In 1990 a group of amateur paleontologists unearthed the largest and Most complete T. Rex skeleton ever found. They painstakingly excavated no preserved it, hoping to make it the centerpiece of a local dinosaur museum. Unfortunately, the creature, dubbed "Sue," had been found on a plot of land with a murky legal history of tribal, federal and private ownership. The Feds seized Sue, the Black Hills community erupted in proteses and the diggers were indicted in a prosecution that began as ill-advised and turned vindictive.

Sony purchased international rights to "Whiplash," which could be subtitled "Full Metal Drum Kit." Miles Teller ("The Spectacular Now") plays an aspiring teen jazz drummer at a prestigious music school. J.K. Simmons is mentor and tormentor, the verbally and physically abusive teacher who pushes his students to the breaking point to weed out all but the most talented and committed. Writer-director Damien Chazelle entered an 18-minute short version of the film at last year's Sundance competition, and shot and edited the feature version in just nine weeks. Festival representatives say only one other film has gone from festival short to feature entry in a year, 2012's little-seen horror film "The Pact." Teller is poised to become a breakout star this year for his roles in the youth comedy "That Awkward Moment" and the YA science fiction adaptation "Divergent."

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