Steven Soderbergh’s “Presence” Sells Big at Sundance 35 Years After Iconic “sex, lies, & videotape”
Thirty-five years ago, in January of 1989, Steven Soderbergh brought an edgy drama to Sundance that ended up changing the film business. His now iconic sex, lies, & videotape was sold for $1 million and went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and ultimately grossed $25 million at the box office. It is the movie that has a credible claim for lighting a fire under the independent film community, turning it into a real business and its filmmakers into future stars.
Cut to Sundance 2024—while Soderbergh is no longer 26 years old, he’s still passionately making films, and his latest, Presence, is being acquired by Neon, Deadline reports. Soderbergh directed Presence from a script by Davie Koepp (who is currently working on a new Jurassic World screenplay), with Deadline reporting there were about ten bidders vying for a film that got strong reviews at the festival.
Presence is centered on a family’s troubles after moving into what they’re convinced is a possessed home, with a ghostly presence especially interested in their daughter.
It was shot entirely at a single location, and knowing Soderbergh was being edited as it was being shot, given the speed and surefootedness of his approach. (Soderbergh famously often serves as his own editor and cinematographer, which he does again here). Koepp’s razor-sharp script and Soderbergh’s minimalist approach turn the haunted house story on its head, with the camera itself acting as the presence. As Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Coggan writes, “…his camera is the action, watching and influencing the Payne family like a particularly nosy roommate.”
The cast includes Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Julia Fox, Eddy Maday, and West Mulholland. Neon scooping Soderbergh’s latest, 35 years after his original triumph at the festival, must feel good for a studio that just saw another of its films, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, scoop up five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
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Featured image: PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 19: (L-R) Eddy Maday, Callina Liang, Steven Soderbergh and West Mulholland attend the “Presence” Premiere during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival at Library Center Theatre on January 19, 2024 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)