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Tickled in the pink

Sunday NZ time, shortly after Sundance had announced its feature award winners, doco Tickled announced wins of its own – sales.

The deals were with Magnolia, who took US theatrical rights and all rights for the rest of the world excluding ANZ, for which Vendetta already had the rights; and with HBO, who took US TV rights.

The deal with Magnolia extends relationships in the US that have grown in recent years, in no small part because of Ant Timpson’s work. Timpson’s The ABCs of Death, produced with the Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League, had Magnolia on board as a partner. Magnolia released the ABCs titles, and also has some American rights for Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands.

Tickled received just under $200,000 in development and production finance from the NZFC, with MPI on board as a 50% partner in financing the production. MPI also came on board as co-funders for Ant Timpson’s Make My Horror Movie competition. Now with half of Deathgasm,and Tickled, they must have an interesting understanding of NZ.

The announcements capped a good week in Utah for the film, which picked up strong early reviews following its premiere screening. The Variety review said Tickled “boasts a humorously titillating entry hook that soon gives way to an engrossing conspiracy-thriller”.

Early in the project’s development, then travelling as The Tickle King, Farrier won DOC Pitch at the 2014 edition of Doc Edge. Even at that stage the project was receiving threats of legal action, including accusations the filmmakers were mounting a “homosexual jihad”.

Given the enormous cost in the US of mounting a defence against the actions of someone with deep pockets and a willingness to use litigation to enforce their view of the world – or to prevent someone else from expressing theirs – there was a risk that Tickled might become one of those films that people hear about, but never have the chance to see.

The NZFC’s Dave Gibson noted that MPI had been a great partner on the film, not put off by the threats and campaign against the film – a campaign continued through Sundance with systematic emailing of reviewers to claim Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s film was untruthful.

Such risks could have easily put off many distributors and buyers, but sometimes the gods smile. In MPI the film found a partner willing to take on the risk at production stage. Now the rights are sold, one suspects the distributors wouldn’t mind a fight with those trying to stop the film in open court. There’s nothing like being told you can’t see something to pique curiosity and drive a marketing campaign.

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