As the Toronto International Film Festival gets underway September 6-16, hundreds of representatives from theatrical distributors, broadcasters, digital platforms and other acquisition teams will be in town looking for new films to buy. Last week, we profiled some of the documentary sellers (and we continue to update that list). Now we present a list of prominent U.S. companies who took the time to answer our questions. Thanks to my SVA SocDoc student Erik Spink who helped me compile this information. If you’re an active buyer at TIFF who would like to be added, please email me.


We are a New York-based Production and Distribution company.

Attending TIFF: Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, John Hodges, Matt Bires, Noah Sacco

TIFF history: A24 was recently formed and this is the company’s first trip to TIFF.  We are very excited.

Looking for: Cross over commercial films.

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ATO Pictures

We are a NYC-based theatrical distribution company releasing four to six films per year.

Attending TIFF: Johnathan Dorfman, Sarah Lash

TIFF history: We acquired Last Call at the Oasis at TIFF 2011.

Looking for: We are looking for films (primarily narrative) that serve an adult audience and have the potential for crossover success.

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Brainstorm Media, Something to Talk About

Brainstorm Media is acquiring feature length, social issue documentaries for a new series called “Something to Talk About” which will showcase one documentary a month on the Audience Network of DirecTV, with a simultaneous theatrical release and DVD and digital sales. Full details are here and at

Attending TIFF: Meyer Shwarzstein, founder and Brian Newman, acquisitions

Docs at TIFF: Brainstorm Media is launching “Something to Talk About” at TIFF. Brainstorm Media and EPIX will also present the EPIX Original Movie and animated feature A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

Looking For: Social issue documentaries

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Cinedigm Entertainment Group (CEG)

CEG, the entertainment group of Cinedigm, is a state-of-the-art distributor of award-winning indie films and alternative content both theatrically and via all key digital, mobile and home media platforms. New releases include The Invisible War; Citadel; and In Our Nature.  CEG includes New Video, which Cinedigm acquired in April.

Attending TIFF: Susan Margolin, Vincent Scordino, Mark Kashden, Emily Rothschild
(acquisitions team only – we have other people attending)

TIFF history: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (nominated for 2012 Academy Award, Best Documentary); Last Call at the Oasis (distributing in partnership with ATO); Crazy Horse (VOD and digital distribution)

Other docs in our history: The Invisible War; Hell and Back Again; GasLand; Waste Land; Restrepo; Being Elmo

Looking for: 1) Docs with significant theatrical potential (mainstream subject, visually stunning, awards-worthy); 2) Docs with identifiable fan bases that respond to a targeted marketing approach; 3) Docs by the best filmmakers in the business as well as groundbreaking newcomers; 4) Docs that can change the world.

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Cinema Guild

A distributor of documentary, foreign and independent film.

Attending TIFF: Ryan Krivoshey

TIFF history: Seeing Agnes Varda’s The Beaches of Agnes for the first time at TIFF is something I’ll never forget. As soon as the credits began to roll, I ran out of the theater and placed a call to the film’s rep. We met later that afternoon and we closed on the film shortly after the festival.

Other docs in our history: The Interrupters, Planet of Snail, The Law In These Parts, Marwencol, Sweetgrass, Ne Change Rien, The Order of Myths

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HBO Documentary Films

HBO Documentary Films develops, produces, co-finances, and acquires a full spectrum of engaging and thought-provoking documentaries for HBO, HBO2, and Cinemax.

Attending TIFF: Nancy Abraham, Sara Bernstein, Sheila Nevins

Docs at TIFF: First Comes Love; Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

TIFF history: Sound of Mumbai: A Musical

Other docs in our history: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory; Gasland, Ethel; Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present; Me@ the Zoo; Saving Face; When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Looking for: Social Issue documentaries

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First Run Features

First Run Features was founded in 1979 by filmmakers and quickly gained a reputation for its controversial catalog of daring independent fiction and non-fiction films. First Run remains one of the largest independent theatrical and home entertainment distributors in the United States, and as well sells titles to educational institutions and licenses them to television and cable outlets and a variety of innovative internet platforms. Over the years, First Run Features has survived everything from FBI probes to the demise of so many of its competitors. First Run proudly celebrated its 30th Anniversary in August 2009 with a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In 2001 we were honored with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Attending TIFF: Marc Mauceri

TIFF history: TIFF is ground zero for new, important documentaries every year, and is a must for any distributor that specializes in independent cinema.  Since we began attending more than 20 years ago we’ve acquired many dozens of titles from Toronto.  Most recently Pink Ribbons, Inc, Surviving Progress and Fatherland were acquired from TIFF 2011.

Other docs in our history: The UP Series (28, 42, 49, 56 UP); Kings of Pastry; Crude; Jane’s Journey; The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers; The Trials of Henry Kissinger; For the Bible Tells Me So; Sherman’s March; Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune; Bhutto

Looking for: Provocative, well-made titles.

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Icarus Films

Icarus Films is a leading distributor of documentary films in North America. The company was started in 1978, and is now proud to distribute titles, to theatrical, nontheatrical, educational, home video and home entertainment, online and television markets in the US and Canada, including world-class collections of films from mainland China, medical and disability films, and films from the Middle East.

Attending TIFF: Livia Bloom, Director of Exhibition and Broadcast

TIFF history: Nostalgia for the Light directed by Patricio Guzman, TIFF 2010; Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives On The Alberta Tar Sands directed by Peter Mettler, TIFF 2009; Presumed Guilty directed by Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith, TIFF 2009; Operation Filmmaker directed by Nina Davenport, TIFF 2007; Iran, A Cinematographic Revolution directed by Nader Takmil Homayoun, TIFF 2006; An Injury To One directed by Travis Wilkerson, TIFF 2002; The Pinochet Case directed by Patricio Guzman, TIFF 2001; La Commune (Paris 1871) directed by Peter Watkins, TIFF 2001
10; One Day In The Life of Andrei Arenevich directed by Chris Marker, TIFF 2000

Other docs in our history: The Battle of Chile, Part I-III directed by Patricio Guzman; A Man Vanishes directed by Shohei Imamura; Les Maitres Fous directed by Jean Rouch; The Loving Story directed by Nancy Buirski; From The East directed by Chantal Akerman; El Velador/ the Night Watchman Natalia Almada; Forever directed by Heddy Honigman; Our Daily Bread directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter; The Case of The Grinning Cat directed by Chris Marker; Milestones directed by Robert Kramer and John Douglas

Looking for: Icarus Films distributes smart, inventive documentaries of exceptional cinematic merit.

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Indomina Releasing

The Indomina Group is a vertically integrated independent studio.  The company’s global operations include the production, distribution and worldwide sales of motion pictures, production services, and the ownership of world-class studio facilities in partnership with Pinewood Studios.

Attending TIFF: Rob Williams, Vice President of Acquisitions; Stephanie Denton, Vice President, Sales and Acquisitions; CY Yoon, Acquisitions Coordinator

Other docs in our history: Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap; The Imposter

Looking for: We are looking for Films with theatrical release potential

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Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber is one of the leading U.S. independent distributors of award winning narrative features and documentaries. With a library of over 700 titles, and more than 20 new theatrical releases per year, the Company is also a direct distributor on home video (DVD and Blu Ray) and digitally, with direct deals with over 15 major digital platforms and services, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others. It releases on 3 principal labels: Kino Lorber for new, acclaimed world cinema and american indie features and docs; Kino Classics, for major restoration and American and world classics and Alive Mind Cinema for outstanding culturally significant “transformative” documentaries. Founded over 30 years ago, the company is a prestigious home of the classics of yesterday and tomorrow.

Attending TIFF: Richard Lorber (CEO), Gary Palmucci (VP, Theatrical Distribution), Jason Leaf (Manager, Theatrical Sales), Kate Brokaw (Manager Theatrical Marketing)

TIFF history: Gerhard Richter Painting; Whores’ Glory (both 2011 titles); the TIFF slate maximizes both quality and quantity

Other docs in our history: 5 Broken Cameras; Charlotte Rampling; The Look; El Bulli: Cooking In Progress; Khodorkovsky; Kumaré; Meet The Fokkens; Puttin’s Kiss

Looking for: artful and accessible storytelling

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Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing are the theatrical, VOD, and home entertainment distribution arms of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the Landmark Theatres chain.

Attending TIFF: Eamonn Bowles, Dori Begley, Matt Cowal, Randy Wells, Peter Van Steemburg, John Von Thaden

TIFF history: TIFF is a crucial festival for Magnolia as both a robust marketplace for acquisitions and as a unique launching pad for domestic releases. Since the birth of the company, Magnolia has either purchased or heavily pursued documentaries with regularity at TIFF– most notably, Food Inc.; Client 9; Not Quite Hollywood; Surfwise

Other docs in our history: Jiro Dreams of Sushi; Queen of Versailles; Marley; Food Inc.; Man on Wire; Jesus Camp; Cocaine Cowboys; Enron the Smartest Guys In The Room; Capturing The Friedmans; Control Room

Looking for: Magnolia and Magnet titles span all genres utilizing a wide variety of distribution strategies. With respect to documentaries, there is no singular type. We consider any film that reflects a unique vision and has strong potential in the US marketplace —or, in the case of a title sold by Magnolia International, across the globe.

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Oscilloscope Laboratories

Oscilloscope Laboratories is a film distribution and production entity founded by Adam Yauch (MCA of Beastie Boys). The company is modeled after the indie record labels Yauch grew up around—we choose films we are passionate about and release them with the same artistic integrity with which they were made.

Attending TIFF: David Laub, Dan Berger, Debra Fisher, Aaron Katz, Joshua Fu, Jacob Wolters

TIFF History: Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson’s Samsara, which is currently in release, premiered at TIFF 2012.  It is the latest of many documentary and narrative TIFF acquisitions O-Scope has made.  O-Scope previously acquired Natati Baratz’s Unmistaken Child out of TIFF.

Other docs in our history: Shut Up and Play The Hits, upcoming releases Tchoupitoulas & Only The Young, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Academy Award nominees If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, A Film Unfinished, Burma VJ, and The Garden, plus Flow: For Love of Water and Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father, among others.

What we are looking for: Films we’re passionate about.  Compelling stories and subjects, strong craftsmanship, and vital messages that we want to help get out into the world…any and all of these reasons drive us to get involved in the films we do.

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Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions is a Los Angeles-based distribution company dedicated to independent films with a willingness to entertain. In its nine-year history, Roadside films have grossed more than $135M at the US box office as well as garnering twelve Academy Award nominations, including one win for 2009 documentary The Cove.

Attending TIFF: Howard Cohen (Co-President), Eric d’Arbeloff (Co-President), Dennis O’Connor (Head of Marketing), Dustin Smith (VP, Acquisitions & Business Affairs)

TIFF history: While Roadside has not yet acquired any docs out of TIFF, we have launched three documentaries out of the festival: Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic; Good Hair and Cool It.

Other docs in our history: The Cove; Super Size Me; What the Bleep Do We Know?; The Road To Guantanamo; Chicago 10; I.O.U.S.A.; The September Issue; Project Nim; Thunder Soul; Escape Fire

Looking for: Roadside is always looking for any independent films that we think can connect with audiences as well as critics. Thankfully, the arthouse audience doesn’t discriminate against documentaries in favor of narratives. If the reviews are good and the films are engaging, our audience will give them both an equal chance.

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Samuel Goldwyn Films

Samuel Goldwyn Films is a major, independently owned and operated motion-picture company that develops, produces and distributes innovative feature films and documentaries.  The company is dedicated to working with both world renowned and emerging writers/filmmakers and committed to filmed entertainment that offers original voices in uniquely told stories.

Attending TIFF: Peter Goldwyn, Ian Puente, Angel An, Michael Silberman, Sean McDonnell

TIFF history: Picked up The Island President (TIFF 2012); Trumbo (TIFF 2007)

Other docs in our history: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel; Waiting for Lightning; Supersize Me; What the Bleep do We Know?; Brothers at War

Looking for: Good movies that audiences want to see.

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Sony Pictures Classics

New York based specialized film distribution company seeking rights in all media for indie and foreign features at script stage or as completed films.

Attending TIFF: Tom Bernard, Michael Barker, Dylan Leiner

Docs at TIFF: The Gatekeepers, West of Memphis

TIFF history: In recent years we’ve been at Toronto with such docs as Neil Young Journeys; Inside Job; It Might Get Loud; Soul Power; Every Little Step

Other docs in our history: The Fog of War; Tyson; Crumb; Dogtown & Z-Boys; Winged Migration; Riding Giants; American Movie; One Day In September; Who Killed The Electric Car

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Sundance Selects, IFC Films & IFC Midnight

Sundance Selects is a division of IFC Entertainment that is devoted to distributing the best documentaries, foreign-language films and art cinema across theatrical, VOD, TV and DVD platforms.

Attending TIFF: Jonathan Sehring, Arianna Bocco, Ryan Werner, Jeff Deutchman, Mark Boxer, Lisa Schwartz, John Vanco, Sean Berney

Docs at TIFF: Room 237 (Rodney Ascher) screening in Vanguard and The Central Park Five (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon) screening in TIFF Docs

TIFF history: We have bought the following great docs out of Toronto: Cave of Forgotten Dreams; L’Amour Fou; Tabloid; The Art of The Steal; First Position; Into The Abyss; and My Winnipeg

Other docs in our history: Pina (Wim Wenders); Buck (Cindy Meel); Ai Weiwel: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman); Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg); The Black Power Mix Tapes 1967-1975 (Göran Olsson); Wordplay (Patrick Creadon), Touching The Void (Kevin MacDonald); How To Survive A Plague (David France).

Looking for: 
We are looking for the best documentaries that will attract audiences across all of our platforms: theatrical, VOD, TV and DVD.

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Zeitgeist Films Ltd.

Zeitgeist Films is a New York-based distribution company founded in 1988 which acquires and distributes the finest independent films from the U.S. and around the world.  Their films have been honored by festivals throughout the world with Grand Prizes at Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and IFDA in Amsterdam.  The Museum of Modern Art honored Zeitgeist with a month-long retrospective of their films in Summer 2008.

Attending TIFF: Nancy Gerstman, Co-President; Clemence Taillandier, Head of Theatrical Sales;

TIFF history: Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media; The Corporation; Into Great Silence; Women, Art, Revolution; Brakhage; Examined Life; Tulpan

Other docs in our history: Zeitgeist is renowned for their ground-breaking documentaries which include: Trouble the Water; Last Train Home; Afghan Star; My Country; Ballets Russes; The Oath; The Gleaners And I; Derrida; Up The Yangtze; Bill Cunningham New York

Looking for: 1) Films we love; 2) Films that could be marketed successfully, on a grass roots and mainstream level; 3) Films that would get good critical support.