EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures has acquired U.S. rights to the 2022 SXSW award winner The Pez Outlaw, from directors Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel, with plans for a day-and-date release on October 21.
The fish-out-of-water story follows the adventures of Steve Glew, a small-town Michigan man, who boards a plane for Eastern Europe soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His mission is to locate a secret factory that holds the key to the most desired and valuable Pez dispensers. If he succeeds, he will pull his family out of debt and finally be able to quit his job of 25 years. Steve becomes the hero of his own adventure, smuggling the rarest of goods into the U.S. and making millions in the process. It was all magical, until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident, decided to destroy him.
The Pez Outlaw made its world premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, claiming its Special Jury Prize before going on to claim the Adrienne Shelly Foundation Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the Nantucket Film Festival. The film was produced by the Storkels’ Sidestilt Films, in association with Library Films, Fostered Films and Paragraph Films. Chris Smith (American Movie, Tiger King) exec produced alongside Theo Love, Nate Larson and Jonathan Ignatius Green.
“We are so excited that Gravitas is helping us share our film with audiences across the country,” the Storkels told Deadline. “On the surface this is a fun and quirky adventure story, but the heart and soul of the film is what we think audiences will really connect with. We had a blast making this documentary and we hope everyone has as much fun watching it as we had making it.”
“Gravitas is thrilled to be bringing THE PEZ OUTLAW to theaters and into homes this fall,” said the company’s Senior Director of Acquisitions, Bill Guentzler. “Amy and Bryan Storkel have combined a globe-trotting heist caper with a true crime comedy to create an exciting, original and entertaining David vs Goliath story that is as delightful as the PEZ candy itself.”
Bryan Storkel and Amy Bandlien Storkel are a husband-and-wife team who together have produced and directed award-winning documentary films and series including The Legend of Cocaine Island (Netflix), the News & Documentary Emmy-winning Alabama Snake (HBO), the ESPN 30 for 30 film The Bad Boy of Bowling, and an Emmy-nominated episode of HBO’s State of Play. Their company Sidestilt Filmsmost most recently produced the Reading Rainbow documentary, Butterfly in the Sky, which premiered at Tribeca 2022.
Gravitas Ventures is a distributor of indie features and documentaries founded in 2006, which sold to multi-platform media company Anthem Sports & Entertainment last November, and recently announced the launch of the new theatrical release label, Gravitas Premiere. Recent releases from the company include Michael Lembeck’s Queen Bees; Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Our Friend, starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel; Vanguard, directed by Stanley Tong and starring Jackie Chan; and Andy Tennant’s The Secret: Dare to Dream, starring Katie Holmes. Its upcoming wide theatrical releases include the Diane Keaton dramedy Mack & Rita, which it will distribute through Gravitas Premiere on August 12.
Guentzler joined Gravitas Ventures’ Founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher in negotiating the deal for The Pez Outlaw on behalf of the company, with Submarine’s Josh Braun, Matt Burke and Ben Schwartz on behalf of the filmmakers.