AP Images
AP Images

Sundance 2014 is well on it's way. Robert Redford kicked things off yesterday with a press conference celebrating the fest's 30th year. He talked about the reason Sundance exists.

Independent film, unfortunately, is really at the mercy of distribution. And thats a hard nut. Our job is to provide the opportunity for it to be seen.

So far, things are looking up for a few films that have secured the golden ticket of film distribution. Congrats to Joe Swanberg and his film Happy Christmas. It's the first deal of Sundance. The film stars Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber and Lena Dunham. Magnolia Pictures and Paramount Pictures will co-distrubute.

The first doc sale goes to Todd Miller's Dinosaur 13, acquired by Lionsgate and CNN Films.

The opening film of the fest, Whiplash, landed a deal with Sony Pictures. That film screened as a short at last year's fest - so congrats to all involved for coming back, opening the fest and getting distrubution. We'll hear more from the producers of that film later this week as our guest blogger series continues but today, we're launching our 2014 Sundance Guest Blogger Series with a producer of one of the feature films in competition getting a lot of great press, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.

Kumiko lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She works as an office lady, robotically preparing tea and fetching dry cleaning for her nitpicky boss. But on her own time, she obsessively watches a well-known American film on a weathered VHS tape. Rewinding and fast-forwarding repeatedly, she meticulously maps out where a briefcase of castaway loot is buried within the fictional film. After hours of intense researchconvinced that her destiny depends on finding the moneyKumiko heads to the United States and into the harsh Minnesota winter to search for it.

Still from 'Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter'
Still from 'Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter'

Producer | Chris Ohlson

Sometimes you need a bit of elevation to see where youre at and where you came from. Right now, Im at about 30,000 feet, en route to the Sundance Film Festival to screen a film thats a beautiful peak in the early part of my career: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. In this air, cut loose for a moment from the earthy grind, Im thinking about how I got here, going there, as a person, a producer, and a filmmaker. So many movies have helped me, helped make a film like Kumiko come alive, but as I look back to the start of my climb, some 16+ years ago, I find one Miramax movie that started it all: Peter Greenaways, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

I saw Greenaways film at a time in my life when I was searching for the thing that I wanted to do, that I could throw myself into with reckless abandon. It was the summer of 1997 and I was a recent college graduate who had made a few short films. I had been accepted to a graduate screenwriting program that I was only half interested in attending and I was working out all the logistics of starting at a new university. But, just weeks before the semester started, I backed out. I walked away. I moved out of the room that I hadnt even finished moving into and I returned all of my financial aid paperwork, unsigned. I withdrew the thousand bucks or so that I had as my life-savings-to-date and I set out across the country in a green Geo Prizm without any destination or real plan.

In Tucson, Arizona, for a few weeks I stayed on the couch of my good friend Steve Judge, and on one of those brutally hot nights, wandering out and into the cool air of the local independent theatre, I had the movie-going experience that changed my filmmaking life: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

Seeing Greenaways film, simply put, changed the way I felt about movies, about art, about entertainment, and in a greater way, personal expression. I walked out of that screening challenged, exhausted, motivated and re-wired. What came to me during the film was that I could pursue what I consider to be the ultimate art-form, filmmaking, and in it I could not only express myself, but I could do it in a beautiful, challenging, and intimate way. Ill admit, seeing Greenaways film didnt say to me, You can change the world! but what it did say is: You can speak to the world and express yourself in whatever way you need through the language of film.

Almost a year to the day from that screening, after finishing my cross-country trek and going back to New England to collect my things and earn a few dollars, I moved to a little city, sight unseen, that I heard had a burgeoning film scene: Austin, Texas.

From there, I met a whole new group of talented, hardworking people trying to find the best way to express themselves, using film as their medium. To this day, I count some of those people as my closest friends and collaborators. David and Nathan Zellner are two of those gifted, dedicated people. And together, the three of us have gone on this amazing, many-years-in-the-making odyssey, to create Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.

So now as I look out from seat 12B over soft clouds and jagged peaks and strange histories, just days away from the world premiere of a movie that I could not possibly be more proud of, I also look back with tremendous gratitude to Miramax and Peter Greenaway, for putting The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, in my path.

chris ohlsonBIO

Most recently, Chris produced Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, starring Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi and is celebrating its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

His debut film as a producer, John Bryant's The Overbrook Brothers, premiered in competition at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival and went on to be released by IFC Films. Ohlson also executive produced Paul Gordons award-winning The Happy Poet, which screened at more than 40 festivals worldwide, and he served as a co-producer on Bryan Poysers Lovers of Hate, which world premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Recently, Ohlson executive produced Good Night, which is currently on the film festival circuit after its 2013 SXSW Premiere.

Ohlson has won numerous advertising awards for his commercial work and created a handful of experimental narrative short films and videos that have screened at galleries and museums around the world. He is a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow as well as an alum of the IFP Narrative Filmmaker Labs. He likes kundalini yoga, swimming at night, Pearl Jam, whisky, and books about war He lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Follow Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter's journey on Facebook and watch more clips from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

Get all of your Sundance 2014 info here and check back tomorrow to hear from the music supervisor of The Overnighters, Brooke Wentz. Next up, WHIPLASH producer, Garrick Dion talks about the film and his Miramax influences.