Jan 28 • 35M

Ankler Hot Seat: The Superagent Behind Sinead O'Connor, the Obamas, and Billie Eilish

Josh Braun helped Mr. & Mrs. O win an Oscar, Eilish explode, and O'Conner finally share her story at Sundance (new details revealed). How he does it, and his thoughts on the new entertainment market

Janice Min
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A weekly roundtable that takes you behind the scenes of Hollywood’s big personalities, power struggles and ever-changing playbook. Coming to you every Friday.
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“sellers are always trying to have an urgent situation where something has to close and there's no reason to wait,” says Braun. (Clayton Chase/WireImage for Sundance Film Festival).

Welcome to another episode of The Ankler Hot Seat, this one the last in a special series about the 2022 Sundance Film Festival hosted by Janice Min, Richard Rushfield and Tatiana Siegel. Please follow us at Apple Podcasts and on Twitter.

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Our guest today is a true behind-the-scenes superstar of Hollywood, Josh Braun of Submarine, a Los Angeles hybrid sales, production and distribution company run by Braun and his identical twin Dan. Submarine sold American Factory from the Obamas’ Higher Ground productions and Participant Media, a documentary that premiered at Sundance in 2019 (and went on to win the Best Documentary Oscar). He also brought Boys’ State to 2019 Sundance, where it became the highest-priced documentary sale in the festival’s history, bought by Apple for $12 million. That same year, he sold Billie Eilish’s documentary, also to Apple, for $26 million, a record for a music documentary.

Currently Braun is “at” virtual Sundance with the festival’s most buzzed-about title, Nothing Compares, a documentary about Sinead O’Connor, an elusive personality he says he had pursued for years. Since premiering on Jan. 21, the movie, directed by Kathryn Ferguson, has won rave reviews, and a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes for its poignant and powerful storytelling about O’Connor, an artist Braun says delivered a protest message that many Americans now lean into, but at the time only earned her scorn, ridicule, and eventually exile. She spoke about “reproductive rights and gay rights, and the ability for a woman to choose and many other issues,” says Braun, “and was essentially raked over the coals and penalized. I think every position she took at that earlier point…she would now be hailed almost as a hero.” Braun also reveals in his interview how, while preparing for Sundance, he and the team behind Nothing Compares responded when they learned that O’Connor’s 17-year-old son had committed suicide. “If they wanted to be pulled, we would have pulled it,” he says on the podcast, “and we respected what those nearest and dearest to her believed was the right path.”

Also on the podcast, Braun discusses what it was like working with the Obamas, attending the screening of the surprise documentary about Alexi Navalny, the Putin opposition leader, and how it feels to help independent filmmakers who typically work on shoestring budgets to suddenly, many for the first time in their lives, make the kind of money they once could only dream of: “I have to say it is the greatest feeling.”

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