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Sundance Stalwarts Peter Saraf & Eddie Rubin Launch Optimistic Pictures; Awkwafina Pic ‘G’ Among Their Early Projects

EXCLUSIVE: Producers Peter Saraf and Eddie Rubin, who are in Park City to premiere the Sundance buzz titles Out of My Mind and Winner,  have joined forces to create Optimistic Pictures, to develop and produce film and TV properties with an independent sensibility.

Saraf is the co-founder of Big Beach, the producer/financier responsible for one of the greatest successes to break at Sundance, the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine. After a massive bidding battle that was won by Fox Searchlight ($10.5 million and 10% gross), the film got four Oscar noms including Best Picture, won two Oscars and grossed $101 million, on an $8 million production budget.

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After their first teaming on The Farewell, Saraf and Rubin are reuniting with that indie hit’s star Awkwafina. She’ll produce and star in an adaptation of G, the Ling Ma short story which is included in her National Book Critics Circle Award winning collection, Bliss Montage. G tells the story of two childhood friends who reunite for a supernatural drug fueled evening that has surprising revelations.

Saraf ran Big Beach for nearly two decades, and aside from Little Miss Sunshine, the indie output included The Farewell, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Safety Not Guaranteed, Everything Is Illuminated, Kings Of Summer, Sunshine Cleaning and the series Vida and Sorry For Your Loss as well as the doc series Nuclear Family. Saraf started his career working for Jonathan Demme and Edward Saxon at Clinica Estetico, where he worked on films including Ulee’s Gold, Adaptation, Philadelphia, Beloved and the documentaries Mandela and The Agronomist.

Awkwafina in 'The Farewell'
‘The Farewell’

Rubin made his producing debut while in college on Art House, which starred Greta Gerwig and Iggy Pop. Aside from The Farewell, and produced Justin Chon’s film Blue Bayou, which premiered at Cannes 2021 and Robin Wright’s Land, which premiered at Sundance 2021. He also produced the Antoine Fuqua-directed The Guilty with Netflix and Darby and the Dead with Hulu. Most recently, he produced the adaptation of The New York Times best- selling book Out of My Mind for Disney+.

Point is, it is nice to see indie-minded producers joining forces and content to continue to push the boulder up the increasingly steep hill in the independent film space.

“It’s easy to be cynical in difficult times and that’s why we named our company Optimistic because it’s precisely what we are.” said Saraf and Rubin. “Optimism is the most important quality a producer needs and we are optimistic about the strength of brave original storytelling as a business and the continuing power of great stories to lead and shape cultural progress.”

At 2024 Sundance, they have Out Of My Mind, based on the classic best selling young people’s novel of the same title, and Winner, latter of which Saraf executive produced, about will be in the Premier Section of the festival. That Susanna Fogel-directed drama stars Emilia Jones as Reality Winner, the Texas-born hellraiser who became an NSA contractor and then whistleblower who was prosecuted for exposing Russia’s backing of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Emilia Jones appears in Winner by Susanna Fogel,an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Emilia Jones appears in Winner by Susanna Fogel,an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

They also recently secured the rights to Pulitzer Prize winner Matthieu Aikins’ non-fiction book The Naked Don’t Fear The Water. In this true-life story, Aikins goes undercover as an undocumented immigrant along with his long-time Afghan translator on the “smuggler’s road” from Afghanistan to Europe in a thrilling and harrowing story that keeps you on the edge of your seat while humanizing the global refugee crisis.

“Having worked together seamlessly on multiple projects, we found our skill sets complementary and our outlook completely aligned so making our partnership official was natural for us,” Saraf and Rubin said.

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