Sundance Film FestivalSo far, who’s the most important person in docs at Sundance this year? A festival organizer? A doc subject? A director? Or none of the above?

As expected, documentary buzz was at a heightened pitch during the first busy weekend of the Sundance Film Festival. There was the opening night screening of The Queen of Versailles, plagued or propped up, depending on your perspective, by a lawsuit from its main subject.

And there was the big reveal about why West of Memphis producer Peter Jackson had seen a need for another West Memphis Three documentary. The film points the finger for the gruesome killing of three boys directly at one victim’s stepfather, a man who has not been charged with the crime.

But, more than anything, there was the hot business of selling documentaries to distributors, and on that score, there was one man at the center of it all: Josh Braun.

Before the festival even started, Me @ The Zoo, about Internet celebrity, was picked up by HBO Documentary Films. Other doc sales that quickly followed: Sony Pictures Classics bought Searching for Sugar Man, about a long-forgotten musician, and Magnolia acquired Versailles, which is about, and let’s be careful here, a real estate empire tainted by the recession.

The sales agent responsible for selling each of those three films was none other than Braun, who’s known for his doc know-how, business savvy and for just being an all-around nice guy — all of which makes him a very desirable agent for documentary directors. He’s worked on Oscar winners such as The Cove and Man on Wire, Super Size Me, Spellbound and the list goes on. He’s no slouch. And he’s started off this year’s Sundance with a bang.

There’s still plenty of festival to go, and, sure, the spoils may go to those who wait. Indeed, we’re still waiting to hear from superstar sales agent John Sloss and distributors like IFC, Village Roadshow and bigger players like The Weinstein Company, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight.

And there is plenty of good stuff out there for them to gobble up. Films such as rapper Ice-T’s The Art of Rap, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia, and Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In are all up for grabs.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them soon, real soon. They may just be working out a deal in a Park City bathroom stall this very minute.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen