When Craig Brewer returns to the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, he'll be accompanied by a band of collaborators -- musicians, filmmakers and performers -- from the town where he lives, Memphis.
These Memphians won't be in Park City, Utah, to push a new Brewer feature film but to spread the word on "$5 Cover," the Brewer-created MTV Web series and interactive "experience" intended to promote Memphis music and Memphis "cool" to a worldwide audience. The series also launches MTV New Media, the network's new online division, as a viable source of original programming.
"This is going to be a big Memphis promotion and party," said Brewer, 37, who will offer a 90-minute preview peek at "$5 Cover" and "related content" at 9 p.m. Monday during a screening and panel discussion that is part of the festival's New Frontier program.
New Frontier "celebrates the convergence of film, art and new media technologies as a hotbed for cinematic innovation," according to Sundance publicity.
"$5 Cover" would seem to epitomize that description.
Set to debut online in mid-March at fivedollarcover.com, the reality-inspired drama series will consist of 15 "webisodes" in which such local musicians as Harlan T. Bobo, Valerie June, Ben Nichols of Lucero, rapper Al Kapone, Muck Sticky and others appear as themselves within a serialized fictional scenario written by Brewer.
The webisodes, however, represent only the tip of a digital iceberg.
At commercialappeal.com and gomemphis.com, as well as at fivedollarcover.com, 12 short documentaries created by The Commercial Appeal's Alan Spearman -- the photographer who was co-director of the award-winning feature documentary, "Nobody" -- will become available for viewing. The alternately intimate and experimental shorts focus on musicians in the series and were inspired by the songs performed during various episodes. Three of the documentaries will be shown at Sundance.
"$5 Cover" will be launched online during this year's South by Southwest film, interactive and music festival, set for March 13-22 in Austin, Texas.
For Brewer, Park City is a milestone location. The filmmaker became what might be called a years-in-the-making overnight success at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, when his made-in-Memphis feature "Hustle & Flow" won the Audience Award for best drama and sold to Paramount Classics/MTV Films as part of a then-record $16 million deal with producer John Singleton.
"Hustle" went on to earn a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Terrence Howard and to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp."
Among the Memphians who will be participating in Monday's Sundance event with Brewer will be Spearman; musician Amy LaVere, a star of the series; local filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, an assistant director and editor; producer Scott Bomar, who composed the scores for Brewer's previous features, "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan"; producer Erin Hagee; Memphis-born actress Clare Grant; director of photography and editor Nathan Black; and camera operator Josh Swain.
-- John Beifuss: 529-2394