Big Beach hits the jackpot

Producer funds Blitz lottery docu

"Little Miss Sunshine" producer Big Beach Films will finance and produce Jeffrey Blitz's next project, a documentary about lottery winners.

Blitz, who burst onto the scene in 2003 with the spelling bee documentary "Spellbound," is in production on the film, which examines lottery winners nationwide and the phenomenon of the lottery.

Longtime Blitz producer Sean Welch also will produce the film together with Big Beach.

The still-untitled movie is described as focusing on characters who are "heavily invested, emotionally and financially, in the lottery," examining how it has or hasn't changed winners' lives. It also tells the story of obsessive players who haven't won.

While the movie sometimes will take a skeptical view of the lottery, it will concentrate on the stories and on the people, executives said.

"Jeff is a filmmaker who's more about people than institutions," Big Beach principal Peter Saraf said. "He's getting at the bigger ideas through the people. It's not the 'Fahrenheit 9/11' of lotteries."

Big Beach expects the film to be completed and released in 2008.

ThinkFilm released "Spellbound," which went on to become a crossover hit; the documentary grossed $6 million and was nominated for an Oscar. It also established Blitz as part of a new breed of filmmakers who bring narrative storytelling elements to documentaries.

The director also helmed the Picturehouse release "Rocket Science," his feature debut, which was released in the summer.

Big Beach, which made a splash two years ago when it brought "Little Miss Sunshine" to the Sundance Film Festival, has several projects in the pipeline, including the offbeat drama "Sunshine Cleaning," which is set to debut next month at Sundance.