“Dunces” in Nantucket, Global Film Initiative’s New Grants, Production and Distribution Deals & Much More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: ContentFilm has expanded the duties of Michael Roban, who has been Content’s head of business affairs since the company was founded in September 2001. Roban’s new title will be Head of Business Affairs and Acquisitions, which the company said reflects his “increased focus on creating new opportunities and shaping strategic alliances for the company.” He will do international work on behalf of the company.
Famed director Chen Kaige (“Together,” “Farewell, My Concubine”) will serve as Guest Director of the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Film Festival. Also, filmmaker Kasi Lemmons will launch the fest’s new Artist in Residence series.
PARTYING ON THE CROISETTE: While the 2003 Cannes Film Festival felt a bit more manageable, there were still plenty of opportunities to schmooze and celebrate. No doubt one of the best parties of the fest was Focus’ fiesta to toast the competition debut of Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool.” Dinner guests were shuttled to a villa in the hills above Cannes for a meal on the sprawling grounds of the estate. After the dinner, guests gathered around the pool to watch young women syncronized swimming in the water. Then at midnight the music took on a techno beat and a gaggle of speedo-clad guys jumped into the pool and tossed around a few water polo balls. After 1 a.m. the soiree was just getting started as the post-midnight invitees began arriving.
Another top party was HBO’s bash on the Martinez Beach. This dinner party was a bit more subdued but no less fun. Guests dined along the beach and sipped cocktails on the dock. The Hamptons International Film Festival bash at the Man Ray Villa outside Cannes was also a hit, offering guests a chance to get a breather from the fest and enjoy a cocktail while taking in the breathtaking view. Finally, the hit photo op of the week goes to Ewan McGregor and the folks behind the new doc, “Faster.” Ewan and a team of motorcycle racers roared into the driveway of the Majestic, attracting dozens of photogs and screaming fans. After the stunt, McGregor and the racers gathered for a party by the pool where the actor/racer hung out with his dear old Mum.
DUNCES TAKE NANTUCKET: As the much-ballyhooed screen adaptation of John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” moves closer to reality, the Nantucket Film Festival (June 19-22) will host a star-studded reading of the screenplay, from Steven Soderbergh and Scott Kramer. David Gordon Green is set to direct the film, and he will also be in Nantucket to direct the reading. Actors set for the reading include Mos Def, Cathy Moriarity, and Amanda Peet (a trio already attached to the film), alongside Paul Rudd, Anne Meara, Alan Cumming, and Will Ferrell, who will tackle the main character, Ignatius J. Reilly. If that’s not enough star power for you, Nantucket announced that its jurors will include Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Lili Taylor, Paul Rudd, and others.
AERO-DYNAMIC: The American Cinematheque, the owners and operators of Grauman’s Hollywood Egyptian Theatre, will start programming the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica this fall. The deal was struck with Aero developer Jim Rosenfield and partner John Bucksbaum for the single-screen theater built in 1939. The Cinematheque also announced changes to its board: co-chairmen Peter J. Dekom and Mike Medavoy have passed the chairman title to CAA agent Rick Nicita (Dekom and Medavoy remain Chairmen Emeritus). Henry Shields, Jr. was re-elected president, Peter Bart and Mary Anne Keshen were elected VPs, and Paul Bloch, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and William Friedkin joined the board.
GLOBAL GRANTS: The Global Film Initiative has announced the recipients of its first grant program. From 37 submissions representing 12 countries, the Initiative picked six winners to receive completion funds and a guarantee of U.S. distribution. Each filmmaker gets between $20,000 and $40,000, in the foundation’s effort to “support original filmmaking in the developing world that makes use of the power of local storytelling traditions.” The six films are: “Mua Len Trau” (The Buffalo Boy) by Vietnam’s Minh Nguyen-Vo; “Na Cidade Vazia” (In the Empty City) by Angola’s Maria Joao G.; “On Each Side” by Argentina’s Hugo Daniel Grosso; “Aminata” by Kenya’s Bob Nyanja; “Another Man’s Garden” by Mozambique’s Joao Luis Sol Carvalho; and “Embankment Street” by China’s Li Yu. For more info about Global Film Initiative, its next round of grants, or its travleing film series launching in November, visit www.globalfilm.org.
A LING THING: During the recent Tribeca Film Fest, we had the chance to sit down with stunner Bai Ling to talk about some of her new roles. She was at the fest with the film noir “Paris,” and also look for her in a group of wildly different projects: the Eddie Griffin comedy “My Baby’s Mama,” Sony Pictures Classics’ Terrence Malick-scripted “Beautiful Country,” also starring Nick Nolte, and the sci-fi thriller “The World of Tomorrow,” alongside Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie. Ling told us that she’d had dinner with Harvey Weinstein the night before our chat (Miramax will release “My Baby’s Mama.”). “I told Harvey that I’d love to do something like ‘Chicago,’ a film that I can sing and dance in,” she said. “I’d like to do a romantic comedy and a singing and dancing musical. It’s purely entertaining.” Ling, who had been banned from film roles in her native China since appearing in “Red Corner” in 1997, is now happy that she’s allowed to film there again after getting approvals from the authorities. She was supposed to be headed for Hong Kong and Beijing to start a role, but the film in question is on hold due to SARS.
LOST AND FOUND: The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, founded in 1895, announced that it has found a film once thought lost, what Biograph describes as “the first movie made in Hollywood,” entitled “In Old California.” The 1910 film, directed by D.W. Griffith, is now undergoing digital remastering. It’s about the dramas of Mexico-owned California. Biograph hopes to erect a monument to the film on Hollywood Boulevard sometime in 2003, and the company is also planning a gala event and screening of the restored work.
PRODUCTION NEWS: Production started this month in Philadelphia for “The Woodsman,” a drama starring Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Eve, and Benjamin Bratt; it marks the directorial debut of Nicole Kassell. Lee Daniels (“Monster’s Ball”) is producing this tale of an ex-con working in a lumberyard. In other news, Initial Entertainment Group has acquired foreign rights from Intermedia for “Laws of Attraction,” a romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. Director Peter Howitt (“Sliding Doors”) will start shooting in mid-June in New York and Dublin. “Laws of Attraction” is a co-production from Intermedia, Stratus Films, Deep River Productions, and Irish Dreamtime. Initial also announced plans to finance the romantic comedy “The Accidental Husband,” produced by Initial’s Graham King, Uma Thurman (who will also star), and Jason Blum. That film, starring Thurman with Brendan Fraser will start shooting in September in New York, helmed by Hugh Wilson. In a less romantic move, Zinc Entertainment (a division of Silver Pictures) and Marching Band Productions will start prodcution on “Dungeons and Dragons: The Sequel” this summer. The film will be produced in association with Sweetpea Entertainment; and Overseas Filmgroup, a unit of First Look Media, will handle worldwide licensing except U.S. video rights.
DISTRO NEWS: Zenpix has acquired U.S. rights to Helmut Schleppi’s “A Foreign Affair,” a dark comedy starring David Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson, and Emily Mortimer, and plans a 2003 release through distributor Innovation Film Group. As BUZZ reported last week, Myriad pictures holds the international rights. Also, Hargrove Entertainment announced that it has acquired David Blyth’s doc “Bound for Pleasure,” about fetishists in New Zealand. Hargrove plans a fall release.
P&A MOVE: Miracle Film Distribution, in a partnership with Global Media Management and ASIDA, has started a Print & Ad Fund for indie filmmakers worth $500 million. The companies said the Miracle/Film Star/Global Distribution Fund will provide $100 million for new theatrical releases in the first year ,with and additional $400 million becoming available in the following year. Miracle is headed by John Daly, who executive produced films including “Platoon” and “The Last Emperor.”
BRIGHT SPOT: The IFP/Miami held its first Sunlight Awards gala on Saturday, where it awarded the first sunlight production fund award to Johnathan Wyche for “Planet Ibsen.” He receives a $25,000 cash prize, along with a whopping $125,000 in goods and services. Forty Florida filmmakers had submitted scripts, biz plans, and applications for the competition. A slew of other awards were presented, including special awards for excellence in screenwriting to “Johnny Girl,” by Barbara “Duba” Leibell, and “Full-Grown Men,” by David Munro.
[Eugene Hernandez in Cannes contributed to this report]