Showtime News, Serenade Launch, IDA’s Top Docs ’03; Deals For “Clay Bird” and “Klezmer”; Gilula at Wellspring & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Julianne Cho has been promoted to Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Business Development, for the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting in New York. She has been with the mayor’s office since 1994, and served most recently as Director of Publicity and New Media.
Mark Gilula and his Stanford Media Group are now working with Wellspring Media on home video distribution. Gilula will work with Wellspring’s team to service sales to current accounts, open additional distribution channels, acquire new programming, and work on marketing partnerships. Gilula will lead Wellspring’s home video operation, with the existing sales staff reporting to him.
The Provincetown International Film Festival has named Gabrielle A. Hanna its executive director, following the resignation of founding director PJ Layng. Hanna was the Festival’s director of development for the last three years. Connie White will remain artistic director, Marianne Lampke will remain director of publicity, and Nick Robertson has been named managing director.
SHOWTIME SHOWS INDEPENDENCE: Showtime has unveiled its Showtime Independent Films banner, marking its financing of movies exclusively for the theatrical marketplace. Three films from the initiative are set to debut at Sundance next month, including Jacob Kornbluth’s “The Best Thief in the World,” Jessica Sharzer’s “Speak,” and Mario Van Peebles’s “Getting’ the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass.” Showtime also produced Salt Lake City opener “Edge of America” under its “original picture for all ages” label. Showtime EVP Ann Foley is overseeing the Showtime Independent Pictures program.
TIME FOR A SERENADE: Leslie Urdang and producing partners Michael Nozik, Michael Hoffman, and Amy Robinson are leading Serenade Films, a new production company aimed at financing and producing digital and high def features for the theatrical market. Also on board are co-producer Nick Goodwin and production exec Ami Armstrong. “We are like the Jet Blue of the film industry no frills, but we offer filmmakers an opportunity to make movies they are passionate about — and we have the flexibility to move quickly when all the elements come together,” Urdang said in a statement this week, “There’s no bureaucracy, we are truly independent.” The company intends to make five movies in the next year, with low six-figure budgets for each film. The company says that it already has the movie in place. First up for Serenade will be “The Great New Wonderful” from Danny Leiner (“Dude, Where’s My Car?”), from a script by Sam Catlin. The cast will include Tony Shalhoub and Eddie Falco.
DOC WINNERS: The International Documentary Association has given its top prizes in the 19th annual IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards to “Balseros,” “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,” “American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till,” “Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story,” “Bus 174,” and “Berga: Soldiers of Another War.” Prizes will be given out ath the IDA gala on December 12. The IDA will also present the first Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award, to Alex Rivera, director of the shorts “Papapapa” and “Why Cybraceros,” and “The Sixth Section,” to be shown on POV.
CLAY BIRD FLIES: Milestone has acquired the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian rights to “Matir Moina” (The Clay Bird), the Bangladeshi feature by first-time director Tareque Masud. Cindi Rowell, Milestone’s director of acquisitions, negotiated the deal with the film’s international sales agent, Florence Stern of Paris-based MK2. Milestone plans a U.S. theatrical bow in spring 2004; Milestone will then release it on TV, DVD, and VHS in 2005. “The Clay Bird” was the first Bangladeshi feature to screen at Cannes, where it won the FIPRESCI prize for best film in the 2002 Cannes’ Directors Fortnight. The film, about a conflicted family during the political upheaval in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the late 1960s, was originally banned in Bangladesh due to its controversial religious content.
CENTURY GETS INDIE: San Rafael, Calif.-based Century Theatres has launched CinéArts@Century, a new program of arthouse and indie fare at their large multiplexes. At the Century 10 Downtown Ventura, Century 14 Downtown Albuquerque, Century Stadium Promenade in Orange, Century 20 El Con Mall, and the Century 16 Suncoast, the venues will now dedicate at least two screens to more indie programming. Films in the initial program include Peter Hedges’ “Pieces of April,” Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” Jim Sheridan’s “In America,” and Tom McCarthy’s “The Station Agent.” For more information, visit http://www.cinearts.com.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If the holiday seasons mean something to you in addition to more open bar parties than usual, then here’s a great cause: the new non-profit group Film For Food gives film industry workers and other volunteers a way to feed the hungry. Participants already recruited include director Michael Moore, the team behind “The Sopranos,” and corporations such as Miramax, IFP, and Woody Allen’s production company Perdido Productions. The group hopes to feed more than 400 families. No worries if you missed the Thanksgiving festivities, visit http://www.3F.org to get involved in the future.
SAN FRAN FEST: San Francisco is getting another film fest. Golden Gate Entertainment said that is plans to launch the first Golden Gate Film Festival from April 9-11, 2004. Founder James Nguyen said, “Golden Gate Film Festival is not only a symbol of high art cinema, but it’s also a celebration of multiculturalism, artistic freedom, 21st century high art, world peace, and a United World.” Not sure how she fits in with world peace, but the festival’s opening night will honor legendary actress Kim Novak with a lifetime achievement award and a screening of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” For details, visit http://www.goldengatefilmfestival.com.
KLEZMER KICK OFF: Castle Hill Productions has acquired the North American rights to Yale Strom’s “Klezmer on Fish Street,” a documentary about the revival of Jewish culture in contemporary Poland. Castle Hill will open the film in New York on February 20 and in L.A. on March 19. The deal was negotiated by Castle Hill Productions’ president of marketing and distribution Mel Maron and Black Stream Films’ director Yale Strom, and producer Elizabeth Schwartz.