Wellspring Gets Worldwide “Tarnation” Rights; Company Puts Up Finishing Funds as Caouette Prepares for Cannes ’04
by Eugene Hernandez
Wellspring has closed a worldwide rights deal for Jonathan Caouette‘s “Tarnation,” a bold new personal documentary that will screen in the Director’s Fortnight section at next month’s Cannes Film Festival. The company has come on board not only as distributor of the film, but as a co-producer to finish the movie that was assembled by Caouette using Apple’s iMovie software (with a production budget of just over $200.00). The film had its world premiere at MIX, New York’s Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film and Video Festival, followed by a screening in the Frontier section at Sundance earlier this year.
“Tarnation,” produced by Stephen Winter and exec. produced by John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant, is Caouette’s autobiography, told through a stunning collage of photos, musical numbers, Super-8 home movie footage, short films and even some reenactments. Caouette began documenting his own experiences at age 11, capturing the drama of his own life coming-of-age and coming out of the closet and intensified by his mother’s struggles with schizophrenia.
“What do I call it?” Caouette mused, in an indieWIRE article about the film written by Anthony Kaufman during Sundance. “I call it a sheer exorcism, a form of therapy, and an experimental musical docu-drama hybrid.” Kaufman called it “an artful form of reality-TV crossed with Andy Warhol and digitally manipulated for the new millennium.”
The digital movie, made for what Caouette said was a grand total of $218.32, screened in the HD format at Sundance and is being bumped up to 35mm with Wellspring’s completion financing. The company will also fund the marketing of the film’s domestic and theatrical release. Wellspring’s worldwide sales division will launch the movie at Cannes, with a U.S. theatrical release set for later this year and a video/DVD debut after that. Critic Roger Ebert, who praised the movie after it’s screening at Sundance, will show the picture next week at his Overlooked Film Festival next week.
Winter, manager Bobbi Thompson, and attorneys Peter Cross and Don Farber closed the deal with Wellspring’s head of acquisitions Marie Therese Guirgis and head of theatrical distribution Ryan Werner.
“The level of innate talent that Jonathan Caouette possesses is overwhelming,” said Guirgis in a statement, “This is nothing less than a groundbreaking work and we were determined to do whatever it took to bring this film to the world.” Werner added in a statement, “‘Tarnation’ is a landmark in cinema that makes you re-think the possibilities of the medium. It’s also one of the most emotionally moving films I have seen in years.”
The deal marks the latest in a flurry of acquisitions for Wellspring since the company itself was acquired by American Vantage Media. Upcoming movies include Jean-Francois Pouliot‘s “Seducing Doctor Lewis,” winners of the world cinema audience award at Sundance ’04, Jafar Panahi‘s Cannes award winner “Crimson Gold,” Andre Techine‘s “Strayed,” Alexander Sokurov‘s Cannes award winner “Father and Son,” Cedric Kahn‘s “Red Lights,” Marco Bellochio‘s Venice Film Fest award-winner “Good Morning, Night,” and Anne Fontaine‘s “Nathalie.”