Reports From Rhode Island and Don’t Knock the Rock, Tom Kalin’s “Savage Grace,” Spirits Dates & More
by Wendy Mitchell, with contributions from Brandon Judell and Jonny Leahan
INDUSTRY MOVES: LeAnne Gayner has been named senior VP of marketing for Arenas Entertainment. She previously worked for Artisan Entertainment, AmeriWest Systems, MGM/UA, and the Steve Rifkind Company.
As 7th Art Releasing celebrates its 10th anniversary, the company has announced a slew of promotions. James Eowan has been promoted to VP of acquisitions and business affairs; Matthew Henderson was upped to VP of productions and international sales; and Liz Poindexter was promoted to VP of non-theatrical sales.
Thomas Thanangadan and Howard Loberfeld have joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as membership administrator and credits coordinator, respectively. The latter position was previously held by Torene Svitil, who has been promoted to become the Academy’s awards coordinator position.
KALIN’S SAVING “GRACE”: BUZZ recently caught up with Tom Kalin, director of the indie classic “Swoon” (1991), who has made several shorts since that film but is finally gearing up to direct his second feature. He’s planning to direct “Savage Grace,” based on the award-winning true-crime book of the same name by Steven ML Aronson and Natalie Robins. Howard Rodman is writing the screenplay and Ellen Kuras, who also worked on “Swoon,” is shooting it. Killer Films will produce with Tartan Films co-producing.
The film is about heir Brooks Baekeland (John Malkovich) and his wife, Barbara Daly (Julianne Moore), and their volatile life among the privileged classes. Their son Antony causes even more strife in the family when he grows up to be a homosexual. We won’t give away the ending, but you know ANY true-crime story is going to have some bloodshed. “It’s a classic Oedipal story with a shared madness,” Kalin tells indieWIRE. Of Julianne Moore’s character, he says, “It’s a classically American story of somebody who wants something so badly that her moral universe becomes upside down.”
Kalin plans to tell the story in five acts, set from 1946 to 1972. “Savage Grace” will be shot in England, France, and Spain with a budget of $10-12 million in late spring 2005. (That’s a step up from his $250,000 budget for “Swoon” — another true-crime drama about 1920s murderers Leopold and Loeb.)
ROCKING IN L.A. The second-annual Don’t Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival wrapped last Sunday with the closing night screening of “Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways,” directed by Vicki Tischler-Blue, the bassist for the ’70s all-girl rock band, whose members included future rock stars Lita Ford and Joan Jett. The rebellious, down-home festival, founded by indie film director Allison Anders (“Gas Food Lodging,” “Things Behind the Sun”), celebrates the historical rock ‘n’ roll and cinematic roots of Hollywood through film screenings and music events.
Don’t Knock the Rock kicked off with the west coast premiere of Gandulf Hennig‘s “Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel,” a compelling documentary about the legendary musician whose impact on rock ‘n’ roll is as well-known as his infamous death and the bizarre circumstances that followed. The refreshingly unpredictable festival also hosted several unique events, including a screening of the Sissy Spacek classic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” followed by a pie and coffee social with director Michael Apted and writer Thomas Rickman in attendance.
The festival also boasted live performances by punk rock god John Doe, Built to Spill, PJ Harvey, and Black Heart Procession. In addition to dozens of film and music performances, there were parties and special events — including the Dusty Springfield lookalike contest judged by Illeana Douglas. — Jonny Leahan
BROOKLYN TREADS “WATER”: The only animals in BUZZ’s Brooklyn neighborhood are an illegal family of roosters, not any great whites, but this New York borough is still proud of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau‘s “Open Water.” The filmmaking couple lives in Brooklyn Heights, and Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz is honoring their indie shark thriller with a proclamation today. In perhaps bigger news for the film, Lions Gate will open the film wide on more than 2,700 screens Friday, marking Lion’s Gate’s widest release.
SPIRITS SET: The 2005 IFP Independent Spirit Awards have set a date of February 26 for the 20th anniversary of the event. Submissions are being accepted through September 17 and nominations will be announced on November 30. For details, visit www.ifp.org.
SWEET SHORTS: Euro film fans have a new DVD to seek out: “Cinema16: European Short Films.” The disc offers early shorts from top-name directors including Lars von Trier and Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s unseen graduation films, early shorts from Godard, Tom Tykwer, and Peter Mullan, and Anders Thomas Jensen, among others. Many of the directors also offer commentary tracks. The DVD includes 3.5 hours of shorts. For details, visit www.cinema16.org.
RHODE ISLAND REPORT: In “Schizopolis,” a newswoman reports that Rhode Island would be sold to a group of private investors in an effort to erase the national debt. But happily “Schizopolis” isn’t a doc. Otherwise where would the Rhode Island International Film Festival be today? This savvily-programmed, six-day fest unspooled over 265 films this past week. The majority were shorts and docs, top-notch ones at that. Take, for instance, “Sister Rose’s Passion,” one of the best documentaries of the year. Directed by Oren Jacoby, the film focuses on one Catholic nun’s fight against anti-semitism in the Church, causing Catholic schoolbooks to be rewritten and the Pope to issue a ruling that Catholics be nice to Jews. The film ends with a heated attack on Mel Gibson‘s “The Passion of the Christ.”
Jacoby wasn’t around to answer questions, but Kevin Langdon Ackerman was with his short “Lonely Place”: “I’ve only been here now for about six hours, but I’ve already seen a couple of good shorts,” he told indieWIRE. This is a developing festival. It’s a good chance to see films, commiserate with people in the same game as me, and if we win, that would be amazing.” And Ackerman did win the Grand Prize for Best Directorial Debut (and the fest is an Oscar-qualifying event for shorts).
Marc and Marla Halperin, Magic Lamp‘s producers’ reps non pareil were there also pushing their films (Marc Rosenbush‘s “Zen Noir” and Robert Lovy‘s “Mix”) heatedly, causing several directors to wish they’d hired the couple. The pair even got “Zen Noir”‘s 90-year-old star, Kim Chan, to receive a lifetime achievement award.
Another gleeful soul was Russian-emigre and Harvard graduate, Vladimir Vitkin. His “X,Y” might just be the kinkiest, flinch-causing, gender-fucking flick of the year. Catch this tale of a stripper whose body gets taken over by a bewildered male spirit suffering from amnesia. “The film’s not a reflection of me,” Vlad noted after the screening.
The festival itself was a bit threadbare: parties were negligible, venues were spread out without transportatoin; one theater had a broken air conditioner, and projection was uneven. Yet if the programmer knows what he’s doing, isn’t that what counts? — Brandon Judell
OUTSIDE IN MONTREAL: The Montreal World Film Festival (August 26 – September 8) has announced a slew of crowd pleasers for its Cinema Under the Stars outdoor screening program. Titles include “The Triplets of Belleville,” “Swimming Pool,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Fame,” “Babette’s Feast,” “Fellini Roma,” “Death in Venice,” “Being John Malkovich” and many other titles.
BERMUDA SHORTS: The Bermuda International Film Festival is the latest festival to be selected as a qualifying festival for short-film Oscar consideration. Shorts that play at BIFF 2005 and beyond can qualify for Oscar consideration if they meet the rest of the Academy’s rules.
CANDY LAND: Vulcan Productions has wrapped production on “Hard Candy,” a psychological thriller about a 32-year old man (Patrick Wilson of “Angels in America”) who meets a 14-year-old girl (Ellen Page) online. David Slade is directing, with David W. Higgins and Jody Patton producing. Michael Caldwell, Richard Hutton, and Roseanne Korenberg are executive producing, with Traction Media handling distribution rights. Vulcan is the indie film company founded by Microsoft billionaire Paul G. Allen.