By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 6, 2009 at 7:50AM
Antonio Ferrera and Albert Maysles' documentary "The Gates" has been acquired for North American distribution by Richard Lorber's nine-month old distributor Alive Mind. "The Gates," which chronicles the conception and evolution of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park installment by the same name, will be Alive Mind's first theatrical release. It will open in New York this spring followed by select venues throughout the country. The film will also be immediately available to educational institutions that have been actively seeking it since for its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"We are delighted that through our film Christo and Jeanne-Claude's visionary achievement will find new appreciation long after The Gates have come down," said Maysles in a statement. "We look forward to working with Richard and his Alive Mind team to keep the story of the long march to Central Park alive."
Maysles and his brother David, who died in 1987, are best known for such films as "Salesman," "Grey Gardens," and "Gimme Shelter," began filming "The Gates" in 1979 when artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude began actively pushing their installation project forward with the New York City government. While Christo and Jeanne-Claude's artistic vision had hoped to unite all of New York City, the public was suggesting a publicly financed "defacement of a masterpiece," something like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa at tax payers' expense. The proposal was denied. Twenty-four years later, after 9/11 and the election of art patron Michael Bloomberg as mayor, the project was approved in January of 2003.
Alive Mind's acquisition of the film was negotiated by Antonio Ferrera and Patricia Jones (on behalf of Maysles Films, CVJ Corporation, and Ferrera Films) and Richard Lorber and Elizabeth Sheldon on behalf of Lorber HT Digital.
Alive Mind's intent is to release documentary programming in "the areas of enlightened consciousness and cultural transformation." Alive Mind was launched by Lorber as a specialty distribution arm of his new company, Lorber HT Digital. The company seeks to "provide its audience with intellectually provocative work from leading filmmakers." Current releases include the documentary film the musical "Hair," "Hair: Let The Sun Shine In," director Jessica Yu's "Protagonist," and "FLicKeR" about Brion Gysin, visionary artist and beat generation inventor of the "Dreamachine."
"I had the idea to start a new label for documentaries about a year ago for two key reasons," Lorber told indieWIRE. "First i realized that many fine non-fiction works were failing to connect not only with general audiences but also even with specialized audiences whose interests were aligned with the focus of the filmmaker. In addition I saw a need to differentiate certain kinds of films in the general documentary category with a better definition, other than just what a program is NOT (that is, fiction)."
In Lorber's case, it was a personal interest in docs he "considered transformative." "We formulated a hybrid strategy first to overcome the schlerosis of the tradition theatrical to DVD distribution model with a direct to consumer initiative combining alternative venue public screenings with targeted, grass roots direct to consumer availability of our content, both as DVDs and digitally delivered," Lorber explained. "The second phase engages the traditional marketplace through a distribution deal with one of the majors (getting us into the usual suspects' outlets--Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster and all the brick and mortar legacy retailers such as are left), while retaining for our direct distribution the right to continue to deal with specialty outlets and online "affinity" partners who represent constituencies that are core for our content."
The company generally works on a "rev share basis" with their filmmakers and aspires to make them "marketing partners" in an effort to "reach the largest specialized audience and the most passionate segments of the general audience." With "The Gates," which Lorber calls "an epic film of social transformation through artistic vision and grit," the company has its first theatrical release. Lorber says the goal for the film, and all Alive Mind's acquisitions, "is to achieve its vision in content and form--bringing the best "aha" moment to an expanding circle of core audiences through vital new distribution strategies that evolve, like life itself, from the past."