BUZZ: A Busy Party Week, Doc Distribution Deals, and Job News From Wellspring and THINKFilm
by Wendy Mitchell and Eugene Hernandez
INDUSTRY MOVES: Wellspring has hired Rob Williams as its new Manager of Acquisitions. Williams had worked in theatrical marketing at DreamWorks since 2000. He will now report to Wellspring's newly promoted Head of Acquisitions, Marie Therese Guirgis.
Jody Girgenti is leaving THINKFilm to become a junior development executive at AMC (the recently relaunched American Movie Classics). She will also continue to work on film projects on the side. David Fenkel, who already works at THINKFilm, will take over her job responsibilities for the company.
Unifrance added three new producers to its board: Margaret Menegoz, Humbert Balsan, and Michel Propper. The three replace Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who passed away in February, and also Christine Gouze-Renal, who died in November 2002, as well as Denis Freyd, who recently resigned his position on the board.
MAGNOLIA CAPTURES "FRIEDMANS": Magnolia Pictures will release the Sundance Grand Jury prize winning doc "Capturing the Friedmans" in collaboration with HBO. The film, by Andrew Jarecki, will hit theaters in late May. HBO is also partnering on a pair of theatrical doc releases with ThinkFilm, for Jose Padilha's "Bus 174" and Jeff Blitz's "Spellbound."
"SOMETIMES" SET: In other distribution news, Visionbox Picture and Small Planet are teaming up for a theatrical release of Eric Byler's "Charlotte Sometimes." The film was a festival circuit hit, and it was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. The roll-out will start in May.
"EASY" DEAL: Also, Kenneth Browser's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" doc has been acquired by TFI International for worldwide TV and video distro outside of the U.S. and U.K.
BRAKHAGE TRIBUTE: Fans mourning the March death of famed avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage can honor his memory at a series of benefit screenings and a concert to be held at New York's Anthology Film Archives. The screenings, with proceeds will go directly to Brakhage's family, start today and run through April 15. On April 12, Sonic Youth will perform a Brakhage benefit concert in Anthology's Courthouse Theatre, with mostly instrumental music to accompany Brakhage film clips. For details, call Anthology at (212) 505-5181.
CELEBRATING NEW DIRECTORS: Filmmakers participating in the annual New Directors/New Films Series, presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Department of Film and Media at MoMA, were welcomed to a special dinner last night that was hosted by Kodak. The intimate event was held at Josephina on Broadway near Lincoln Center. Sigourney Weaver joined husband and filmmaker Jim Simpson ("The Guys") at the gathering, before making an early exit to attend a special firefighters screening of the film on the Intrepid. Todd Graff ("Camp") also chatted with guests, in advance of today's big debut at Alice Tully Hall. Among the other filmmakers in attendance were Tareque Masud ("The Clay Bird"), Miwa Nishikawa ("Wild Berries"), Sandy McLeod ("Asylum"), and many many more. Joanne Koch, Claudia Bonn, Marian Masone and Richard Pena were among those who attended on behalf of The Film Society, while Mary Lee Bandy, Jytte Jensen & Laurence Kardish attended from MoMA and John Johnston, Anne Hubbell and others from Kodak. The fest will continue through Sunday.
GEN ART KICKS OFF: Vue in midtown was packed on Wednesday for the first party of the Gen Art Film Festival. While the opening night film "Kiss the Bride" had some folks singing the wedding bell blues, the freely flowing SKYY Vodka and Heinekens gave partygoers a reason to celebrate. There were lots of film and fashion peeps grooving to Nelly and 50 Cent tunes and clamoring for light-up ice cubes. In da club: hot young actors and Gen Art jurors Adrien Grenier, Paul Schneider, and Heather Matarazzo, Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles, the Cinetic crew, former teen pop queen Deborah Gibson, Kim Jose of Jean Doumanian Productions, and actor Ben Chaplin. "Kiss the Bride" stars Amanda Detmer and Jonathon Schaech, plus director Vanessa Parise were also in attendance. There was also a party for "The Guys" on Wednesday night, but somebody "forgot" to invite indieWIRE.
"LILYA" IN NYC: Swedish director Lukas Moodysson was at Scandinavia House on Park Avenue on Monday night to join Newmarket Films and The World Childhood Foundation for a special screening of his latest film, "Lilya 4-Ever." The film is Moodysson's third feature, following "Tillsammans" (Together) and "Fucking Amal" (Show Me Love). It will debut on April 18 in NYC. "Some people like this film and some people don't," the director said flatly as he and Newmarket's Bob Berney introduced the screening. No doubt some are troubled by the tough story of a young girl from the former Soviet Union who ends up in a life of sexual slavery. Moodysson explained that while he was initially intending to pursue a different film, this one evolved quickly as he developed the idea for following the title character.
TOASTING "TOMORROW": Over at Town in the Chambers Hotel on Monday, MTV chief Van Toffler hosted a gathering to celebrate the upcoming release of Justin Lin's "Better Luck Tomorrow" by MTV Films and Paramount. The film, which will hit theaters in limited release on April 11, debuted at Sundance last year where it was nabbed by MTV. Lin, who told indieWIRE that he has been on a rigorous PR tour for the release, moved from Taipei to Orange County, CA, as a kid and later studied film at UCLA. Van Toffler talked about MTV's push to develop new talent with directors like Lin (and in an aside, we talked about MTV's Spring Break shows as a nice alternative to war coverage.)
ROCK ON: Magnolia Pictures head Eamonn Bowles will be bringing his band The Martinets to one of our favorite Manhattan watering holes, Siberia. The show is Friday, April 11, and it also will also feature The Clone Defects and Andy G. and the Roller Kings. Next time, BUZZ would like to lobby for a double bill of the Martinets and Cinetic's rock star, Micah Green. Siberia is located at 356 W. 40th St., at Ninth Avenue -- look for the red light (Shameless self-promotion: You'd already know all about Siberia if you, ahem, purchased the new book "New York City's Best Dive Bars," penned by your very own BUZZ writer, Wendy Mitchell.)
TORONTO DIGS: It looks as if Toronto will join the Cannes league in getting a "palais" of its own. The Toronto International Film Festival Group announced earlier this week it will spearhead a project to create a five-story 150,000 square foot Festival Centre to be located on King and John Streets as well as Festival Tower, a residential condominium complex. So far, the group has secured CAD $18.55 million and plans to raise a total of CAD $120 million. "Our goal is to provide more access to more films for more people," said Toronto Film Festival director Piers Handling in a release. "With the consolidation of the Toronto International Film Festival Group programs under one roof, Festival Centre will be an essential tourist destination for film lovers of all ages from all over the world." The projected outreach to the public will grow to 2 million, the organization estimates, when the complex is completed (up from the current audience of 500,000), and an estimated 4,000 films events will take place annually -- up from 1,500 currently.
LANDMARK GOES DIGITAL: Landmark Theaters, in partnership with Microsoft and Digital Cinema Solutions, will outfit its entire 177 screen Landmark chain with digital projection. The playback systems will be based on Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series. Conversion is beginning immediately with completion expected by the end of this year.
[Brian Brooks contributed to this report.]