In the first of a series of daily dispatches focusing on the business side of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival: indieWIRE talks to Marche du Film director Jerome Paillard; Fortissimo acquires the rights to "Gigantic;" TFI is set to show some of Spike Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna," Arthouse Films acquires "Louise Bourgeois, Echo Bridge debuts a new slate, and the American Pavilion celebrates twenty years.
Producers, Digital Initiatives In Greater Focus for Paillard as Cannes Market Opens
The Marche du Film opens in Cannes in the wake of significant growth in recent years, its attendance jumping 40% since 2003 alone. Nearly 10,000 industry professionals from 93 countries -- more than 400 companies overall -- are currently arriving in Cannes for the Market. Attendance has seen an 8% jump from last year.
Since taking the helm at the Marche du Film in 1996, Cannes market director Jerome Paillard has worked alongside festival leadership to greatly expand the Marche and its offerings, now emphasizing a larger presence of producers and rising attendance from new companies exploring VOD and Internet distribution.
"For many years, the market was something separate from the festival," Paillard noted during a conversation on Tuesday in Cannes. "The growth," Paillard noted, "is from the producers." More than 600 of the three to four thousand producers are participating in the flourishing Producers Network program.
While he arrived in Cannes more than a week ago, market director Jerome Paillard was still refining things as the Marche du Film neared its opening. Sitting in his Palais des Festivals office on Tuesday morning, local workers were still positioning some of the furniture in his well-appointed suite as he talked about this year's event. As thousands of attendees converged on the site to check-in for the '08 Market, organizers were also putting the finishing touches on a number of venues. Planners are launching three new screening rooms here in Cannes, joining the other 30 already in place, with 12 digital projection venues. More than 1,600 screening have been booked for his year's Market.
A key question as the event begins is the impact that the next generation of Internet and new media companies will have. Paillard explained that he is keeping his eye on the role new digital initiatives -- whether they be companies like Netflix, Jaman, VOD programs or even direct B to C initiatives - and how they will play in supporting the long term distribution of specialized cinema.
"I think that will be a big change in the coming years," but echoing the concerns of buyer and sellers alike, added, "I am not sure which kind of economy will be behind that." [Eugene Hernandez]
Fortissimo Gets "Gigantic"
Fortissimo Films announced that it has acquired Killer Films and Epoch Films production "Gigantic." The dark comedy follows a mattress store worker (Paul Dano) who wants to adopt a Chinese baby. Brian falls in love with foul-mouthed beauty Happy (Zooey Deschanel), and together they deal with intimacy issues and their eccentric relatives while awaiting the call from the adoption agency. Also starring John Goodman, the film is the directorial debut of Matt Aselton and will be completed in early 2009. "This is such an engaging project helmed by a talented young director with the fantastic cast adding to our anticipation," said Fortissimo Co-Chair Michael J. Werner.
"Gigantic" marks a re-teaming of Fortissimo and producer Christine Vachon's Killer Films, following its acquisition of the Killer Films Library, which includes Todd Haynes' "Poison" and "Safe." "We are thrilled to be back in business with Fortissimo," said Vachon in a statement. "We love their passion and good taste!" Fortissimo is also at Cannes with Madonna's documentary "I Am Because We Are," which it acquired last week and is receiving its International Premiere as part of amFAR's "Cinema Against AIDS" event. [Peter Knegt]
Arthouse Films Acquires "Louise Bourgeois"
Arthouse Films announced that it has acquired the worldwide rights (excluding North America), to Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach's documentary, "Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and the Tangerine." The film details the life of Louise Bourgeois, who has spent six decades working as a sculptor and a painter. "We filmed intense, and sometimes hilarious, encounters with Louise and her work in both her Brooklyn studio and Manhattan home starting in 1993," explains co-director Wallach in a statement. The film also features Jean-Louise Bourgeois, Jerry Gorovoy, the Guerilla Girls, Charlotta Kotik, Frances Morris, Robert Storr, and Deborah Wye. Arthouse will introduce the film to international markets at Cannes and will distribute it in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and U.K., through its output deals with Madman Entertainment and Revolver Entertainment, respectively. [Peter Knegt]
Echo Bridge Debuts New Slate in Market
Echo Bridge Entertainment has announced a new slate of four films that will be available to the international marketplace during Cannes. The first two were recently acquired: "Run for Her Life," a thriller starring Dermot Mulroney that was recently acquired from 26 Films. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur ("Jar City") and follows a lawyer (Mulroney) who finds himself in an underground crime ring after attempting to save the life of his sick daughter; "Unshakable," a martial arts film directed by Stanley J. Orzel, who served as a creative consultant on "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."
The films join two other Echo Bridge titles premiering at Cannes. "Just Add Water" is a comedy about a man who takes charge of his life in a crumbing small town. Directed by Hart Bochner, the film stars Danny deVito, Jonah Hill and Justin Long. The other film, "My Life in Ruins, " was acquired by Echo Bridge from 26 Films at Cannes in 2007. "Ruins" follows a Greek-American tour guide (Nia Vardalos) who leads an assorted group of foreign tourists through Ancient Greece and is directed by Donald Petrie, produced by Tom Hanks, and written by Vardalos and Mike Reiss. [Peter Knegt]
TF1 To Premiere Footage From Lee's "Anna"
TF1 International has announced that it will present a promo reel with exclusive footage from Spike Lee's latest film, "Miracle at St. Anna." "Anna," adapted by Lee from James McBride's novel, stars Derek Luke, Michael Ealu, Laz Alonso, John Tuturro and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Produced by Lee, Roberto Cicutto, and Luigi Musini, the film details a young journalist in contemporary New York who begins to follow the story of a African-American soldiers in Italy during World War II. The soldiers were abandoned behind German enemy lines by their officers, forcing them to hide out in a remote Italian village. The locals help them plot their return to headquarters.
"Anna" will be released in the US by Touchstone, and in France through TFM Distribution, both this October. The footage will be shown at the Star 2 Cinema on Friday, May 16 at noon and again on Saturday, May 17 at 2pm. [Peter Knegt]
In Second Decade, AmPav Charts Its Own Course
Celebrating two decades on Pavilion row, the Americans remain a bit of an anomaly compared to the majority of their counterparts. The second Pavilion to open its doors at Cannes (the British paved the way), the United States is represented with one of the largest spaces seaside with a very different objective. "We don't really have a mission exactly," commented Julie Sisk, who spearheads operations at AmPav, which is the familiar name insiders have dubbed the Pavilion. "The American Pavilion is more of a place for hospitality, events and networking. Most countries host pavilions to bring film development to their geographic regions."
With no government mandate (or money), the American Pavilion has created a unique niche as a space housing not only hospitality, with food and drink served daily to paying customers seaside, but also a venue sponsoring a host of panels, parties and other events. Kicking off the slew of panels on Wednesday is a discussion with leading online journalists and bloggers who are occupying a greater role in the marketing of films. Among those participating are indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez, Variety's Mike Jones and David Poland of Movie City News who will be participating from Los Angeles via Skype video phone -- a new technology being used this year to include personalities who may have not traveled to Cannes. Other highlights in the upcoming week include a conversation with MGM Chairman and CEO Harry E. Sloan and the studio's Mary Parent, Chairperson of Worldwide Motion Picture Group, moderated by Variety's Tim Gray. Also on tap is a panel on international distribution, a conversation with former Warner Independent head Mark Gill along with Neil Sacker on their current venture, The Film Department about their future plans after raising $200 million as well as a chat with Universal co-chairman about their international focus. Other topics of conversation include the environment, film critics and the evolution of independent film in an emerging multi-platform world.
Among the most likely attendees eager to meet and hear panelists this year are AmPav's 150-strong student contingent who work with the Pavilion directly as well as interns with various companies attending Cannes. "The energy level is completely different [at the American Pavilion] with them because they're enthusiastic to be here," noted Sisk. Almost guaranteed to be a big draw is Thursday's discussion of the new digital 3-D from an insider's perspective. Participating in the discussion via Skype video phone is Oscar-winning director James Cameron as well as Michael Peyser, executive producer of "U2 3D" as well as Ben Stassaen, co-founder of nWave Pictures and director of "Fly Me to the Moon" in addition to a host of tech insiders.
Of course AmPav's activities don't come cheap and sans government support, the Pavilion has had to rely on corporate sponsors and membership fees to finance its increasingly expensive operations (especially in an era of a falling dollar). Membership at AmPav -- required for entry -- cost $65 at the pre-festival rate and will be $100 at the door beginning Wednesday. "It's very expensive to operate," Fisk said directly, adding that the Pavilion's expenses easily will cost $60,000 - 70,000 during the festival's duration. But along with veteran and new industry who will undoubtedly crowd AmPav again this year for schmoozing, meetings or to simply chill out between appointments, a future crowd of filmmakers and industry will have the opportunity to experience and learn from the festival. I've had a lot of film students come to Cannes and tell me they're very surprised by the business side and Cannes Market," said Sisk. "The Market is a great opportunity for them to learn the business." [Brian Brooks]
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