By Indiewire | Indiewire May 17, 2008 at 5:30AM
IFC continued to be among of the busiest dealmakers in Cannes, announcing today deals for both Olivier Assayas' "Summer Hours" and Anna Melikyan's "Mermaid." William Morris joined with Screen Capital International to unveil Incentive Filmed Entertainment, LLC (Incentive), a new production and financing vehicle for films under $15 million, while Celluloid Dreams announced deals for four new prokjcts, two of them animated and two from Scandinavian directors. Also, a closer look at the evolving Canadian-based Seville Pictures and , indieWIRE takes a look at the Unifrance Pavillion as biz coverage in Cannes continues.
Active in Cannes, IFC Takes "Hours" and "Mermaid"
Another pair of films are set for North American releases by IFC Entertainment. The company has added to its market deal making with the acquisition of Oliver Assayas' "Summer Hours" and Anna Melikyan's "Mermaid," both screening this week in the Marche du Film at Cannes.
"Hours" stars Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jeremie Renier and details the story of three siblings whose lives intersect when their mother, heiress to a 19th century art collection, dies suddenly. The award-winning "Mermaid," winner of the best director prize in the World Cinema competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is a coming-of-age drama that showcases the acclaimed performance of actress Mariya Shalayeva. Set in Russia, it is the story of an introverted young girl who believes she has the power to make dreams come true.
Arianna Bocco, vice president of Acquisitions and Productions at IFC Films negotiated the "Hours" deal with MK2 International's Matthieu Giblin and negotiated the "Mermaid" pact with Mark Ankner from Endeavor and Armen Dishdishyan from Central Partnership. A hit in France, "Hours" is set for a U.S. release next year in theaters and via VOD. "Mermaid" will go out through IFC's new Festival Direct strand, which brings acclaimed festival films to American audiences via VOD.
"Part of the reason we created Festival Direct was to give great films like 'Mermaid' the opportunity to be seen by a wide audience," noted IFC President Jonathan Sehring, in a statement. "We were dazzled by Mermaid when we saw it at Sundance. It does what all great fairy tales do; it transports us to another world. Anna is a truly gifted filmmaker that we are thrilled to have opportunity to work with."
Earlier this week at the Marche du Film that company announced the acquisition of U.S. rights to Arnaud Desplechin's competition film "A Christmas Tale" (Un Conte de Noel) and confirmed its deal for North American rights to the Directors Fortnight closing film, "The Pleasure of Being Robbed," directed by Josh Safdie. [Eugene Hernandez and Peter Knegt]
Incentive Filmed Entertainment Launches With $100 Million
The formation of Incentive Filmed Entertainment, LLC (Incentive) was announced Saturday, a new production and financing vehicle for films under $15 million. The initiative was unveiled by Screen Capital International (SCI) and was conceived and launched with critical support from William Morris Agency and $100 million in backing from major financial institutions.
Incentive will fully fund up to 10 independent feature films per year. It intends to license rights to all of its films to both foreign and domestic distributors, and will represented for worldwide sales by William Morris Independent. The first film to be created under the banner will be "The Position," directed by Griffin Dunne.
"We are proud to have brought two incredible financing companies together, and we look forward to working on the independent films that come out of their collaboration," said William Morris Agency Chairman and CEO Jim Wiatt in a statement. Incentive has taken space on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and officially opened for business two days ago. [Peter Knegt/indieWIRE]
Celluloid Dreams Acquires Animated, Nordic Duos
Celluloid Dreams had a busy Saturday at Cannes. The company showed a continuing dedication to animation in its launching of two new films, as well as interest in Scandinavian works by acquiring the world rights to Nordic directors Thomas Vinterberg and Baltasar Kormakur's latest works.
Dreams announced that it will bring two animated films to the Cannes Market, Jacques-Remy Girerd's "Mia & the Migoo" and Tom Moore's "Brendan, The Secret of Kells." Both films took six years to produce. They join Celluloid's historical tendency at discovering animated talent, from Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" films to Sylvain Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville" to last year's Cannes Jury Prize winner "Persepolis."
The new films follow those examples' artistic diversity, with "Migoo," from director Jacques-Remy Girerd ("La Prophetie des Grenouilles"), which follows a young girl who befriends a group of creatures. "The Migoo," who try and save the planet from ecological destruction. The film will have a wide Christmas release in France by Gebeka. Tomm Moore's "Brendan" comes from Les Armateurs, who also collaborated with Celluloid on "Triplets" and 2005's "Kirikou and the Wild Beasts." It follows a young boy who tries to complete Ireland's national treasure, the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that contains the four gospels transcribed by monks. The film will be released in Ireland by BVI sometime this year.
Celluloid also announced Saturday that it has acquired the world rights to two Scandinavian films, which marks a significant move into the region for Celluloid. The acquisitions include Thomas Vinterberg's "When a Man Comes Home," a comedy about a dysfunctional family. Vinterberg won the Cannes Jury Prize in 1998 for "Festen" ("The Celebration.") "Home" is produced by Nimbus Films. The production is supported by The Danish Film Institute.
Fellow Nordic director Baltasar Kormakur ("Jar City"), will also be represented by Celluloid Dreams in his next film, "White Night Wedding." Set in the landscapes of Iceland during the "midnight sun," the film has already been a big box office draw in Iceland.
Celluloid will bring both films to Cannes and fall festivals. [Peter Knegt]
Canadian Based Seville Evolves With International Market
"The market has changed, so we have to evolve with it," explained Anick Poirier, Vice President of International Sales for Seville Pictures. In the near-decade since Seville was founded, it has certainly exemplified that approach. Beginning as a Canadian distribution company focused on domestic, US independent and foreign releases (among its releases were "Talk To Her" and "Swimming Pool"), Seville has evolved into an integrated producer, distributor and international sales agent.
This was helped by its recent acquisition by Entertainment One, which puts it under the same umbrellas as "sister" companies Koch in the US and Contender in the UK. "We are one big family," said Poirier. "Because we have all these partners, it puts us in a much stronger buying situation. We can make multinational offers." This allows Seville's slate to be divided between films produced in house and those acquired from elsewhere.
For example, a late entry to its 10-film lineup at Cannes is director Lea Pool's "Mommy is at the Hairdresser." Seville snapped up the international rights to the film the Monday before Cannes. On the other side, Seville recently announced production of Vic Sarin's "A Shine of Rainbows," which just started shooting in Ireland. Seville will produce the film, distribute it in Canada, and take care of the international rights.
Friday marked a big day for the company, with Warner Home Video acquiring the US, UK and Mexican distribution rights to Scot McFadyn and Sam Dunn's "Global Metal," a documentary focused on the worldwide community of metalheads. The film is opening in Seville's native Canada on June 20.
Other films Seville is representing at Cannes include Jean Lemire's epic "The Last Continent," an $8 million documentary that found its crew going to Antarctica for 435 days, Richie Mehta's "Amal," Laurie Lynd's "Breakfast With Scot," and Yves Christian Fournier's "Everything is Fine."
What all of Seville's films share is the devotion of the company that represents it, in whatever form that may take. "We fell in love with these films," said Poirier. "It's always a question of passion. We sell what we love. If you can get behind a film and be passionate about it you can really deliver." [Peter Knegt]
Visit Promotes "Pleasure" to France
Visit Films announced it has sold distribution rights for "Pleasure of Being Robbed" for France to Sophie Dulac Distribution. The closing title of this year's Director's Fortnight, "Pleasure" was recently sold to American company IFC Films. The feature debut of director Josh Safdie, "Pleasure" is about Eleonore, a young kleptomaniac who is always looking for something anywhere, unlimited even to the bags of strangers. Visit also announced it has sold five films to Greek distributor Cliparte: ""Momma's Man," "The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela," "Holly," "The Matador," and "Choking Man." "Pleasure" will have its market premiere on May 18th. [Jenny Sung]
K5 Takes "The Disposables"
Worldwide sales company K5 International announced it will represent "The Disposables," written and directed by Daniel Gilles and executive produced by Ryan Gosling. The films tell three separate stories ("Jason and Serafina," "Valentina" and "Marilyn") that each weave together two worlds: Los Angeles and Bogota, Columbia. Rachael Leigh Cook, Seymour Cassell and Gilles himself star. Production begins this summer in Colombia. Worldwide film rights are being pre-sold in the Cannes Market.
"I couldn't be more excited about K5 International's alliance with our project," said Gilles in a statement. "They share the kind of passion and initiative that has been the spirit of this creation so far. We are in good hands." K5's Bill Stephens feels confident. "'The Disposables' is an excellent script, full of passion, emotion and energy that will connect with the buyers he said in a statement. "We look forward to having those discussions this week." [Peter Knegt]
Babelgum Scores Gondry as Jury Member
Babelgum, the online TV portal, has announced that Michel Gondry will join them for their first Babelgum Online Film Festival (BOFF). Gondry will be joining Jury Chairman Spike Lee as a jury member for the Music Video category. The filmmaker will be choosing two videos from the top ten entries, along with the title voted most popular by Babelgum users. Gondry has a background in music, starting his film career by making music videos for bands such as Daft Punk and Radiohead. His latest film "Tokyo!" a collaborative effort with two other filmmakers, premiered on Thursday at Cannes. The winners of BOFF will be announced by Spike Lee on May 20th in Cannes, France. [Jenny Sung]
High Point Gathers "Splintered"
High Point Films has announced that it has acquired world rights (excluding the UK) for the British horror film "Splintered." The debut feature for director Simeon Halligan, the film details the story of a teenage girl held captive by a man who claims to be protecting her from a wild killer on the loose. "Splintered" stars Stephen Martin Walters ("Batman Begins") and actress Holly Weston ("Filth and Wisdom"), and will be executive produced by Clive Parsons. "We're always on the lookout for new talent and directors in different genres, and with the outstanding experience of Clive Parsons anchoring proceedings, 'Splintered' looks set to pack a real punch for horror fans and beyond," said Carey Fitzgerald of High Point in a statement. Partway through production, "Splintered" hopes to be wrapped and ready for the Toronto International Film Festival. [Jenny Sung]
Unifrance Pavilion Sticks to Business; Group Promotes French Films Globally
While many Pavilions in the International Village that rings the back of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes play the dual role of providing both a venue for socializing and parties as well as a place for meetings and national cinema promotion, Unifrance, a quasi-governmentally supported organization founded in 1949 by French film industry professionals to promote French film worldwide, sticks to business at its Pavilion located near the Old Port.
"We're here to promote French films and the aim is to sell them and bring them to cinemas," Unifrance's president Margaret Menegoz said succinctly on a chilly Friday evening at the organization's Pavilion. "Of course when you're here it's not forbidden to have a drink and talk, but this is a place to work, not to have parties... Cannes has enough parties," she added emphatically.
The typical work day at the Unifrance headquarters during the Festival de Cannes begins relatively early with distributors meeting in the Pavilion from 8 - 10am, Menegoz, who is a producer explained. After that, the press arrives for scheduled interviews at 10am.
Unifrance, which receives its support from the French government via the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs as well as through membership fees from its 680 producers, directors, actors, talent agents and sales agents, extends its reach well-beyond Cannes throughout the year. The organization maintains offices in New York, Tokyo and Beijing organizing events that spotlight French films. In New York, Unifrance works with the city's Film Society of Lincoln Center for its annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series every spring.
"When people ask me how to create an event to promote their country's films, I tell them to do it the way the French do," remarked the Film Society's head Richard Pena a few years back at a party opening the popular Rendez-Vous at the French conlsulate on Fifth Avenue. Beyond organizing special events, Unifrance also gives support to French product screening at major festivals worldwide, including Toronto, Berlin and others as well as promoting French cinema from its homebase in Paris.
In winter, Unifrance hosts a gathering of mostly European distributors and 100 journalists in the French capital to view new French films prior to the European Film Market (EFM) that takes place along side the Berlinale in February. "It's the first big market of the year," explained Menegoz about the EFM. "And we want to give the 400 distributors and 100 journalists who attend the event a chance to see the films and scripts early." Uniquely perhaps, distributors have control over which press cover the French films they've acquired. "The distributors get to choose who they want to do interviews with to promote the films," said Menegoz. "And they go to Paris to participate in the program." [Brian Brooks]
Get the latest from the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in indieWIRE's special section.