By Indiewire | Indiewire October 26, 2000 at 2:00AM
DAILY NEWS: A Dozen Indies Open; AFI Screenwriting Confab
by Eugene Hernandez and Andrea Meyer/indieWIRE
>> Too Many Movies? A Dozen Indie and Specialty Releases Hit New York Screens this Weekend
(indieWIRE/ 10.27.00) -- For years now, many in the indie community have
bemoaned the fact that there are just too many films being made and
released. For example, on any given weekend the indie-minded moviegoer in
New York is given a number of new film options. This weekend seems a
perfect example of the crowding that many have been complaining about --
there are no fewer than 12 specialty, foreign or IndieWood releases opening
theatrically in New York City.
On the IndieWood end of the spectrum, Artisan is opening its
heavily-marketed "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" in super wide release
nationwide (on more than 3,300 screens), while Lions Gate is opening two
films, both Denys Arcand's "Stardom" and Laurence Fishburne's "Once In The Life" in limited release, while USA Films is presenting Shane Meadow's "A Room for Romeo Brass" and Universal Focus & the Shooting Gallery are opening Kwyn Bader's "Lovin Jezebel."
Competition is tight among the smaller distributors with Cowboy Booking
opening the critically acclaimed "George Washington," by David Gordon Green, and Lot47 launching Tonie Marshall's multiple award-winning French film, "Venus Beauty Institute." The Shooting Gallery Film Series presents the debut of Bahman Ghobadi's Iranian film, "A Time for Drunken Horses,"
Artistic License has opened the highly-regarded documentary, Josh Aronson's "Sound and Fury," Phaedra is releasing Ian Merrick's "The Sculptress" and Gerard Depardieu's "The Bridge," and also opening is Julian P. Hobbs documentary, "The Collectors."
"With George Washington we are kind of lucky, becase there is so much that
has already happened with the film," explained Cowboy Booking's John Vanco,
citing the film's award in Toronto and stellar review in The New York Times
during last month's New York Film Festival, among other accolades. The
movie is without a doubt one of the most acclaimed new American independent
films this year and is opening with solid critical word of mouth, but will
that translate to a sizable box-office take?
"Fortunately, we've got a little bit of a leg up and we are in great
theaters," Vanco continued, saying that "George" is a special film unlike
anything else opening this weekend. "We are hoping that will help separate
us from the pack -- its still ultimately a small film that is going to need
to find its audience."
"I think the breaking point is 4 films (opening in a week)," commented
Lot47's Jeff Lipsky, a distribution veteran who was a founder of October
Films. Lipsky said that he staked out the film's opening weekend nearly 5
months ago for publicity reasons, the company had the film's French talent
locked into a publicity trip to NYC last week. Other films, like "A Room for
Romeo Brass" and "George Washington" had to take this weekend because it was
the date they got from Dan Talbot at the uptown Lincoln Plaza Cinema
arthouse, according to Lipsky. Additionally, smaller films tend to target
October, according to Lipsky, so that they can steer clear of the Hollywood
studios' holiday films which will start rolling out in a few weeks.
Lipsky and Lot47 are confident that their film will stand out. With a slew
of French Cesar awards and solid reviews, the company's publicity strategy
has paid off -- Lipsky cited numerous notable notices, including items in
the Village Voice, the New York Observer and indieWIRE.
For journalists, such a crowded weekend can be both challenging and
frustrating. At the risk of being too self-referential, the crowding over
this particular weekend has been a topic among indieWIRE editors. "There are
too many movies opening this weekend," indieWIRE's Senior Editor Anthony
Kaufman explained. With an agenda of covering stand-out indie and specialty
releases, Kaufman admitted that the weekend was especially tough because
there are so many strong films debuting.
"Most of the indies that are coming out are pretty good," Kaufman continued.
"Its unfortunate that all of them are coming out on the same weeked -- when
they are all clumped together in one week, there is only so many that we can
get to." Summarzing, Kaufman addedd, "The good side is that the majority of
the movies are worth seeing, the bad side is that people might not see them
because there are too many to sift through."
"It's certainly been getting more crowded and worse over the last couple of
years," commented Cowboy's Vanco, admitting that its much worse that seven
or eight years ago. "Compared to the last two years," he added, "I don't
think it is much different."
Lot47's Lipsky concurred, quipping, "Its no worse than the last 75 weeks."
>> AFI Screenwriters Discuss Spontaneity, Teens and Selling Out
(indieWIRE/ 10.27.00) -- It's 75 degrees and sunny in LA, and the AFI Film
Festival lured audiences into screenings and panel discussions all week.
They say that in this town everyone wants to break into the movie biz, and
what better way than rubbing elbows with the big shots already working
there? On Monday, the well-attended screenwriters forum covered such topics
as Whose Script is it, Anyway? Multiple Writers and Development Hell and
Uncompromising Vision: Writers who Direct.
The day began with a conversation between Gaines and breakfast speaker
Julian Schnabel, whose moving portrait of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas
"Before Night Falls" was the festival's centerpiece. Schnabel regaled the
audience with stories of shooting with no pants on, laughing so hard on set
that he threw up ("What am I, a fucking maniac?"), and his unique approach
"I shoot whatever I can, take it back, treat it like a found object, and
make the best thing out of it that I could," Schnabel said, emphasizing the
importance of spontaneity and serendipity in writing and directing a film.
"You intuit things. I make movies that are immersed in my life or a part of
my sensibility, at least up until now. Unless someone offered me $6 million
to make Terminator VIII