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January 17, 2001 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS: ALWAYSi Plan; New York Producers

ALWAYSi Plan; New York Producers



by Maud Kersnowski /indieWIRE with a report from Anna Basoli


>> ALWAYSi Pursuing Subscription Plan


(indieWIRE/01.17.01) -- ALWAYSi, a leading online film company, will soon be
adding a box office to their website, under the title "Unlimited Cinema,"
and sharing the profits with filmmakers. Yesterday, ALWAYSi announced the
introduction of a $4.99 a month subscription service (the first month is
free) that will feature films, movie matching, an nline film festival and
other exclusive offerings.


While internet video-on-demand subscription models are predicted to be the
future of online entertainment is ALWAYSi one of the first to put the theory
into practice. RealNetworks also offers a premium pay service features
software as well as film.


During Sundance ALWAYSi is setting up shop to answer questions and offer
sneak previews of "Unlimited Cinema" at the Microsoft Booth in the Digital
Lodge
at Harry O's (427 Main Street). [Maud Kersnowski]

>>Considering Film in New York City: The Producers Perspective


(indieWIRE/01.17.01) -- Last Thursday evening, New York Women in Film and
Television (NYWIFT)
held their annual panel discussion with industry
professionals, "Taking Stock of NY Feature Production companies in New York,'
the second installment of a series called "Film in the City." Founded in
1978, NYWIFT is a nonprofit organization with over 1,000 members dedicated
to the advancement of women in the industry and to promoting equity in the
field through educational programs, special events and networking. The panel
included John Penotti, ("Illuminata") partner and president of GreeneStreet Films, Scott Macaulay of Forensic Films ("julien donkey-boy"), John Hart of Hart-Sharp Entertainment ("You Can Count on Me"), and Shooting Gallery's CEO Larry Meistrich. Open City Films' co-president Joana Vicente ("Chuck and Buck") and moderator Cynthia Griffin, the only women on the panel, sat at each end of the surprisingly all-male table.


Has nothing changed in the New Millennium? Perhaps not a lot: producers are
still hustling for investors and independent filmmaking economics still --
in Larry Meistrich's words -- "sucks." What remains remarkable is the
diversity and richness of backgrounds, styles and approaches to producing
displayed by each company, even within the confines of New York's -- again
quoting Meistrich -- "incestuous" film community, where everyone does
business and co-productions with everyone else.


Topics ranged from the specific challenges of working in New York, from
office space to labor costs, and how to retain creative autonomy as a small
independent company, to the difficulty in finding exciting new material and
digital filmmaking as an aesthetic, rather than a financial choice.


Addressing a recent topic of filmmaking in New York, Broadway-turned-indie
producer John Hart discussed the increased cross-pollination between the
theatre and film worlds, citing Sam Mendes and Stephen Daldry as examples of theater directors who successfully made the transition to film. It was
through his connection with the theater that Hart and his partner Jeff Sharp
first saw Kenneth Lonergan's play "This is Our Youth" in a small theatre on
42nd street and acquired the rights for the film. "It was our intention for
that to be the first movie Kenny was going to do for us," says Hart. "But it
went on to have a greater stage success and with that a theatrical
hold-back, meaning that we couldn't shoot the film until first class
territories played out. So Kenny came and gave us 'You Can Count on Me.'"


Speaking of his own transition from commercial theater ("Annie Get Your
Gun
") into film, which started with Todd Haynes' "Safe," Hart said, "The
concessions that unions give you in film that they never have given us in
theater make it economically viable -- although admittedly tough business.
More importantly you get to work with writers and directors who are doing
things that are exciting rather than safe -- which is what the Broadway
environment dictates."


The dictates of the distribution business, on the other hand, were widely
covered by Larry Meistrich who discussed the details of Shooting Gallery's
widely successful Film series. "We saw all these good films over the years
that didn't get bought, " says Meistrich. But when Shooting Gallery
partnered with sponsors who paid for the films' marketing and with the Loews
theater chain that provided the screens for a two week run on each of the
selected 12 films, "Lo and behold! There is a desire to see these films!"
says Meistrich. "Every one of the twelve films played past the two week-run.
Five of them made the top five this year. There is a market for them!"


Not surprisingly when Hart, who will be at Sundance this year with "Lift,"
asked Meistrich whether Shooting Gallery (recently bought by Itemus) would
be buying films this year, Larry Meistrich nodded and said confidently,
"We're buying." On the subject of Sundance strategies Meistrich once again
went over the nuts and bolts: "If you have a film and you think it's good,
don't let a soul see it until you premiere it at the top five festivals in
the world: Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Berlin, London."


Scott Macaulay added these sobering words, "The secret of success is to
manage the aftermath of Sundance. Out of fifty films there are maybe two
bidding wars. Take a look at a great film this year: "George Washington." It
didn't get into Sundance. It went to Berlin and built a small buzz there. It
was rejected from New Directors/New Films. It continued building until it
got into the New York Film Festival." Moral of the story: there's no single,
correct approach to success in the diverse world of independent film.
[Anna Basoli]

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