By Indiewire | Indiewire August 19, 2002 at 2:00AM
Big Questions at Lot 47 After Lipsky Departure;
"Punch-Drunk" At The NYFF and indieWIRE: BUZZ
by Eugene Hernandez, Matthew Ross, and Wendy Mitchell/indieWIRE
>> Jeff Lipsky's Departure Intensifies Questions About Lot 47
(indieWIRE: 08.19.02) -- A big question on the minds of many in the
indie/specialty biz of late has been the future of three-year-old
independent distribution company Lot 47. On Friday, company co-founder and
president Jeff Lipsky announced his resignation, prompting even more
questions. As Lot 47's theatrical release of "The Fast Runner" (Atanarjuat)
winds down, and with no other films on its release slate, questions about
the future of the company have intensified among concerned and angry vendors
who are owed money by Lot 47. This weekend, CEO Greg Williams began to
clarify the situation at the company, telling indieWIRE that Lot 47 is
"moving forward full steam" and stating that he is pursuing opportunities to
solidify the company.
"How can you leave a company when the company is you?" asked one angry
member of the indie community who is owed money by Lot 47, Inc., referring
to Jeff Lipsky's sudden departure. "Could Harvey and Bob Weinstein leave
Miramax? Could Michael Barker and Tom Bernard leave Sony Pictures Classics?
That seems like a strange concept to me. This is just weird."
In a conversation with indieWIRE on Friday, Jeff Lipsky was coy about his
reasons for leaving a company that he co-founded. "Every three or four
years, I need the industry version of a high colonic," he quipped. "I think
that this is the time." His departure is effective immediately yet he will
remain a lot 47 board member.
CEO Williams emphasized yesterday that Lipsky's resignation does not
signal the end of Lot 47. He expressed disappointment over Lipky's decision,
adding that the company remains focused on its theatrical and ancillary
release of the critically acclaimed "Fast Runner." He also indicated that
"Never Get Outta the Boat," a Lot 47 production with Blow Up Pictures, will
debut next month at the Toronto Film Festival.
Lot 47 has weathered the departure of many key executives and staffers this
year, including Tim Clawson, head of its burgeoning, but now defunct,
production division. The company, which had as many as 25 employees in
January (based at offices in both New York and Los Angeles), now has only a
handful on board. CEO Williams and co-founder Scott Lipsky (chairman) remain
at Lot 47, along with VP of finance Rick Thiedig and director of
distribution Vicki Loughery, who joined the company from USA Films in April.
Notably, Williams indicated yesterday (Sunday) that Bill Thompson, VP and
general sales manager, has been enlisted to remain at the company. Jeff
Lipsky recently told indieWIRE of Thompson's departure, but Williams has
since secured a commitment from Thompson to stay at Lot 47 for an
unspecified period of time.
Chatter about the ups and downs of distribution companies is certainly
nothing new, but discussion about the fate of Lot 47 widened when the
company acknowledged its financial difficulties to vendors who are
owed compensation for their work supporting the company's recent
theatrical releases. In letters to vendors just a few weeks ago, Lot 47
admitted that the outfit had been "cash constrained" for several months
and acknowledged difficulties in paying its bills, saying clearly that it
had fallen behind. Lot 47 said that it would not make a promise to pay
its bills in full, but asking for patience, indicated that it is their
Yesterday, in the conversation with indieWIRE, Williams expressed a
commitment to deal with the current financial situation and asserted that
he remains focused on stabilizing the business.
"It is a central focus of anything we do, from my perspective," Williams
told indieWIRE, adding, "I take that extremely seriously and am always
available to work with and talk to vendors." Continuing he said, "The
economy itself is at a difficult time (but) I have been in discussions and
continue to discuss financing with a number of potential industry partners,
and other outside investors, based on a sound business plan for the
Just seven months ago, Lot 47 was seemingly solid. It moved into new
offices in December, bringing together its distribution staff and Lot 47
Productions in offices on West 19th Street in Manhattan. It had trumpeted
the launch of its production unit, headed by Tim Clawson, to create feature
films, music videos, and commercials and in January named Greg Williams its
CEO, and Scott Lipsky (a founder of the company) assumed the title of
chairman. One month later, in early February and after only one day's notice
to staffers, Clawson decided to depart the company and its production
division was subsequently shut down. "Lot 47 Productions was entirely set up
for Tim, and by Tim," Williams said. "With his departure there was
really not a business there."
A company known for the sometimes quirky marketing tactics of its founding
brothers, Lot 47's theatrical releases have been met with mixed results. For
example, Jeff Lipsky donned a cow suit outside NBC's "Today" show to promote
"The Price of Milk," while brother Mark sat in a storefront window for
hours, attempting to break the record for longest movie-watching marathon to
hype "Scotland, PA." "Milk" grossed just $111,607 at the box office last
year, while "Scotland" earned $384,098. Much less successful were its
theatrical releases of "Hit and Runaway" (which earned about $82,000), "Some
Body" (which made about $12,000), and "waydowntown" (which grossed about
$20,000). Among its more successful films were "L.I.E.," which earned about
$1.2 million, and the currently in-release "Fast Runner," which has earned
more than $1 million for the company. Other releases included Claire Denis'
"Trouble Every Day," Tim Roth's "The War Zone," and the French hit, "Venus
"This is a business that I believe in," Williams offered in his
conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "We continue to look for good
opportunities and as we move forward right now I am just focused on working
to solidify everything at the company. We are very focused on that."
>> NYFF Gets "Punch-Drunk" Centerpiece
(indieWIRE: 08.19.02) -- Last year, it was David Lynch with "Mulholland Drive,"
this time it is Paul Thomas Anderson with "Punch-Drunk Love." For the past two
years, the winner (or, in both of these cases, the co-winner) of the Cannes
Film Festival's best director prize has been selected to screen as the
centerpiece film at the New York Film Festival.
Those expecting another grandiose (or long and pretentious, depending on who
you ask) epic from Anderson in the vein of 1999's "Magnolia" should note
that "Punch-Drunk Love" is described as a "quirky romantic comedy" that
clocks in at a mere 89 minutes, and stars frat boy comedy god Adam Sandler
(along with Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Luiz Guzman).
"We are very pleased to welcome back Paul Thomas Anderson to the New York
Film Festival, said selection committee chair Richard Pena. "His 'Boogie
Nights' was a huge hit at our festival in 1997. 'Punch-Drunk Love,'
seemingly in a completely different vein, reveals a similar subversive
current beneath its sweetly romantic surface." "Punch-Drunk Love" will
screen at Alice Tully Hall on October 5. Columbia Pictures is scheduled to
release the film starting October 11.
The complete NYFF lineup is expected to be unveiled today. [Matthew Ross]
>> indieWIRE: BUZZ for August 19, 2002
(indieWIRE: 08.19.02) -- indieWIRE presents its weekly column focusing
on recent items on the radar in the indie film community. Submit your news
Monica Chuo has been named VP of acquisitions for Artisan Pictures. Chuo will
be based at the company's headquarters in Santa Monica and will report to
EVP Patrick Gunn. She previously served as director of acquisitions and
development for Samuel Goldwyn Films, marketing coordinator for MGM/UA,
and head of business development at DNA Studios.
Sara Finmann, a VP at indie PR firm Magic Lantern, is heading to mPRm after
four years at Magic Lantern. She's filling the slot left vacant by Joe
Quenqua. With Finmann leaving, Magic Lantern has promoted Jessica Uzzan
from publicity director to VP.
Alan Bergman was re-elected president of the Academy Foundation, the
educational and cultural arm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences. Fay Kanin was also re-elected as VP. Arthur Hamilton moved
from treasurer to VP, while Donn Cambern was named treasurer and Sid
Ganis was named secretary. Bruce Davis remains executive secretary of the
SEX-LESS IN SEATTLE: No sex please, we're Pacific Northwesterners? It seems
the sexy Spanish film "Sex and Lucia" is a bit too sexy for execs at
Seattle's two daily newspapers, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post
Intelligencer. Both papers banned the advertising for Julio Medem's latest.
Ironically, "Sex and Lucia" won four honors at the 2002 Seattle Film Festival,
which is affiliated with the Times. The papers didn't elaborate on the ad
ban, only saying that the move was made because of the film's content.
Perhaps someone's jealous of the well-endowed actor seen in the movie's
famed beach sex scene?
PBS' NEW IMAGE: PBS is getting a little less "Masterpiece Theatre" with the
help of some hip directors. Alfonso Cuaron ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") and Francois
Girard ("The Red Violin") have directed four new TV spots as part of PBS'
new brand image campaign. Presumably the spots aren't as racy as the
threesome scenes in "Y Tu Mama."
WARMING UP IN THE HAMPTONS: The Hamptons International Film Festival held
its summer soiree on August 10 in East Hampton, attracting Hamptonites and
New Yorkers glad to flee the city to kick back at the party's expansive lawn
and pool. The crowd sipped chardonnay and talked about the upcoming 10th
anniversary festival (slated for October 16 - 20). Board members say they're
hoping to attract a younger crowd for this year's event (new programmer
Rajendra Roy should help), and party-goers say there were a few younger
faces in the crowd at this year's summer party. Some of those
whippersnappers even stripped down and hit the pool at an after-party
nearby. Thankfully, there were no reports of runaway SUVs. For iPOP photos:
KID STAYS IN ANOTHER PICTURE: Trailer trash icon Kid Rock is not letting the
dismal failure of "Joe Dirt" stop him from continuing his acting "career."
Rock is set to star as Dog, a motorcycle gang leader, in DreamWorks'
"Biker Boyz." Lawrence Fishburne and Lisa Bonet will co-star, as Bonet
reteams with director Reggie Rock Bythewood, who worked with her on the
TV series "A Different World."
"SKINS" ON THE ROAD: Chris Eyre ("Smoke Signals") is taking his new film
"Skins" on the road, literally. The Native American filmmaker is hitting
the road in a specially equipped traveling movie theater (complete with
dozens of seats and a concession stand). Eyre plans to take the vehicle
to locales that otherwise wouldn't have an art-house theater, including
several Native American reservations. Screenings of the film (and popcorn!)
will be free. "Skins" is about the combative relationship between two Sioux
SPOTTED: Steven Tyler at NYC's Gershwin Hotel checking out the sunset screening
of contemporary mob story "This Thing of Ours." His Aerosmith buddy Joe
Perry composed the film's original score ... Parker Posey and Hal Hartley at
Dewey's Flatiron in Manhattan, where director Hartley told indieWIRE he's
interested in making a sequel to "Henry Fool."
"Along with super-interesting movies, you have to promote some real dogs. I
felt like I was building up so much bad karma by lying all the time."
Kris Percival, former director of communications for Cowboy Pictures, in a
Time Out New York article about why she switched careers from promoting
films to teaching fifth and sixth graders in NYC.
ASK DR. INDIE
"Dear Dr. Indie, I saw something about National Tadpole Week -- is that
connected to the film "Tadpole"?
Yes, indeed. Miramax is hoping to inspire "tadpoling" as a trend...in Gary
Winick's DV flick "Tadpole," a prepschool boy (Aaron Stanford) is seduced
by his stepmother's friend (Bebe Neuwirth). "Tadpole" isn't burning up the
box office, but the younger man/older woman theme is going strong this
summer. Also check out Jake Gyllenhaal and Catherine Keener in "Lovely &
Amazing" and Jake Gyllenhaal (hmmm, we spot a trend) and Jennifer Aniston
in "The Good Girl."
Coming this week in indieWIRE: we review Robin Williams' dark side in "One
Hour Photo," interview "Satin Rouge" director Raja Amari, and take a look
at the current boom in Korean cinema in Anthony Kaufman's biweekly World
Cinema Report. [Wendy Mitchell, with reports from Brian Brooks and Erin Torneo]
>> THURSDAY IN indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Tarkovsky and Zanuck at Lincoln Center;
Rolling River Fest; and Scott Saunders Latest
(indieWIRE: 08.15.02) -- If master director Andrei Tarkovsky were still alive,
he would have celebrated his 70th birthday this year; The film lineup for the
Rolling River Music and Film Festival has been set; And, principal photography
has begun in New York on "The Technical Writer."
READ THE FULL STORIES @ indieWIRE.com