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September 14, 2000 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS : "Chasing" a Deal; Digital Coast Day 2; Partying in Toronto

DAILY NEWS: "Chasing" a Deal; Digital Coast Day 2; Partying in Toronto




by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

>> TORONTO 2000: "Chasing Sleep" Nearing Pact


(indieWIRE/ 9.14.00) -- Michael Walker's Contemporary World Cinema
selection, "Chasing Sleep," is nearing a deal here in Toronto a source told
indieWIRE yesterday. The film, starring Gil Bellows and Emily Bergl, is
executive produced by Robin O'Hara and Scott Macaulay and was
shot by noted DP Jim Denault ("Boys Don't Cry").


According to a source, Miramax initially passed on the movie but after
successful screenings here, Harvey Weinstein took a look at the movie
yesterday. A deal is expected to be sealed by the end of the Festival with
an announcement to the distributor potentially coming today. Le Studio
Canal+
is selling the movie. [Eugene Hernandez]

>> DIGITAL COAST 2000: Indies, Digital Filmmaking and the Digital Coast Blues


(indieWIRE/ 9.14.00) -- The second day of the Digital Coast 2000 conference
brought with it some surprises - intriguing panels, some real fireworks as
studio heads and independent producers traded harsh words over copyright
laws, a much more involved and engaged audience, and the singular moment when
Broadcast.com founder Mark Cuban described his thoughts when he first
realized he was an actual billionaire: "Oh my fucking god!"


Perhaps last night's party at the House of Blues helped loosen up the crowd.
But if you've ever attended an Internet-related soiree, you know that we're
all really a bunch of geeks, nerds and misfits squeezed uncomfortably into
leather pants, trying futilely to seem hip. Still, fun was had by all, even
several castaways from the defunct POP.com roaming the crowd, rattling their
chains like the Ghosts of Internet Past.


The fireworks started at the first event of the day yesterday, focusing on
the "ebiznification" of Hollywood via DV filmmaking, Internet distribution,
and file-sharing software. The panel featured Tim McGrath (Paramount), Bill Block (Artisan), Rick Hess (Propaganda), and Jason Kliot (Open City Films/Blow-Up Picture). "Over the past five years, independent film has become much less interesting." explained Kliot, "Because these 'IndieWood' companies really behave more like studios." Thus, Blow-Up's focus on DV
filmmaking with movies like "Chuck and Buck" is an attempt to revitalize a
moribund independent film community.


As for McGrath, he didn't see much impact from digital filmmaking on the
studios, since he insisted that skyrocketing budgets are more dependent upon
big talent salaries and marketing expenses than physical production costs.
McGrath also cracked up the panel when someone mentioned Paramount's "South
Park
" movie, and he muttered, "I don't know how I'm going to explain that
one to Congress."


When the discussion turned to original Web-based entertainment and its
potential, Artisan head Block made some news when he let slip that Artisan
was negotiating to buy Icebox.com's highly controversial, politically
incorrect "Mr. Wong" animated series for TV and films, inspiring some vocal
dissent from the crowd.


This panel, along with many others throughout the day, devolved into a
series of fascinating, revealing arguments over the meaning of file-sharing
services like Napster and Scour. McGrath, who was involved in the initial
court battles over Betamax and VHS, insisted theft was theft, and just
because pirates were quicker and had better technology didn't mean it wasn't
a crime. Others, like Block and Cuban, chastised the record industry and
Hollywood for failing to identify the audience demand for digital
distribution, and for a myopia that is blinding them to new business
opportunities.


Other panels throughout the day covered creative funding for independent
film via online sources, as well finding new forms of digital distribution,
and featured representatives from Z.com, sputnik7.com, Fox.com, the
Hollywood Stock Exchange, producers like Kevin Foxe of "Blair Witch" fame, and online filmmaking flavors of the week Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt (creators of IFILM.com's popular short film "405").


Perhaps the most bizarre and emblematic moment of the day came when
Shaquille O'Neal dropped by to talk about his Web venture, Dunk.net, and the crowds packed the hall to hear him speak. Nobody really seemed to care what
his business model was all about, but hey, even in the high-tech Internet
biz, it just wouldn't be LA without a little starfucking. [Kevin Dreyfuss]


[Kevin Dreyfuss, a former editor at the now-defunct EB Insider, is a
long-time indieWIRE writer who is covering this week's Digital Coast 2000
conference.]

>> TORONTO 2000: A Night on The Town Lifts Spirits in Toronto


(indieWIRE/ 9.14.00) -- The mid-festival malaise that we wrote about earlier
in the week may have been cured Tuesday, arguably the most festive night of
the Festival so far. A handful of anticipated films debuted, including
Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls" and Robert Altman's star-powered "Dr. T and the Women." At a trio of parties that indieWIRE attended downtown last night, guests mingled, mixed and celebrated the arrival of cooler
weather and a crop of chatter-worthy films.







Actor Clive Owen ("Croupier"), pictured at the Altman party

Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE


"I can't believe how many people have seen it," actor Clive Owen told
indieWIRE yesterday, discussing his summer indie hit, "Croupier." The actor
is here in Toronto with Joel Hershman's "Greenfingers." Certainly a familiar
face thanks to the success of the film, Owen was a popular attendee at
Artisan Entertainment's party at Montana Urban for the new Altman film. "It is amazing that at a time of $25 million advertising budgets a tiny film can
squeak through on word of mouth."


While the Altman event welcomed some big names, including Richard Gere,
Laura Dern, Ben Kingsley and Farrah Fawcett, organizers kept the scene comfortable by forsaking the typical VIP room, letting guests freely hang
out inside the venue or out on the patio for a BBQ.






Laura Dern and Farrah Fawcett at the "Dr. T" party.

Photo by: Marion Curtis/DMI for Artisan


A few doors away Fine Line celebrated the screening of Julian Schnabel's new
film, "Before Night Falls," at Xango, a Cuban restaurant and club. Guests
who made the short walk over from the Artisan party got a chance to burn off
the late dinner, dancing to the tunes of a strong salsa band. Schnabel
greeted guests downstairs while star Javier Bardem hung out upstairs.
Co-star Andrea di Stephano, playing the role of Pepe Malas, danced numerous
salsa numbers with FILMMAKER Mag's Moira Griffin.


While some here have complained about the lack of strong new movies, David
Gordon Green
, director of the Discovery section film "George Washington,"
talked with indieWIRE about his favorite movie of the festival, Stephen
Daldry
's "Billy Elliott." Green explained that he has seen the movie twice
and highly recommends it.






Sundance's Geoff Gilmore (left) with Julian Schnabel at the "Before Night Falls" party.

Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

"Before Night Falls" has had a good fall fest run so far, since being nabbed
by Fine Line in Venice, it has attracted considerable interest and some
solid reviews. Considering the movie for indieWIRE earlier this week during
the Venice Festival, writer Andy Bailey singled out Javier Bardem's
performance as Reinaldo Arenas, a role that has already been honored by the
Venice Festival. "Javier Bardem's breakout central performance as Arenas
lends 'Before Night Falls' its riveting drive," Bailey wrote in his indieWIRE
review. "The role should earn accolades for the young Spanish heartthrob not
just on the Lido, but around the world. Even above Schnabel, Bardem emerges
as the film's triumphant saving grace. "


Schnabel and company are heading to Manhattan next for the New York Film
Festival
.


As the Schnabel gathering began to wind down a bit, many made the short walk
around the corner to what promised to be a unique event -- the party for
Bryan Johnson's "Vulgar." The hard to get invite was in the form of a button that read "Vulgar Party 2000" -- below the picture of a festive-looking
clown with a five o'clock shadow, read "I'm invited, let me the fuck in!"

Film producer Kevin Smith, here with View Askew partner and "Vulgar"
co-producer Scott Mosier, greeted guests as they entered -- his wife Jen
organized the effort and good friend Malcolm was on door duty checking the
buttons of arrivals. Inside, hostesses dressed as sad clowns passed out
candy and eery clown faces hung from the walls.






"Vulgar" director Bryan Johnson with Jennifer Smith

Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

"Vulgar," the story of a struggling professional clown who reinvents himself
as "Vulgar," a transvestite clown, grew out conversations that filmmaker
Johnson had with Smith and their friend Walter at the famed Quick Stop in
New Jersey, Johnson told indieWIRE. Johnson, a native of Highlands, NJ,
became friends with Smith back in High School.


The shock of "Vulgar" apparently intensifies in a particular scene when
Vulgar has his first gig as the transvestite clown, surprising a group of
bachelor party attendees expecting a female stripper. "Indeed, it may be one
of the most shocking, extended and depraved film sequences in recent
memory," wrote Festival programmer Steve Gravestock in the catalog.







"American Movie" subject Mark Borchardt at the "Vulgar" party.

Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

The shock value was met with walk-outs at the film's screening Monday night
and at yesterday's Industry/Press screening. At the party yesteday, a rep
from a high-profile Festival told of his decision to leave the movie early
on, along with a top programmer from the same event. Reacting to the early
exits at last night's party, Johnson wore the walk-outs as a badge of honor,
seemingly pleased at making an impact and to have stirred cocktail
conversation.


The "Vulgar" party continued until well past 2 a.m. when some attendees headed
over to the Festival's late-night haunt, Bistro 990. The crowd at Bistro
was large as ever with a crowd outside waiting to get past the sometimes
selective doormen. Inside, the place remained crowded even after the 4 a.m.
closing bell. As the Festival hit a stride at its midpoint it was a
culmination for some, as many executives and Hollywood types prepare to head
home. indieWIRE, of course, will remain on the scene until the very end.
[Eugene Hernandez]

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