DAILY NEWS: "Movie Star" Auction Site Stopped; NYFA Salutes Kopple and
by Eugene Hernandez and Andrea Meyer/indieWIRE
>>"Who Wants to Be A Movie Star?" Online Auction Halted After Labor Code Violations; Yahoo! and Film Producers to Unveil New Auction Today
(indieWIRE/6.29.00) -- A Yahoo! Internet auction designed to secure cast
and crew for a new feature film will be shut down today, just days after
the site launched, because the dotcom was in violation of California
labor laws. indieWIRE has learned that the site auction will end today and will relaunch as a new auction with a new set of rules and an
entirely new structure.
A call from the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday tipped off California state
officials to the illegal auction being conducted on the newly-launched
"Who Wants to Be A Movie Star" website (www.whowantstobeamoviestar.com).
Shortly after the site's debut at a press conference in Los Angeles,
the trade publication contacted California's state labor commission
asking about the legality of auctioning movie roles and jobs on a feature
film production. The Commission immediately investigated the site and
concluded that it was in violation of the California Labor Code.
Dean Fryer, Spokesman for the California State Labor Commissioner, told
indieWIRE yesterday that they determined that the site auction, conducted
on Yahoo!'s auction site, was in violation of California Labor Code
section 450. The code states that "no employer, or agent or officer
thereof," can require payment from anyone applying for employment --
the "Who Wants to Be A Movie Star?" site clearly indicated that winning
bidders are employees of the film production.
The California Labor Code "is crystal clear that no job applicant can
be asked to pay money in order to get a job," Labor Commission Counsel
Miles Locker told The Hollywood Reporter. "It is unlawful to charge
anyone for employment, and anyone who does that is committing a
misdemeanor under the state Labor Code. And that would go to whether
it is an acting job, a production-assistant job or, for that matter,
Unveiled Tuesday morning at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills,
producer Dan Hassid, director Tony Markes and writer Adam Rifkin, joined
by representatives from Yahoo! and Blockbuster among others, announced
that "Who Wants to Be A Movie Star?" would solicit bids online for key
roles and jobs on a new feature film. The movie would be guaranteed
distribution through Blockbuster Video and William Morris' Cassian Elwes
signed on to handle theatrical sales once the movie was complete.
Labor Commissioner Spokesman Fryer told indieWIRE that the producers
attorney assured the Commission's Counsel that they would take down
the auction and discontinue accepting bids to comply with the California
Under the agreement with Commission Counsel Miles Locker -- according to
a statement released late last night on behalf of the producers, Yahoo!
and others involved with the project -- auction participants will instead have the opportunity to bid on "sponsorships of the film itself," with "winning sponsors
entitled to a credit and the right to select the film participants."
Reached for comment late yesterday, a Yahoo! spokesperson
indicated that the auction site, while not being discontinued entirely,
would indeed be halted today and reset with new rules. The
spokesperson indicated that an email message will be sent to all
bidders today informing them of the rule change and notifying them
of the new auction.
In light of speculation that the auction was conceived as a way to raise
financing for the film, last night's group statement added, "The project
has already obtained from its sponsors the commitments for the production
and marketing funds necessary for the film project.
"Closing bids" for the soon to be erased online auction remained visible
on the "Movie Star" site late last night with the "Fifth Lead Actor Role"
fetching a $5,020 price tag and the job of Production Assistant available
at cost of $355.00. [Eugene Hernandez]
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>> NYFA Awards Kopple and Nevins as Champions of the Arts
(indieWIRE/6.29.00) -- While New Yorkers were sweating impatiently in Bryant Park waiting for George Sidney's "Pal Joey" to screen as part of the annual HBO-sponsored summer film festival on Monday night, the director and other honored guests sipped champagne and crunched crudites at the snazzy Bryant Park Grill nearby. The occasion was the Champions of the Arts Awards Benefit 2000, hosted by esteemed creative development and funding organization, the New York Foundation for the Arts. This year's recipients were Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and HBO's Reality Programming, represented by Sheila Nevins, Executive Vice President of Original Programming.
Kopple's award was presented by Emmy and Academy Award-winning actress and filmmaker Lee Grant, and Nevins' by Dan Keplinger, the writer and subject of "King Gimp," the winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary Short about an artist with cerebral palsy. Not quite as ecstatic as he was at the Academy, but equally impassioned, with co-director Susan Hannah Hadary interpreting, Keplinger said, "Every once in awhile a light shines on invisible people, and this light can be a song, a film, a painting... And for that moment, the invisible becomes a reality. With the extra power of documentary filmmaking, HBO's Sheila Nevins made us a reality. She even made the gimps a reality."
Also on hand at the ceremony were Honorary Co-Chairs actress Parker Posey and "Boys Don't Cry" director Kimberly Peirce, who told indieWIRE that NYFA helped finance her critically-praised first feature -- but wouldn't be helping her with her next. Her long-in-negotiations studio deal will be announced shortly, she said, where she will retain final cut and she maintained, "I won't forget my audiences." [Andrea Meyer]