DAILY NEWS UPDATE: Good-bye Good Machine: Sundance Channel and Lot 47 Pact, Lake Placid Film Forum Plans and Chicago Latino Fest Winners
with articles by Eugene Hernandez, Matthew Ross and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
>> Good Bye Good Machine; Indie Production Company Acquired by Universal, Merged
with USA Films
(indieWIRE: 05.03.02) -- Universal Studios has acquired New York film
company Good Machine and merged it with its USA Films division. The new company, to be renamed Focus, will be headed by former Good Machine
principals James Schamus and David Linde. The two will report to Universal Pictures chairman Stacy Snider.
Ted Hope, Good Machine's third principal, is leaving his management position
and has signed a three-year, first-look deal to produce feature films that
will be distributed by Focus. Current USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein
will "step down to pursue other opportunities" and will not be part of the
new entity, according to the announcement.
The deal is the latest major step in Universal's aggressive move into the
specialty film world with the intent of unifying its assets under one
banner. Universal purchased USA Films in December, creating Vivendi
Universal Entertainment, and in March folded distribution shingle Universal
Focus, which released last year's "Mulholland Drive."
The merger essentially brings together two companies (Good Machine and
October Films) who in their initial incarnations helped define New York's
independent film scene. Formed in the early 90's like October, Good Machine
has produced and handled sales for over 100 feature and short films,
tallying a combined 25 Oscar nominations, 20 Golden Globe nominations, 21 Sundance Film Festival entries (including four grand jury prize winners),
which have earned a combined worldwide box office in excess of $400 million.
Recent productions include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the 2000 smash
hit released by Sony Pictures Classics that grossed over $128 million
domestically, as well as Todd Field's award-winning sleeper hit "In the
Bedroom," which was an Oscar nominee for Miramax this year.
USA Films, which unlike Good Machine also distributes films, was founded as
October Films by Bingham Ray (currently president of United Artists) and
Jeff Lipsky (currently president of Lot 47 Films). Universal bought a
majority stake in October in 1997, then sold its shares to Barry Diller in
1999, who renamed the company USA Films and merged it with Gramercy and
other assets. Universal then bought USA back from Diller last year. Recent
releases include Stephen Soderbergh's "Traffic," the Coen brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There," and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park."
Along with its in-house projects, Good Machine has actively entered into a
number of high-profile co-productions with many of the indie world's top
production houses, including Killer Films ("Storytelling," Happiness") and GreeneStreet Films ("In the Bedroom"). It is currently in-production on Ang Lee's "The Hulk," which was co-written by James Schamus and will be distributed next year by Universal.
The move also brings together the Good Machine International sales division
with Vivendi Universal's StudioCanal. According to the announcement,
StudioCanal U.S. co-president Stephane Sperry will serve as liason between
the two companies and will report to Linde and Schamus. [Matthew Ross]
[indieWIRE will publish more on this story as it develops, at indieWIRE.com
and in the indieWIRE: DAILY.]
>> Sundance Channel Signs Six Picture Deal With Lot 47
(indieWIRE: 05.03.02) -- Indie distributor Lot 47 may be in the midst of
personnel changes, but the company keeps on making deals. The Sundance
Channel has secured the U.S. pay TV rights to six recent Lot 47 films,
including "L.I.E.," director Michael Cuesta's award-winning debut from 2001. Larry Greenberg, director of acquisitions for Sundance Channel and Showtime Networks, negotiated the agreement with Lot 47 president Jeff Lipsky.
Other films in the package include: Billy Morrisette's "Scotland, PA"; Im
Kwon Taek's "Chunhyang"; Stavros Kazantzidis' "Russian Doll"; Gary Burn's "waydowntown"; and Laurent Firode's "Happenstance."
"L.I.E." will be the first Lot 47 film to unspool on the pay television
service in June as part of Out Loud, Sundance Channel's annual
celebration of gay pride month. Airdates for the other films have not been
determined. [Matthew Ross]
>> Lake Placid Reveals the Names Taking Part in its Forums and Films
(indieWIRE: 05.03.02) -- One of the most unique regional festivals in the
U.S., the Lake Placid Film Forum, has announced programs, films and events
for this year's third edition which will be held in the famed Olympic resort
town June 5-9. This year, the event continues its trademark forums, which
bring together the public with industry notables to discuss issues of
significant importance to film. Participants in the intimate panel
discussions last year included writer John Irving ("Cider House Rules"),
Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry"), as well as Whit Stillman ("Metropolitan"), and this year is no exception with additional heavy-hitters heading upstate. Planned topics this year include "Seriously Funny: Using Comedy as a Means of
Social Commentary," moderated by New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell with panelists Tim Herlihy ("Little Nicky"), John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), director Susan Seidelman ("Gaudi Afternoon") and director Joan Micklin Silver.
Film Forum co-founder, author Russell Banks will moderate "The Global Impact
of Hollywood: What Are Our Movies Saying About Us?" with actor Neal Gabler,
"Monsoon Wedding" director Mira Nair, "Lumumba" director Raoul Peck, and "Last Temptation of Christ" screenplay writer Paul Schrader. Other forums include "Reel Heroes: Comic Books to Film" and "Staying Independent in an AOL, Time Warner McWorld" with Ira Deutchman, Ruth Charny, Ray Silver, Campbell Scott, and Lloyd Kaufman. The fest has also planned more informal discussions with its roundtables exploring topics such as "Agents and Lawyers" and "It's Comedy That's Hard" as well as the universal challenge of distribution with Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker
moderating. indieWIRE editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez will moderate the
discussion "Are Critics an Endangered Species?" with critics Thelma Adams, Karen Durbin, Elvis Mitchell, and Rex Reed.
The Lake Placid Film Forum's guest of honor this year is director, writer,
actor, editor, and producer John Sayles ("Lone Star"). His latest film,
"Sunshine State," starring Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, and Timothy Hutton will screen followed by a discussion with Hutton, Sayles, producer Maggie Renzi, and long-time Sayles collaborator, composer Mason Daring.
Stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen will also be spotlighted at the
festival for his pioneering efforts in the craft with a screening of his
celebrated work, "Jason and the Argonauts" followed by a discussion with
Harryhausen moderated by "Devil's Backbone" director Guillermo Del Toro. Actress Kyra Sedgwick will also be in Lake Placid as the third special guest
and will participate in the "Spotlight on Women in Film"; she also co-stars
in the Forum film, "Door to Door."
The Forum will present a slate of U.S. and international features,
Documentaries, and shorts including premieres. Opening the event is Zacharias
Kunuk's Toronto hit "Atanarjuat" (The Fast Runner). Other favorites screening
include Alex and Andrew Smith's "The Slaughter Rule," Gary Winick's "Tadpole," Finn Taylor's "Cherish," and Przemyslaw Reut's "Paradox Lake." Documentary films include "Into the Night: The Benny Mardones Story" by Greg Ross and "September 11: Response" by Ruth Sergal. Additional Forum highlights include
workshops for students as well as a series of master classes exploring varied
aspects of filmmaking. The Lake Placid Film Forum was founded by artist and
Executive Director Naj Wikoff, film critic and Artistic Director Kathleen
Carroll and novelist and artistic advisor Russell Banks. [Brian Brooks]
>> "Doce Horas" Captures Top Honors At Chicago Latino Fest
(indieWIRE: 05.03.02) -- Puerto Rican film "Doce Horas" (12 Hours) claimed the
audience choice award at the 18th Chicago Latino Film Festival. Raul Marchand Sanchez's dark comedy set in San Juan was originally shot on digital video and then transferred it to 35mm. "Doce Horas," the director's first feature,
explores five parallel and interlaced stories set in the same 12-hour period.
"En la puta vida" (Tricky Life) from Uruguay captured second place, and
"Lieber Fidel Maritas Geschichte" (Dear Fidel Marita's Story) from
Germany/Cuba came in third place. The Festival ran April 5-17, and 70
feature films were screened for nearly 30,000 moviegoers. [Wendy Mitchell]
>> YESTERDAY IN indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Lipsky Leaves Lot 47; Student Academy Award Finalists; Slamdunk Sets Cannes Screenings and Wellspring Promotion
(indieWIRE: 05.02.02) -- Mark Lipsky is leaving Lot 47 Films, the company
he led with his brothers Jeff and Scott; Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences' Student Academy Awards has selected five student films as
finalists in the foreign film category; The Slamdunk Film Festival has
set a lineup of six feature films for its fifth annual screening series
in Cannes; And, Wellspring Media has named Marie Therese Guirgis its
Senior Director of Acquisitions.