DAILY NEWS: Lions Gate Buying -- "Vulgar" & "Water" and more; Digital Coast Day 3 and More Toronto Parties
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE, with Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE, and a report from Kevin Dreyfuss in LA
>> TORONTO 2000 UPDATE: Lions Gate Strikes Again in Toronto, Nabbing "Vulgar"; Other Fest Films in LGF Sights; Lot 47 Weighing In with Deal of Its Own
(indieWIRE/ 9.15.00) -- Lions Gate Films (LGF) is at the center of biz talk
here today in Toronto as the Festival prepares to wrap up tomorrow. LGF
announced this afternoon that it has acquired Bryan Johnson's "Vulgar,"
confirming rumors that began circulating this morning. Additionally,
the company is at the center of speculation surrounding a number of other
titles. Meanwhile, Lot 47 has been the subject of buzz today surrounding
an expected deal announcement for Gary Burns' "waydowntown."
Johnson's "Vulgar," which polarized audiences and scared away most
distributors earlier this week, is executive produced by Kevin Smith and
Scott Mosier through their View Askew Productions. The company will
platform release the movie next summer, starting in New York, LA and
Smith's hometown of Red Bank, NJ. Lions Gate released Smith's "Dogma"
last year after it was abandoned by Miramax.
A number of other films are said to be in Lions Gate's sights here.
Screen Daily reported today that LGF is pursuing Michael Walker's
"Chasing Sleep" and George A. Romero's "Bruiser." A source close to
Walker's "Sleep" did not deny the deal, but a Lions Gate spokesperson
said that reports of LGF acqusitions, beyond those that have already
been announced, cannot be confirmed. Another rumor circulating in the
halls of biz central at the Park Hyatt here has LGF also pursuing
David Kane's well-regarded Festival-entry, "Born Romantic."
In other biz news, Lot 47 films is expected to announce a deal for Burns'
"waydowntown," a digitally shot feature set in the towers, malls and
interconnected walkways of Calgary, Canada. Burns is best known for his
1997 film, "Kitchen Party." The film, along with his 1996 effort "The
Suburbanators," premiered at past installments of the Toronto
International Film Festival. Sources close to the deal would not
confirm the pact for indieWIRE, but an announcement is said to be
in the works. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> TORONTO 2000: Lions Gate Grabs Bigelow's "Water"; Reportedly In Pursuit of Two Other Festival Films
(indieWIRE/ 9.15.00) -- News of the first domestic acquisition by a major
distributor here in Toronto came as many buyers and sellers, and some press,
began heading home. The business of the Festival is heating up with Lions
Gate Films at the center of the action. Lions Gate confirmed that it has
acquired the U.S. theatrical rights to Kathryn Bigelow's "Weight of the
Water," a world premiere that stars Sean Penn, Catherine McCormack,
Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Polley. An article in today's Screendaily added
that Lions Gate is also pursuing Michael Walker's "Chasing Sleep" and George A. Romero's "Bruiser."
"Weight of the Water," which did not receive widespread acclaim here, had
its industry/press screening on Friday and its Gala debut on Saturday. It
is described in a prepared statement as "a complex tale of desire gone awry,
juxtaposing two parallel storylines -- one set in the late 19th century, the
other in the present day."
"'The Weight of the Water' is Kathryn Bigelow's most innovative,
electrifying film to date. She is a cinematic trailblazer who has crafted
an ingenious rumination on the destructive effects of passion and jealousy,"
commented Lions Gate Co-President Mark Urman. Co-President Tom Ortenberg added in the prepared statement, "Kathryn's film is right in line with
Lions Gate's mandate for marketing and distributing cutting edge,
distinctive films from directors noted for their unique sensibilities."
>> DIGITAL COAST 2000: SAG, WGA and DGA Weigh In, RIAA Defends, and Exploring Animation Online
(indieWIRE/ 9.15.00) -- If the meaningless appearance of Shaquille O'Neal
yesterday was the nadir of this year's Digital Coast 2000 conference, then
today's final session may have been its highlight. It began with a morning
appearance by geeky, brilliant West Coast Web business guru Bill Gross of
Idealab. And it was capped by an afternoon chat with the Recording Industry
Association of America head Hilary Rosen, who was preceded by an actual bomb sweep of the auditorium by security forces apparently concerned about violence from Napster fans.
In a session featuring representatives from the WGA, DGA and SAG discussing their roles in the Internet, each union sounded calm, reasonable and
flexible regarding contracts for Internet work, and pooh-poohed the news
swirling about joint WGA-SAG strikes next year. But once the crowd got into
the mix, and former employees from DEN and POP.com got up to blame SAG, the WGA and the DGA for helping cause their downfall with expensive, inflexible
contracts, the Guild reps were knocked back on their heels. Still, while it
is easy to imagine that these Guild publicity flacks were painting a rosy
picture of their own efforts, it is hard to believe that the problems at DEN
and POP were anyone else's fault but the company's own. You had to take the
POP and DEN critics' intimations with a grain of salt when one of them also
let slip the dubious statement that they thought, "Judge Reinhold is a big
Next, a group of animation sites including Honkworm, Thrave, Stickyflicks, Dot Comix, and CampChaos presented some of their work. Dot Comix was a standout with their Doonesbury-inspired 3-D animated "Duke 2000" series. Honkworm's new series "Dog in a Box with Two Wheels" was a clever piece, and Honkworm CEO Johan Liedgren told IndieWIRE that several traditional media outlets were vying to buy up Internet and TV rights to the series. Claude Brooks, creator of the series "Forty and Shorty" on AtomFilms, was also on hand, but his work was the least well-received of the bunch. Close to his
own TV deal for the raunchy series, Brooks noted, "I'm not quite sure how
we're going to make this work for TV, but if they're paying, I'm taking."
Later in the day, representatives from Romp.com, Heavy.com, Icebox.com, Glasgow Phillips of CrapTV, and Tim Nye of the yet-to-launch AllTrue.com gathered to justify their recent crop of sometimes shocking comedy experiments. Most of the time was spent in arguments between Icebox's Gary Levin and Media Action Network for Asian Americans founder Guy Aoki over the Icebox show "Mr. Wong." Opinions split over whether the show is genuinely offensive, is so over-the-top it is really mocking racism, or both. Levin
seemed to stun the crowd when he told of a new show Icebox has in
development with comedian Al Franken, a Holocaust comedy called "Jokes from the Shoah Project."
The day closed with Rosen of the RIAA, who faced a polite but hostile
questioner in conference organizer Jason McCabe Calacanis and a skeptical
crowd. Rosen held her own, insisting there is no conspiracy in the music
industry to stamp out competition online. She also said focus group testing
shows that "most Napster users know they're getting a free ride, and most
know it's not going to last forever." She faced off with a Scour employee
in the audience, noting sardonically that she "was happy he still had a
job," but refusing to give any ground on the idea that the copyright law
makes no allowance for the ways in which Scour and Napster currently
operate. [Kevin Dreyfuss]
>> TORONTO 2000: On the Scene Again in Toronto
(indieWIRE/ 9.15.00) -- It was a mellower party-scene on Wednesday night
here in Toronto, with a number of events starting much later in the evening,
celebrating the screenings of a handful of well-regarded new films.
Over at Centro, a popular wine bar, Artisan celebrated the debut of Darren
Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream," screening in the Contemporary World
Cinema section. Aronofsky and producer Eric Watson were among the guests
along with film stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Christopher McDonald.
Leto, who lost 25 pounds to portray the role of Harry, a New York drug
dealer, clearly chose the role seeking a bit of a departure.
"This was a good role for me to challenge myself," Leto told indieWIRE. "I
definitely want to be a part of films that have something to say."
'Requiem' star, Jared Leto at Wednesday night's party
Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
For an actor who has had a chance to pursue a higher profile Hollywood
career, Leto remains determined to, in his words, " Take the road less
traveled." Recently Leto has appeared in Mary Harron's "American Psycho," as well as David Fincher's "Fight Club." The actor will again work with
Fincher on the director's new movie this fall.
Concurrently, two other parties honored a pair of well-received festival
debuts. Over at Cha Cha Cha on Duncan, attendees celebrated the gala
screening of music video director Jonathan Glazer's "Sexy Beast," a Fox
Searchlight release starring Ben Kingsley. Meanwhile, at Babalu in
Yorkville, guests partied for David Kane's "Born Romantic," a London
ensemble dramatic comedy starring Jane Horrocks, Olivia Williams and Craig Ferguson that has drawn considerable distributor interest.
The animated Olivier Assayas outside the Unifrance luncheon
Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
Thursday, as the weather turned cool, wet and windy, the Festival went into
the home stretch as many industry types began to wrap-up business. As a
gloomy downpour fell yesterday afternoon, Unifrance hosted a 3-hour buffet
lunch at the Prego della Piazza on Bloor, in honor of the festival's French
Writer/director Sophie Fillieres with sister actress Helene Fillieres
Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
Director Olivier Assayas, here with Cannes premiere "Les destinee
sentimentales," conducted impromptu interviews while actress Arsinee
Khanjian (wife of Atom Egoyan) held court amongst several friends and fans.
Writer-director Sophie Fillieres sipped wine with her sister-actress Helene
Fillieres ("Venus Beauty Institute"), one of the stars of her sharp
Rohmer-ish romance, "Aïe." One of the stronger entries in the Discovery
section, "Aïe" has an offer for U.S. distribution, according to the film's
sales agent at Celluloid Dreams, and hopes to close a deal soon. Also seen
milling at the event was young debuting director Anne-Sophie Birot, whose
"Girls Can't Swim," another Celluloid Dreams title, garnered interest from
at least one small U.S. distributor, and spirited gypsy-chronicler Tony
Gatlif, in Toronto with his latest, "Vengo."
Later yesterday, Palm Pictures and John Sloss hosted a pre-screening
cocktail party for John Luessenhop's "Lockdown." Hosted in a converted jail
at the Toronto Courthouse on Adelaide, the party welcomed the filmmaker,
actors and others. Produced by Palm, the distributor/production company,
and Sloss are pursuing a deal for the film, betting that it can reach a
larger audience outside the specialized circuit.
'Lockdown' director John Luessenhop with actors Richard T. Jones & Gabriel Casseus and friend
Photo by: Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
The picture is among a slate of movies that Sloss is handling along with his
new special projects director Matt Littin and consultant Micah Green (who
recently finished a full length CD of his own music which was produced by
Duncan Sheik). In addition to "Lockdown," the crew are in Toronto with, Mia
Trachinger's "Bunny," Denis Villenueve's "Maelstrom," Robert Lepage's "Possible Worlds," Leonard Farlinger's "The Perfect Son," Pierre-Paul Renders' "Thomas est amoureaux" ("Thomas in Love"), Bryan Johnson's "Vulgar," and Gary Burns' "waydowntown." The Sloss crowd expect to secure deals for a
few of their films before the Festival closes this weekend.
[Eugene Hernandez, with a report from Anthony Kaufman]