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June 11, 2002 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS: WGA Unveils Low-Budget Agreement, Box Office News, Newport Closes and Student Academy Aw

DAILY NEWS: WGA Unveils Low-Budget Agreement, Box Office News, Newport Closes and Student Academy Award Winners



by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE with an article by Karl Beck



>> WGA Unveils Low-Budget Agreement Allowing Compensation Deferral

(indieWIRE: 06.11.02) -- The east and west coast offices of the Writers
Guild of America
(the WGAE and WGAw) are targeting independent filmmakers,
with yesterday's announcement unveiling low-budget agreements that, in the
words of the release, allow "writers to defer initial payment for scripts
and the first rewrite." The agreement is designed, according to the
announcement, to "promote production of low-budget independent films
while assuring basic economic and creative protections for writers."


Under the essential terms of this new agreement, writers can defer their
payment for the purchase of the script as well as the first rewrite of the
screenplay. The agreement does not cover additional development of the work
and is only for movies budgeted under $750,000. The writer may only request
the agreement, not the producer, according to the WGA. Scripts covered by the
agreement may not be rewritten without the writer's permission and writers of
material that is adapted from another source may maintain the right to take
the first rewrite.


Among the benefits of working with the Guild are contract protections
including residuals. Additionally, the writer will maintain the right to the
work if the movie has not been produced within 18 months. According to the
Guild, movies produced under the agreement will be eligible for the Writers
Guild Award
.


The new pact is seen as a positive step for writers, rather than producers. It
will essentially allow Guild authors the opportunity to initiate smaller,
personal projects on terms that are on better financial terms for the producer.
With so many Guild members pursuing low-budget work, according to one producer,
this makes it easier for the WGA to handle the projects.


"This is an era when, due to the vertical integration of companies, the
opportunities for both guild members and non-members to sell their work are
severely challenged," commented Victoria Riskin, WGAw President, in a
prepared statement. "We also recognize that many writers prefer to see their
work produced independently without the constraints of the studio development
process -- this agreement affords writers the opportunity to see their work
produced in the low-budget, independent arena while assuring the protections
of the Guilds' contract."


Under the existing basic agreement of the Guild, minimum compensation of
$33,729 is required for a script, when the film's budget is $5 million or
less. Both the DGA and SAG have existing low-budget agreements. Previous requests for the deferral of compensation were handled by the WGA on a
case-by-case basis. [Eugene Hernandez]


[For more information, visit: http://wga.org.]



>> Fast Start for "Atanarjuat" in New York City Debut

(indieWIRE: 06.11.02) -- Lot 47 Films' "The Fast Runner" (Atanarjuat) got
off to a quick start at the weekend box office. The Cannes 2001 Camera
d'Or
winner earned a total of $36,342 on only two screens in New York City.
The three-hour foreign language picture opened at the Lincoln Plaza and the
new Landmark Sunshine Theater downtown, where it topped specialty releases this weekend and sold out a number of screenings. "The Fast Runner" will expand to
six screens this weeked when it opens in four venues in Los Angeles, typically
a tough town for foreign films.


IFC Films' expanded "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to 443 screens over the weekend, from 236. The movie earned more than $1.6 million at the box office, for a per
screen of $3,811 and a cumulative total of $11,002,602. The company's release
of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" continued to slow down, earning $269,611 over the
weekend for a total of $12,031,045 so far.


Magnolia's "Late Marriage" earned $80,102 on 20 screens this weekend. The film had a per screen average of $4,000 on screens in New York, Los Angeles, Boston,
Chicago and Seattle. This weekend, "Late Marriage" expands to Dallas, Denver,
San Francisco and Philadelphia. The movie has earned $288,538 since its May 17th
opening. [Eugene Hernandez]



>> 5th Newport Fest Closes with "Fast Runner" Among the Honored


(indieWIRE: 06.11.02) -- The fifth annual Newport International Film
Festival
came to a close Saturday at the Newport Art Museum with Zacharias Kunuk's Cannes Camera d'Or-winning "Fast Runner" (Atanarjuat) taking the Joe Jarvis Audience Choice Award for best feature, announced festival directors Chris Schomer and Nancy Donahoe. The first all-Inuit feature is based on an ancient story of the indigenous people of Canada's Arctic region. Also scoring in Newport were director Mike Gordon's "Rising Low," a tribute to the late Government Mule bassist Allen Woody, and Matthew Ginsburg's "Uncle Frank," about a dynamic 80-year-old ladies man and self-taught musician. Both tied for the Joe Jarvis Audience Choice Award for best documentary. Additionally, "No Dumb Questions" took the Lucy Audience Choice Award for best short. The 24-minute film by Melissa Regan focuses on three young sisters coming to terms with an uncle who is undergoing a sex-change
operation.


Also taking home prizes: Iranian director Babak Payami's comedy "Secret Ballot," which centers around a soldier who accompanies a female pollster as she travels through rural areas encouraging votes; Magnolia Pictures' upcoming thriller "Read My Lips" (Sur mes levres), about a deaf secretary and an ex-con who uses her to commit crime, which took best director honors for helmer Jacques Audiard; and "Nothing So Strange," which received the New York Times Clairborne Pell Award for Original Vision. The film, by director/producer/playwright Brian Flemming, "documents" an alternative reality in which Bill Gates is assassinated and a group of independent investigators search for answers.


"We were extremely pleased to present such a wonderful collection of
narrative features, documentaries, and shorts in competition this year,"
commented Schomer in a festival release. "There was an extraordinary amount
of talent and creativity represented in these outstanding films." [Brian
Brooks]


>> Student Oscar Winners Announced


(indieWIRE: 06.11.02) -- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
announced the winners in its 29th annual Student Academy Awards competition.
Gold winners received a cash prize of $5,000, Silver winners received $3,000,
and Bronze winners received $2,000. Awards were presented by Academy Award-
winning documentary filmmaker Freida Lee Mock, Oscar-nominated screenwriter
Alexander Payne, and Actors Branch member Michael McKean.


In the alternative category, Kazuo Ohno's "For Our Man" (Columbia) received
the Gold Medal. The Silver Medal went to Soopum Sohn's "Island to Island" (NYU).


Documentary category winners were: Pin Pin Tan's "Moving House" (Northwestern) taking Gold. Eva Saks' "Family Values" (NYU) taking Silver and Thomas Burn's "Revolutions Per Minute" (Stanford) receiving the Bronze medal.


Narrative category winners were: Jessica Sharzer's "The Wormhole" (NYU) taking
Gold. Grace Lee's "Barrier Device" (UCLA) taking Silver and Helen Haeyoung
Lee's "Sophie" (University of Texas, Austin) receiving the Bronze.


Animation category winners were: Don Phillips Jr.'s "Passing Moments"
(Ringling School of Art and Design) taking Gold. Jen Sachs' "The Velvet
Tigress
" (California Institute of the Arts) taking Silver and Dan Blank's
"Shadowplay" receiving the Bronze.


"Feeding Desire" by Martin Strange-Hansen (National Film School of Denmark,
Copenhagen) received the Honorary Foreign Film prize. Strange-Hansen received
a $1,000 cash grant and is the third student from the National Film School of
Denmark to win the award. [Karl Beck]


>> MONDAY IN indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Festival Anniversaries. Asian American International and Outfest Unveil Plans


(indieWIRE: 06.10.02) -- The feature film line-up for the 25th Asian American
International Film Festival has been announced with more than 25 films
screening at the event, which runs July 19-27; And, Outfest, Los Angeles' Gay
and Lesbian Film Festival, will celebrate its 20th anniversary next month
(July 11 - 22) with a record 241 films and videos from 30 countries."


READ THE FULL STORIES @ indieWIRE.com

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