Day One in Toronto: Antidote Tackling Shakespeare & JT Leroy; InDigEnt & Wenders Partner, and the "Man on the Street"
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks
It's the first Friday of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival and as the market side of the event kicks off in earnest today there's already industry news to report. Active producers and company execs who are here in town for the festival often try to capitalize on the heightened industry awareness of a festival market as a time to unveil new projects or initiatives. Such is the case this morning.
Producers Jeff Levy-Hinte and Mary Jane Skalski of Antidote Films are kicking off their Toronto networking with the announcement of two new projects on their slate. "Secretary" director Steve Shainberg is pursuing an adaptation of JT Leroy's "Sarah" (written by Jeffrey Hatcher), while "Love Liza" director Todd Louiso is set to direct a version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" with Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is being co-adapted by Louiso and Jacob Koskoff.
Levy-Hinte founded Antidote in 2000 and the following year brought in former Good Machine producer Skalski. This year they hit success with "Thirteen," which was acquired at Sundance and recently released in theaters by Fox Searchlight, and also saw Lisa Cholodenko's "Laurel Canyon," released. A feather in Skalski's cap this year has also been Tom McCarthy's "The Station Agent," which she produced with hot NYC production company SenArt. The movie is screening here in Toronto.
For Levy-Hinte, attending a world-class festival like Toronto, with its international film industry attendees, offers a number of upsides. As he explained in a conversation with indieWIRE, he and Skalski benefit from seeing "where the art form is and how is it progressing" while at the same time "intelligence gathering" about who's making what and with whom and also "solidifying relationships" within the typically tight-knit movie business circles at daily breakfast and lunch meetings.
Levy-Hinte and Skalski told indieWIRE that they are pursuing different paths for each of their new projects. With "Macbeth" they are still looking to secure key cast and planning to build other attachments from there. While in the case of "Sarah," the pair see an opportunity to make a deal with a domestic distributor.
Antidote's other projects are Gregg Araki's upcoming "Mysterious Skin," which recently wrapped principal photography. Projects in development include "Trans" director Julian Goldberger's "The Hawk is Dying," Lisa Cholodenko's "Inland Empire," Larry Fessenden's "The Last Winter," and Jem Cohen's "Chain."
INDIGENT PARTNERS WITH WENDERS
Another group of prolific New York City producers, InDigEnt from IFC Productions, Gary Winick, and John Sloss, are announcing their 12th digital feature film. The latest movie will be a new project by Wim Wenders. The announcement marks the initiative's first partnership with a non-U.S.-based filmmaker. It will be co-financed by IFC with Wenders' and partner Peter Schwartzkopff's Reverse Angle International. Principal photography of the script, written by Wenders and Micahel Meredith, will begin in Los Angeles later this month.
"My partner Peter Schwartzkopff and I had a vision of a series of digitally-produced films that are low in cost but high in content and contemporary issues," said Wenders in a prepared statement. "In InDigEnt and IFC, we have found the perfect allies for that philosophy."
Other new InDigEnt projects include "Pieces of April," which is screening here in Toronto, as well as Alan Taylor's "Kill the Poor" and Greg Harrison's "November." The group is currently shooting Mark Christopher's "Pizza" in Massachusetts. Past projects include Campbell Scott's "Final," Ethan Hawke's "Chelsea Walls," Bruce Wagner's "Women in Film," Richard Linklater's "Tape," Rodrigo Garcia's "Ten Tiny Love Stories," Gary Winick's "Tadpole," and Rebecca Miller's "Personal Velocity."
THE MAN ON THE STREET
CNN reported on Wednesday, at least in the ticker that runs across the bottom of the screen, that huge crowds were scrambling for tickets to films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival with queues as long as four hours long. So Thursday afternoon, after arriving in town, indieWIRE decided to check out what some of those waiting to buy tickets were hoping to see on the screen this year. Well into the late afternoon, crowds still waited to make their purchases, although the lines at the College Park box office in the heart of Toronto were a much more acceptable length.
"I am waiting to buy tickets for the Brakhage films," said Toronto native Amy Miranda waiting in the meandering line outside the building housing the box office (a few of the late filmmaker Stan Brakhage's works are playing in the Wavelengths section). Miranda, who attended film school, went on to say she had first seen one of the Brakhage films unfinished as a student and now she wants to see the end result. Although she said she had heard a lot about the "Hollywood films" in the festival, she told indieWIRE that she liked to focus on the event's experimental offerings and the films in Perspective Canada.
Fellow Torontonian Natasha Blake was in line for tickets to "One Love" by Rick Elgood and Don Letts, part of the festival's Planet Africa section. While browsing the Toronto website she said she "was caught by the description [of the film], and it also fit in with the work schedule." She's hoping to “squeeze in” more films next week if she can find time. It is her first time to attend a screening at the Toronto fest, but she added that she has attended other film events including Hot Docs.
Also standing outside was Mary Jane Simon, another local, who already had quite a collection of tickets with her in a fat envelope, and she was about to buy more. "I go to the festival every year, last year I saw 15 films." Among her favorites last year included Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine." Simon commented that she tends to see films from certain directors or from certain countries, although she shied away from giving specifics. She said that she had hoped to see "Lost in Translation," by Sophia Coppola, but couldn't get tickets (a number of festival films are already marked as sold out with scribbles of red ink covering the listing on the big white board at the ticket office). Nevertheless, she said she was excited to see some docs this year, including Jose Padilha's "Bus 174" and Errol Morris' "The Fog of War."
Dan McCarthy, who recently moved back to Toronto after attending university in Montreal, flipped through the schedule while in line with his friend Josh Shultz. McCarthy promoted his friends' short "The School" by Matthew Miller and Ezra Krybus, which he was hoping to get tickets to at the festival, but he said he won't mind whatever tickets he ends up with.
"People take risks in filmmaking," said McCarthy, "and it's good to take risks in seeing them." Shultz concurred, adding, "A friend of mine wants to see films on Sunday, so I told her I'd see what I could get."