Deals for "What Alice Found" and "Leigh Bowery," Decena Talks "Dopamine," NYFF Party Reports and More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Publicist Paul Marotta is leaving HBO to join the PR department at Lincoln Center, where he will work on the Mostly Mozart Festival and the Great Performers series
San Rafael, Calif.-based Century Theatres has promoted David Shesgreen to President and COO, he had been COO. Raymond W. Syufy will become the Chairman and CEO and his brother Joseph Syufy will continue to serve as vice chairman and CEO. Victor Castillo has been promoted to chief development officer and senior VP.
DEALS FOR "ALICE" & "LEIGH": Castle Hill Productions and Dream LLC have acquired the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian rights to A. Dean Bell's, "What Alice Found," which premiered at Sundance 2003. The companies will jointly release the film in the U.S. starting on December 5. "Alice," about a teenage girl who finds a shady surrogate family while she's on a road trip, won a jury prize at Sundance and also the grand prize at the 2003 Deauville Film Festival.
In a separate deal, Palm Pictures and Arthouse Films have acquired the worldwide distribution rights to Charles Atlas' "The Legend of Leigh Bowery." The company will release the film on November 21 at New York's Cinema Village and a DVD and home video release will follow in 2004. The documentary looks at the life of Bowery, who was a fixture on the '80s gay club scene as a fashion designer, art-world muse and "general provocateur." Bowery is a character in Rosie O'Donnell's Broadway show "Taboo," which stars Boy George, who is among the notables interviewed in the documentary.
SUNDANCING WITH "DOPAMINE": Marc Decena's debut feature film, "Dopamine" (hitting theaters today) is so tied to the Sundance Institute that you might expect it to be set in Park City, Utah. (It's not, it's a quirky love story set in San Francisco after the dot-com bust). "Dopamine" has the distinction of being the first film to pass through all the phases of the Sundance system -- from labs to a festival premiere to now joining the Sundance Film Series). After showing his shorts at the Sundance festival earlier in the '90s, Decena in 1998 attended the Institute's screenwriters and filmmakers labs. He tells indieWIRE that it was a formative experience: "One of the things [co-writer Tim Breitbach and I] quickly learned was that you have to write this story because you need to; it has to come from something deeper." After taking advice from the likes of Peter Hedges ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape") and Stuart Stern ("Rebel Without a Cause"), Breitbach and Decena worked on the script for another three and a half years.
When "Dopamine" went into production (with a budget of just under $1 million), there was still a Sundance angle. "They helped us find casting directors, hooked us up with people, and as a first-time filmmaker you need all the help you can get," Decena says. His DP from the Labs, Rob Humphreys, came on board. Once the film was finished, they submitted to the Sundance festival, and were accepted to play at the 2003 fest. After initial screenings, the filmmakers had interest from several distributors, but Sundance's newly created Film Series won out. "It was an emotional thing for us as much as business," Decena says. One deciding factor in going with Sundance was the guaranteed opening in 10 cities through its partnership with Loews. "Also, we figured, people know that brand, if it's a Sundance film they might take more notice of it, he says. "Through the partnership with Loews, [Sundance founder Robert] Redford was on that series trailer forever, and now [audiences] are seeing the 'Dopamine' trailer, which I never could have hoped for on a limited release." The final pieces of "Dopamine"'s Sundance deal will be complete with an airing on the Sundance Channel and also a Sundance DVD release probably in 2004.
PARTYING AT THE NYFF: BUZZ was of course making the scene at the big gala for the New York Film Festival opening night last Friday. Tavern on the Green was looking splendidly tacky indoors, and quite lovely outdoors (thanks to the Chinese lanterns), and luckily we only saw one mouse running around on that bright carpet. The A-listers mostly kept to themselves (although we did spot Clint Eastwood and a stunning Laura Linney through the windows). Evidently, Mr. Eastwood was joined at his table by Sean Penn and Gael Garcia Bernal, pulling together three generations of sex symbols. BUZZ herself was flattered when a society columnist came up to snap our picture (that's what wearing blue sequins will do for you). The official soiree ended with drunken digital photo ops around the grand piano, open bars being shut off far too quickly, and that obscenely drunk guy falling out of his chair on the patio and then yelling something about his penis. It was clearly time to get out of Central Park. The cool kids headed downtown to Village on Ninth Street, where the party continued with spilled drinks, lost articles of clothing, and narcolepsy fits.
The other big NYFF party this week was the Wednesday night soiree for Sony Pictures Classics' gritty Scottish flick "Young Adam." BUZZ didn't make it to the event, but one of our party-going pals, going by the pseudonym Deep Liver, sent us a report that the "food was off the hook yummy" and the locale, brand new soon-to-be hotspot Viscaya, did a fabulous job of hosting its first big bash. DL tells us that attendees included the film's star Tilda Swinton (hotty co-star Ewan McGregor had to run off to an evening film shoot); David Byrne, who composed music for "Young Adam," actors Alan Cumming, Rosie Perez, and Kerry Washington, writer Hilton Als, and Sony Classics' co-head Tom Bernard.
PUBLICIST TURNED FILMMAKER: Reid Rosefelt, one of the leading PR guys in independent film, recently got behind the camera to direct his first film. "Tiger: His Fall & Rise" stars Thomas Jay Ryan and Adrienne Shelly in a noir comedy set in the 1940s. Rosefelt says that in the short, "Ryan plays a promoter who pushes the career of a singing rubber frog named Tiger. Despite the fact that the frog only knows one song, he becomes a huge singing sensation. But then he becomes a very, very bad frog." The director is currently in post-production and will host a wrap party for the movie on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at hotspot Plaid in downtown Manhattan. "I have tried to bring together the three vital ingredients of entertainment with 'Tiger'," Rosefelt said, "Which are: scantily-clad women, whacking someone over the head with a large mallet, and of course, singing rubber frogs."
WEDDING BELLS: Congrats to Jessica Haines, a publicist at Jeremy Walker + Associates, who got married last weekend to lawyer Matthew Grant. Best wishes to the happy couple!
SPIDER WINS: The Directors Guild of Canada Awards were announced on Saturday in Toronto, with top honors going to David Cronenberg's "Spider." That film won the team award for outstanding achievement in a feature film and also the craft award for feature film direction.
TIME FOR "TYING": "Tying the Knot," the gay marriage doc from director Jim DeSeve, is holding a fundraiser in New York on the evening of October 16. The film has been supported by organizations including The Human Rights Campaign Fund, PFLAG, GLAD, Lambda Legal, and individuals including Yoko Ono. For details on the event or the film, which is currently in post-production, visit http://www.1049films.com
CENTRAL WINNERS: The Central Standard Film Festival, which wrapped in Minneapolis on September 21, announced its audience award winners. They are John O'Brien for "Nosey Parker" (Kodak narrative feature award) and Jamie A. Lee and Dawn Mikkelson for "This Obedience" (documentary feature award).
[Eugene Hernandez contributed to this report.]