Defining Buzz -- "Blue," "Farm," "Kiss," and Others in the Acquisitions Spotlight
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
What is this thing called "buzz?" Everyone craves it when it is good, everyone denies it when it is bad, and at a festival like Toronto there are teams of people whose sole job is to create, monitor, and manage the buzz. Indie PR companies -- Clein + White, mPRm, DDA, Magic Lantern, and others -- have set up offices at the Four Seasons, while the IndieWood companies -- Miramax, Fine Line, October and Fox Searchlight among them -- are in suite space on the fourth floor of 101 Bloor St. West.
As the 1998 Toronto International Film Festival crosses the half way point, acquisitions buzz surrounds a handful of festival films. As was reported by indieWIRE yesterday, Tod Williams' "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" was the first Toronto film to sell, not surprising given the high distributor interest over the weekend. Late Sunday night as festival attendees fanned out across town at festival fetes, sources spoke of Paramount Classics' pact for "Cole" and by yesterday afternoon the pick-up was old news among informed industry-types. Yet even today -- without daily print trades here to share the news -- nearly 48 hours after the Paramount Classics/"Cole" buzz first began, some typically informed folks -- who are obviously not checking email -- had not heard yet the news. Also the subject of industry talk is Don McKellar's "Last Night." As reported in indieWIRE this morning, the film is in talks with October Films and a deal appears likely. Contacted for comment yesterday, an October spokesperson did not refute the buzz, but could not confirm a pact.
Generating significant legitimate buzz here since its weekend screening is Morgan J. Freeman's second film, "Desert Blue," which is being repped by Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson of WMA Independents. The movie, which stars Brendan Sexton III ("Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Hurricane Streets"), newcomer Kate Hudson (the upcoming "200 Cigarettes"), and Sara Gilbert (TV's "Roseanne") screened well on Saturday night. Distributor interest in the film was high given the fact that the no one had seen the movie before the festival, and undoubtedly as a result of the three award wins at Sundance '97 for Freeman's first film, "Hurricane Streets." The movie was financed by Ignite Entertainment and produced by Andrea Sperling, along with Co-Producer Gill Holland. Representatives from all the major (and some minor) distributors were in the audience for the screening, including Miramax's Jason Blum, Amy Israel and Robert Kessel, Fine Line's Rachael Horovitz, October's Bingham Ray and Peter Kalmbach, Sony Classic's Dylan Leiner, Lions Gate's Mark Urman, Strand's Marcus Hu, The Samuel Goldwyn Company's Jeff Lipsky, and Arrow's Guinevere von Ludwig. The Miramax team seemed especially attentive to the "Blue" crew in the lobby after the showing, and at the post-screening party a "Desert Blue" source confirmed that two distribution offers were already on the table. No deal has been announced yet , but last night another source indicated that a deal could come within the next day.
WMA Independents' Elwes and Ronson are also fielding offers for John Huddle's "At Satchem Farm," which stars Minnie Driver, Nigel Hawthorne, and Rufus Sewell. A source close to the movie indicated that a distribution deal may be near. WMA is also handling the highly anticipated "Judas Kiss," a first-time feature by Sebastian Gutierrez that premieres tomorrow night. Produced by Bandeira's Beau Flynn & Stefan Simchowitz, and stars Simon Baker-Denny, Gil Bellows, Carla Gugino, and Hal Holbrook. The film has garnered significant pre-festival press and has not yet screened for distributors, so industry turnout will be high. "Kiss" also stars Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman.
Similarly being positioned to sell here this week is Scott Ziehl's "Broken Vessels" which screens tonight, tomorrow night and Thursday. Winner of the top prize at the 1998 LAIFF, the movie is being handled by rep John Sloss and his team of Joy Newhouse and Micah Green. Highly anticipated is the new Bernardo Bertolucci film, "The Seige," which screened last night and this morning. All rights are available for the movie which screens again tomorrow. Also on the radar is Bruce Wagner's "I'm Losing You" from Lions Gate and Killer Films. Paramount Classics is rumored to be sniffing around the film according to a very informed soruce. The movie stars Gina Gershon, Andrew McCarthy, Rosanna Arquette, Frank Langella and Elizabeth Perkins. When asked about his company's interest yesterday, Paramount's David Dinerstein would not comment.
Finally, following a major break in yesterday's New York Times, David Riker's intimate black and white portrait of Latino immigrants living in New York City has become a hot topic of conversation. "The City" ("La Ciudad"), which was mostly financed by ITVS, packed its Saturday afternoon press/industry screening and since then buzz has been slowly building. In yesterday's Times, Bernard Weinraub gave the movie considerable ink adding to the interest in the movie, and in an article published by indieWIRE today, writer Stephen Garrett called the movie "disarmingly affecting." Garrett also singled out another black and white entry, Christopher Nolan's "Following." The film, which Garrett called a "major highlight" of "inspired drama," is on the market following a pact with Next Wave Films to provide finishing funds.
Meanwhile, recent acquisitions deals will undoubtedly add to general interest in two festival films. Trimark nabbed the rights to Larry Clark's "Another Day in Paradise" following its screening at the Venice Film Festival. The film screens here tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday. In addition, before the festival began Lions Gate acquired the rights to Jeremy Thomas' "All The Little Animals." The movie screens again on Saturday.