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DISPATCH FROM LA: The Three-Sides of the Visual Entertainment Coin -- Indies, Hollywood and the Next

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire March 28, 2000 at 2:0AM

DAILY NEWS: The Three-Sides of the Visual Entertainment Coin -- Indies, Hollywood and the Next Gen; or, On the Oscar Week Party Circuit
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DAILY NEWS: The Three-Sides of the Visual Entertainment Coin -- Indies, Hollywood and the Next Gen; or, On the Oscar Week Party Circuit



By Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE


>> The Three-Sides of the Visual Entertainment Coin -- Indies, Hollywood and the Next Gen; or, On the Oscar Week Party Circuit


(indieWIRE/3.28.2000) -- Convergence. The term has become the buzz word
that many in the visual entertainment business are striving for, sometimes
without even really understanding the concept. Only in Los Angeles during
Oscar week could a true convergence happen. Social convergence. Over the
past few days here in LA three worlds devoted to film & video entertainment
-- Hollywood, The Indies and The Next-Gen -- collided at parties around
town. What a fascinating moment it was to experience.



>>The Next-Gen


As the Yahoo! Internet Life Festival came to a close on Thursday night,
next-gen leader AtomFilms secured a legendary Hollywood haunt for their big
bash -- poolside at the famed Chateau Marmont and at an adjoining cottage
now legendary as the place where John Belushi died. Festival guests and
industry-types mingled, while POP.com folks -- representing Hollywood's
major entry into next-gen entertainment -- observed from the balcony of
their nearby cottage. Well represented at the event were filmmakers from
the Atom stable. Cocktail chatter quickly evolved into a discussion about
the prices that these new dotcom distributors are paying for shorts -- as an
example, one filmmaker recently faced a "bidding war" for a short that
offered $10,000 from a small web-based buyer, $2,000 from a leading next-gen
company and zero from a site that has not launched but is expected to be
BIG. The maker opted for the deal that gave no money, apparently hoping
that a career boost will come from a relationship with an expected major
player.


The story underscores the fact that for many makers the next-gen movement is
perceived as a new way to access the mainstream Hollywood movie business.
Fascinating, since many Hollywood types, fed up with existing entertainment
structures, are looking at next-gen as a possible way out. Critic Roger
Ebert
took the stage later that night to comment on the emergence of the new
online cinema, but many Festival attendees who chose the earlier Atom soiree
were left out in the cold at the closing night Festival event.
Hollywood-style, the would-be attendees were told, "We're booked to
capacity, the place is full," while in the same breath flacks unlocked the
velvet rope and welcomed large groups of folks.



>>The Indies


On Saturday, Hollywood industry types (agents, managers, execs and actors)
mingled with indies and nominees under a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.
The Independent Spirit Awards has morped from an event where LA gathers to
honor indies, into a party where Hollywood gathers to network and, in some
cases, honor itself for being so indie. No party or event, not even
Sundance, embodies the intensity of the Indiewood social scene better than
the Spirits. The place to be before the ceremony is inside the tent mingling
with attendees near the entrance as they step off the red carpet, while the
hot spot during the ceremony is outside near the bathrooms as players mingle
over cigarettes, sit at the oxygen bar, or schooze staffers at the Motorola
tent and score digital devices. For many, its less about the movies and
more about the scene -- mmmm Hollywood. "Look at this, this is insane," the
producer of one Spirit Award winner commented about the surroundings,
heading to the press tent after the win. "I wish our film sets were this
nice."


Some attendees grumbled that studio films "Election" and "The Straight
Story
," or Indiewood's "Being John Malkovich" stole the spotlight from the
small indie films, but with such an infusion of "independent spirit" into
the aforementioned -- not to mention "Boys Don't Cry" and "The Blair Witch Project" -- most were grateful that for one day a year, even Hollywood takes
a moment to acknowledge the accomplishments of indie-minded filmmakers
working in the mainstream or off-Hollywood worlds. The name-dropping and
card-swapping continued after the show as everyone headed over to Santa
Monica Airport's Barker Hangar
for Entertainment Weekly's post Spirits bash. A more intimate post-show fiesta was The Independent Film Channel's "Boys Don't Cry" bash at Shutters on the beach. On hand with Spirit Award winner
Chloe Sevigny, was filmmaker Harmony Korine." Even more interesting than Korine's new photo book on Macaulay Culkin is a project known as "Fight Harm," in which the filmmaker documents his own exploits trying to pick fights with people. Korine explained that the project is on a temporary
hiatus as he deals with legal challenges and recuperates after a filmed fight landed him in the hospital. Korine agrees that the project would make a fascinating website.



>>Hollywood


Oscar Night. The best way to watch is at a small viewing party with
participants willing to dish the dirt and compete vigourously for the Oscar
pool cash. Among the points of discussion: Trey Parker and Matt Stone's
dresses, Cher's outfit, the Atom Films commercials, the lengthy clip
montages, and the sexual orientation of almost every Oscar presenter and
winner. Major applause at this gathering when Almodovar won and confusion
when he spoke, silence as Warren Beatty got choked up, huge cheers for
Hilary Swank, and a round of "awwww" when her husband Chad Lowe cried on camera as she accepted her Oscar.


After party. The way to celebrate after a numerous hours of couch
commentary is to attend one of the swanky Oscar post-parties. The place to
be for the indie-minded was Pedro Almodovar's bash at The Factory, steps
from the overrun Vanity Fair fete. Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith huddled in the corner with Almodovar, his brother/producer Agustin Almodovar, and "All About My Mother" stars Penelope Cruz Marisa Paredes, and Celia Roth, while distributor Sony Pictures Classics' co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard worked the room, gladhanding well wishers. The Vice President of Spain even joined the festivities. The team from indie PR company Falco Ink hung out after a viewing party thrown by last year's Oscar screenwriting winner Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters"). Indie-rep Jeff Dowd worked the room, while IFC Films' Jonathan Sehring was smiling broadly nearby, clearly thrilled that Hilary Swank's win makes the IFC co-production an Oscar-winner. Tbe next-gen was also represented on Oscar Night, tied directly to an Academy Award winning
movie. Attending his first Oscar ceremony Sunday night was CEO Mika Salmi,
co-founder of AtomFilms, the distributor of Barbara Schock's Oscar-winning
short, "My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York."


In a week when the next-gen made their mark on Hollywood, one quote stands
out. The head of a small distribution film company was chatting about the
Oscars and his awards season campaign. The conversation eventually shifted
to the recent Yahoo! Festival. This exec had attended the event for most of
the its days. "I really don't understand it all," the chief commented, "But
in a few years I will be able to say that I was there when it all started."