FESTIVALS: Leaner IFFM Tastes Good, Deals in the Works For "Days" and Docs
by Anthony Kaufman
The 21st Independent Feature Film Market should be remembered as a vast improvement from years past. While some may have criticized the anti-democratic decision to limit the number of narrative films screened and others may have felt a manic energy missing, the more select line-up made for a mellower and more manageable market in which to see films and do business.
The result: offers were rumored in all areas of the market with a few solid invitations from the Berlin Film Festival, among other fests, and one closed deal confirmed -- a documentary sold to a major cabler before week's end. From filmmakers to producer's reps to IFFM employees, a round of good cheer appeared on the faces of those attending the market's final day on Friday. One filmmaker even sought out Market Director Milton Tabbot on the street outside the Angelika to offer him her heartfelt thanks.
Happy Days For "Snow" Brothers and Livingston
Most effusive surely were Adam and Pipp Marcus, director and producer-writer-star respectively of "Snow Days," the romantic comedy that ran away with the most buzz among the narrative features at this year's market, with Miramax, Fox Searchlight and Stratosphere the most oft-mentioned interested parties. The Friday noon screening of "Snow Days" was even more packed than the distrib-heavy first, with people sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. "We didn't anticipate the distributors' response," said Adam Marcus, "It's a little scary." Producer's rep Steven Beer hopes to pen a deal sometime this week, making "Snow Days" this year's clear winner of the "Blood, Guts, Bullets, & Octane" award for the one narrative with major theatrical possibilities.
Other features to look out for include James Ryan's "The Young Girl and the Monsoon," scheduled to open this season's industry screening series, First Look, and Clay Eide's "Dead Dogs," headed to the Vancouver Film Fest this month. No breakaway buzz-flicks made waves in the waning days of the market, though a few ripples were made by the mostly uneven, but at times, endearing "Henry Hill," directed by David G. Kanter and enlivened by a performance by Moira Kelly. An additional highlight was the proficiently lensed and sympathetically performed "Wednesday's Child," directed by Brad Marlowe. Still, skill and quality ranked higher at this year's market than years past, many felt, with a talent pool worth looking into. (For more on the narrative features, see last week's market report.)
Stirring up more energy than perhaps any completed feature was the 8-minute trailer for "Paris is Burning" director Jennie Livingston's first foray into fiction, "Who's the Top?" Speaking to a packed house, Livingston introduced the picture as "Woody Allen's younger dyke sister goes into S&M." From the first image to the last, the audience was hooked, laughing at the smart script and S&M dance sequences. The trailer was a mish mash of scenes taken from the script, explained producer Ruth Charny, to give a varied sample of what the finished film would contain: romantic comedy, surreal dream sequences, black & white as well as color photography, and an appearance by Steve Buscemi. A New York Times profile put the cost of the trailer at $30,000 and the total budget of the film at $1.2 million, also noting that Livingston and Charny have had meetings with a host of distributors. Judging from the response at Thursday's market screening, expect a deal in the trades sooner, ratherq than later.
Docs and Latinos
As enthusiastic as the crowds were for Livingston's turn to fiction filmmaking, they were just as supportive of Susan Todd and Andrew Young's continued documentary work. "Americanos: Latino Life in the United States" is a lively, diverse look at Latinos of all types, cultures, and mixes (as El Vez sings, "I've never been to Spain, so don't call me Hispanic"). Using talking head interviews with figures both famous and ordinary, found film footage, and exquisite 35 mm color sequences of ceremonies, concerts, and communities, the documentary is a likely candidate for theatrical distribution. Already slated for an HBO broadcast on Cinco de Mayo, 2000, "Americanos" looks destined for some major festival play beforehand (think Sundance), with docfest director Gary Pollard one of the many enthused spectators courting Todd, Young, and the film's producer, veteran actor Edward James Olmos post-screening.
Market organizers singled out the work of other Latinos this year, by co-hosting an evening reception in conjunction with the newly formed National Association of Latino Producers (NALIP). Olmos acknowledged NALIP, which grew out of this summer's Latino media conference in San Francisco, and Lillian Jimenez encouraged makers to join the emerging national organization devoted to promoting the advancement, development and funding of Latino/Latina film and media arts. NALIP worked with the IFP this year to sponsor the attendance of 25 Latino producers at this year's Market. As a guide to attendees, NALIP also offered a tip sheet singling out Latino and Latino-themed projects at this year's IFFM, among them, features "Attention Shoppers" and "Rum and Coke," and works-in-progress "Desi's Looking for a New Girl," "Sol y Lluvia," and "Which Way, Por favor?"
Hannah ("Arresting Gena") Weyer's work-in-progress "La Boda" ("The Wedding"), produced by C-Hundred Film Corp's Jim McKay ("Girl's Town"), also deals with the Latino experience, in the form of a migrant girl's marriage ceremony. Gearing for a 55-minute final product, the 8-minute trailer on display offered a v