Film Fiesta Frenzy; Mira Nair's New Production; a Latin American Cinema Chat; Newport's Pre-Fest Kickoff and More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Margaret Menegoz has been elected president of Unifrance, replacing Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who died in February. Menegoz has produced films by directors including Barbet Schroeder and Eric Rohmer.
Mary Donovan has decided to leave her post as EVP of corporate affairs at New Line at the end of July. She spent 14 years at the company, serving in a number of key PR posts for the organization handling such films as "Magnolia" and the "Austin Powers" films.
In July, Chris Zarpas will join Evolution Management as a manager and producer. Zarpas previously had a production deal with New Dominion Pictures and before that served as president and CEO of Scott Free Productions.
Kodak's Entertainment Imaging division named Brian Spruill VP and GM of worldwide sales operations and marketing. Kodak also appointed four execs to be VP/GM of product groups. Those appointments are Robert J. Mayson (worldwide origination products), William Tompkins (worldwide print and distribution products), Bertrand Decoux (worldwide entertainment imaging services), and William B. Doeren (worldwide digital cinema services).
SOIREE SEASON: The post-Cannes party lull is officially over. Thank goodness, 'cause our liver was starting to dry out. It was a packed week -- Monday night, Newmarket held a stylish gathering to celebrate "Whale Rider" at Guastavino's; there was plenty of New Zealand wine (and, uh, pears) and some authentic Maori dancers to honor the new film. Steve Buscemi was among the onlookers. On Tuesday, Gen Art held a bash at The Coral Room for "Love the Hard Way," the new Adrien Brody flick. Mr. Oscar was in attendance and seemed to be enjoying himself as a DJ remixed hip-hop (nothing by Brody's boy P. Diddy). The star left before the lovely lady swimming in a too-small bikini in the bar's aquarium inadvertently flashed some nipple while doing her underwater acrobatics. Wednesday there was an intimate gathering at the Blarney Cove in the East Village, where notable attendees included film scribe (and human beatbox extraordinaire) Michael Tully, indieWIRE contributor Caroline Wells, HBO's Jesse Sweet, "All the Real Girls" sound guru Christof Gebert, our pals from the Signature Theatre Company, and an old guy passed out at the far end of the bar who woke up only to shush BUZZ. The nerve! Finally, on Thursday, Thomson and Technicolor welcomed folks for a five-and-a-half-hour soiree and ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of Technicolor's new post-production facility on Leroy Street (the former Shooting Gallery space). Also on Thursday, the New Fest kicked off with a pre-screening party at Markt, a screening of "Mambo Italiano," and a post-screening party.
WE WON THE WEBBY! One party that we would have absolutely loved to attend on Thursday night was the seventh-annual Webby Awards ceremony; yet, this year's gathering took place online to accommodate nominees from around the world. We were absolutely thrilled to learn just after midnight that indieWIRE won the Webby Award for Film; we were named best film site by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Judges included Beck, Matt Groening, Bjork, Larry Ellison from Oracle, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and even David Bowie. This was indieWIRE's second nomination in the category and our first Webby Award win (thanks sincerely to the Academy). The annual event is known for its unique five-word acceptance speeches, ours was: "Upturns, downturns: independent voices survive." Other winners that are some of our favorite sites include Google News in the news category, MoveOn.org in the Politics category, and "get your war on" in the Humor category. All sites are judged on content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience.
"VANITY" PROJECT: On May 19, Focus Features started production on "Vanity Fair," Mira Nair's hotly anticipated follow-up to "Monsoon Wedding." Nair, working from Julian Fellowes' new adaptation of the Thackery classic, is shooting entirely on location in the U.K. Reese Witherspoon stars alongside Jim Broadbent, Romola Garai, Rhys Ifans, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Janette Day, Donna Gigliotti, and Lydia Dean Pilcher are producing; Focus holds worldwide distro and sales rights for the Tempesta Films/Granada Film production.
MARKET MAKERS: Whether or not Cannes 2003 was the "worst ever," the market held its own. The Marche du Film announced that its number of participants was 7,880, up seven percent from last year. Due to the SARS scare and some shaky economic times, registrations from China, Thailand, Canada, and the U.S. were down; but there was increased participation from Spain, the U.K., Germany, and France.
DVD DEALINGS: Koch Lorber announced an exclusive deal with Empire Pictures for home video rights for eight Empire titles. The deal will cover forthcoming Empire titles as well as Patrice Chereau's "Intimacy," Bertrand Tavernier's "Safe Conduct," and Diane Kurys' "Children of the Century."
A MOB "THING": Florida-based Small Planet Pictures has acquired the North American rights for Danny Provenzano's "This Thing of Ours," about a high-tech group of mafia bank robbers. Along with an appearance by James Caan, the film stars alums from "Goodfellas," "The Sopranos," "Oz," "A Bronx Tale," and "Analyze This." Small Planet, which released "Tully" in 2002, is planning four theatrical releases for 2003; "Thing" will hit theaters in July.
OH BOY: In other acquisitions news, Film Movement has picked up all U.S. rights to Mina Shum's "Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity," about a young divorced mother (Sandra Oh). Film Movement plans a fall theatrical and subscription DVD release.
NEWPORT ON THE HUDSON: BUZZ was worried that the crowd at the NYC pre-party for the Newport International Film Festival would be very refined uptowners talking about their yachts. Not to worry, they may have been classier than us (and there's nothing wrong with a yacht or two) but they were also loads of fun. We chatted with organizers Beth Janson and Nancy Donohoe (who hosted the soiree at her spacious upper west side digs), filmmakers Jesse Moss ("Speedo,") Joseph Pierson ("Evenhand,") Jyllian Gunther ("Pull Out"), producer Diana Williams, and Tribeca programmer David Kwok.
LATIN FLAVA: On May 28, indieWIRE attended the NYWIFT panel on Latin American filmmaking sponsored by the Americas Society and the Mexican Cultural Institute. A buffet of tasty Salvadoran appetizers were served and then iW contributor Howard Feinstein moderated the panel that included Brazilian director Bruno Barreto ("Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands," "Four Days in September,"), producer Cynthia Newport ("Dance Cuba"), Colombian freelance producer and journalist Marcela Gaviria ("Drug Wars," "Godfather of Cocaine," "In Search of Al Queda"), up-and-coming Argentinian director Julia Solomonoff, Salvadoran filmmaker Paul Heredia ("The Couple in the Cage," "Teniendo un Bebe," "Unzipped"), and Carlos A. Gutierrez of the Mexican Cultural Institute and founder of Cinema Tropical. The discussion included talk of why some Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Argentina, have experienced a boom in film productions, partly due to a devalued currency and the availability of digital video. Despite some production obstacles (in some cases, unstable government infrastructure), panelists said producers are beginning to explore the tax incentives and location opportunities of shooting in the varied locales of Latin America, as well as the cinematographic beauty of this area of the world. And let's not forget our other favorite Mexican export, Gael Garcia Bernal.
YOUNG AND SHORT: BBC World is sponsoring a new competition for short filmmakers under 30. The Talking Movies Young Film Makers Competition invites filmmakers ages 18-30 to submit short fictional films (under 2 and a half minutes) for the chance to screen on the BBC's "Talking Movies" program. For details, visit http://www.bbcworld.com/yfm.
[Caroline Wells contributed to this report.]