First Run-Global Film Pact; Sundance's First Annenberg Fellows; Squeezebox Doc Update & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: William Evans has been named the director of programming at the Whistler Film Festival in British Columbia. He comes to the festival on June 14 from Winnipeg, where he previously served as the director of showcases at the National Screen Institute and as director of the NSI Film Exchange Festival.
FIRST RUN GOES GLOBAL: First Run Features has signed a distribution deal with the U.S.-based charitable foundation Global Film Initiative. First Run will work to bring GFI titles to home video, TV, and cable as well as some theatrical and semi-theatrical markets. Also, education materials related to GFI will be provided through First Run's educational division, First Run/Icarus Films. Each year, the initiative has a 10-film touring show, Global Lens: New Cinema from the Developing World, which First Run will now book for the tour and release on home video through 2008; the Initiative will still hold copyright on the films.
NANTUCKET PLANS: The Nantucket Film Festival will open with Zach Braff's "Garden State," organizers announced Thursday. Festival Executive Director Jill Burkhart, Artistic Director Mystelle Brabbee and Festival Programmer Tom Hall confirmed that the event, June 16-20, will close with Stacy Peralta's "Riding Giants." Of note is a special "In Their Shoes" panel with Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Jim Carrey discussing the work of this year's festival honoree Charlie Kaufman, along with New York Times critic A.O. Scott. The fest will also present a screenplay reading of Warren Light's "Sideman."
SUNDANCE FELLOWS: The Sundance Institute has announced the five filmmakers selected as the first Annenberg Film Fellows. The newly established program, created in April with a $5 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, will support the filmmakers and their current projects for a two-year period. The first "class" of five writer/directors are: Aditya Assarat, with Bangkok-set coming-of-age story "Hi-So"; Sterlin Harjo with "Four Sheets to the Wind," a mythical story about a young Native American living in small-town Oklahoma; Emily Hubley, with the animated/live-action feature "The Toe Tactic," about a young woman searching for her wallet in a strange world; Kazuo Ohno with "Mr. Crumpacker and the Man from the Letter," about an overbearing boss who starts looking for the meaning of life at his workplace; and Alex Rivera, with "The Sleep Dealer," a futuristic story about an immigrant struggling to understand love and obligation.
"DYNAMITE" DEAL: "Napoleon Dynamite," the $400,000 indie comedy from Jared Hess, already scored a $3 million deal at Sundance from Fox Searchlight; now more muscle is getting behind the film. MTV and Paramount will now co-present the comedy, which opens in select cities on June 11 and rollout through the end of July. Fox Searchlight will distribute the film in the U.S. and Canada and Paramount will distribute the film internationally. "There's nothing conventional about 'Napoleon Dynamite,' so an unprecedented deal with MTV Films and Paramount Pictures seems right in order," said Fox Searchlight president Peter Rice.
NOT LOVIN' IT: MTV is evidently quivering before the Golden Arches. The network has refused to air TV ads for Morgan Spurlock's fast-food bashing documentary "Super Size Me." According to film distributors Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions, representatives from MTV said that the ads were "disparaging to fast food," and even of revisions were made, the spots could not be aired "in the same pod as a fast food commercial." The rejected spot for the film has already aired on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central, E!, and the Food Network. Ironically, the film -- in which Spurlock eats a McDonald's-only diet for 30 days and chronicles his deteriorating health -- was awarded the MTV News: Docs Prize at the 2004 Full Frame Film Festival.
SQUEEZEBOXED: Friday night saw numerous downtown luminaries turning out in full force for the 10th anniversary party for Squeezebox, the now bygone and much loved rock-n-roll party hosted at venue Don Hills in New York's west village. The makers of the unfinished doc "Squeezebox - The Movie" had their contingent filming the event. With footage and interviews that span the full seven years when Squeezebox ran as a weekly party, the production team had "a nice rough cut" but found themselves struggling to find the appropriate ending. Producer Lyle Derek, a former Squeezebox go-go dancer, was multitasking to the max and gave indieWIRE a tour of the doc's production for the anniversary bash. "This really was our journey of independent filmmaking, (this party) is our organic ending," Derek commented enthusiastically. He is joined on the project by fellow producers Steve Saporito and Zach Shaffer and director Jason Cacioppo.
Downtown fashionistas Heatherette retrofitted the interior of a could-be tour van where the crew was shooting interviews. Complete with patchwork denim and animal print the interview space was a perfect depiction of Squeezebox, equal parts glam and rock. The party, emceed by Misstress Formika, featured performers including Jayne County, Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat, Bebe Buell, Boy George, and Miss Guy (who performed a jaw-dropping rock version of Kelis' "Milkshake"). With Johnny Knoxville, Kate Moss, and Debbie Harry in attendance on Friday, it was clear that "Squeezebox The Movie" has a sufficient quota of celebrity backing. Veteran indie filmmaker John Waters, who recently completed several guest lecturing gigs, commented that he surprisingly had been fielding questions from lecture attendees regarding the status of the film. An unfinished independent documentary with anticipatory buzz may be seem a bit out of the norm, but when it comes to Squeezebox the unexpected should not only be expected but also, undoubtedly celebrated. [For more info on the doc, email email@example.com.] - Karl Beck
MORE TLA BUYS: TLA Releasing has picked up several more titles for DVD/VHS distribution. They are: Jacob Berger's "Amie Ton Pere" (A Loving Father), starring Gerard Depardieu and his son Guilliaume Depardieu; futuristic crime story "Moon Child" from Japan; Alain Guiraudie's "No Rest for the Brave," a French-Austrian road movie; Gael Morel's "Three Dancing Slves," about three brothers at an emotional crossroads; and the 1978 landmark gay Danish film "You Are Not Alone" by Lasse Nielsen and Ernst Johansen.
CITY LIGHTS DEAL: City Lights Pictures, a division of City Lights Media Group, has acquired the film rights to Byron Harmon's novel "All the Women I've Loved," which follows "a successful black man living in Washington, D.C. who undergoes therapy after his girlfriend ends their three-year relationship." Simon & Schuster will publish the debut novel on May 25. City Lights principal Jack Fisher ("Torn Apart") will direct. Fisher will also produce with his brothers Danny and Joe. Michael Almog and Oliver "Power" Grant will executive produce, Michael Cohen and Dave Noll will co-produce, and Lindsay Chag will serve as casting director.
SHEM DEAL: Distribution and production company Hollywood Independents has acquired "Shem" (His Name) from London-based sales company Visual Factory. Caroline Roboh's film is about 19-year-old Londoner who goes to Eastern Europe to find his grandfather's grave. Hollywood Independents plans to take the film on the festival circuit this fall, followed by a 2005 theatrical release. Also during the Cannes Market, Visual Factory acquired several Hollywood Independents titles for foreign sales -- they are filmmaker Jorge Ameer's "The Singing Forest," "Strippers," and "Contadora is for Lovers." Also, HI struck a deal with Cinema Libre International for creation of a gay home video series, with films to be acquired by HI and released by Cinema Libre.