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by Dana Harris
February 28, 2011 4:16 AM
22 Comments
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Gary Winick, Director and InDigEnt Founder, Dies at 49

Director Gary Winick died Sunday afternoon in New York, after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 49.

Winick was known most recently for directing major-studio pictures, including "Bride Wars," "Letters to Juliet," "Charlotte's Web" and "13 Going On 30."

However, he was also the founder of InDigEnt, an independent film company that produced "Pieces of April," "Personal Velocity" and "Tadpole," which Winick also directed.

Launched in 1999 with Winick, IFC Productions' Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan and attorney John Sloss, InDigEnt was also noted for its early recognition that digital video production had the capacity to unlock new capacities within short- and low-budget shoots.

"Personal Velocity" received a John Cassavetes Award at the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards and received the grand jury and cinematography prizes at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Winick spoke with indieWIRE about InDigEnt in 2002. Digital production, he said, shouldn't be mistaken for being easier. "You have to be more disciplined because you have more freedom," he said. "If I went in there and said, 'Well, I'll just wing it, it is DV, it doesn't really matter. We can just walk in this location, they don't care. And the actors can do it 100 different ways because it's DV so they don't have to work on the script.' Bullshit. That's why I go after experienced filmmakers. Because of that discipline.

indieWIRE is working on a more detailed obituary with remembrances from those who knew him best. To contact the editors: editors@indiewire.com.

22 Comments

  • Anath White | March 2, 2011 8:00 AMReply

    I met Gary at The American Film Institute in 1990. The film he'd produced ("Punk," written and directed by Carl Franklin) was finished; I was in charge of AFI distribution at the time and was involved with getting Carl and Gary's film out there. Gary had been deeply affected by the teaching of Toni Vellani, directing head of the school thru the '80s, before his own untimely death at 62. He'd gathered hours and hours of classroom tapes - Vellani and AFI "Fellows" in critiquing sessions - with the goal of creating a book to be donated to AFI's Louis B. Mayer Library. This was all at his own expense and likely wouldn't have happened otherwise.

    He hired me to transcribe everything, which was rather like being in the classes, too. I can still call up Vellani's Italian-inflected voice, and his central questions to every filmmaker: "What is the premise? What is the story?" In fact, I find myself applying those questions whenever I watch films.

    For some reason Gary thanked me in his credits for "Sweet Nothing." I always figured I'd get a chance to ask him about that someday. Hard to believe this gentle, quick and giving man is gone so soon.

    Just as Gary wanted Toni Vellani's influence to live on, I hope that will be true for him, too.

  • Dena Ferreira | March 1, 2011 5:26 AMReply

    Walking with Gary to his oncology appointment through Central Park, he thought I was helping him, but really he was helping me; to see how precious life is and to be grateful for the time we have. I will remember his wit, his generosity, his beautiful hair (that one's for Gary) and his integrity.

  • bob hawk | March 1, 2011 3:23 AMReply

    In a word, Gary personified what it is to be a "mensch."

  • sabine hoffman | March 1, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    nothing will bring back gary but he has left so many people connected and projects that came to be or became better because of him... his generous spirit and actions will live on within all he touched- very grateful for his kindness, insight, brilliant mind and support
    hope we can be inspired to continue in his spirit

  • amos poe | March 1, 2011 1:41 AMReply

    R.I.P. ... <3

  • SSofia Sondervan | March 1, 2011 1:15 AMReply

    This is heartbreaking. He was such a inspiring and smart guy! What he set up with Indigent completely changed the face of cinema.

  • Ryan Fleck | March 1, 2011 12:30 AMReply

    Gary was an inspiration!

  • Rick Kalowski | March 1, 2011 12:09 AMReply

    Incredibly sad to hear this. What a talented man he evidently was. And what a reminder to the rest of us of what is possible if we apply ourselves, and how important it is to actually get out there and do it!

  • Jeremy Stulberg | February 28, 2011 8:20 AMReply

    He helped so much on our doc "Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa." He gave us space at InDigEnt to edit, a camera and feedback throughout the process! He asked for NOTHING in return. A great guy, a visionary, a no BS New Yorker. Rest in Peace.

  • Rachael Horovitz | February 28, 2011 7:57 AMReply

    It's so incredibly sad - what a unique soul he was.

  • Tim Rhys | February 28, 2011 7:26 AMReply

    I met Gary years ago in Seattle... instead of splitting a cab we opted to walk and talk the mile or so between downtown and the Space Needle- and I still have great memories of that afternoon. He was a visionary in our industry, a brilliant guy, and he will be missed.

  • Jeffrey Abramson | February 28, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    I first met Gary when he taught my senior colloquium at NYU. He was still transitioning from a former life and poured his heart out to us students with honesty and integrity. His passion and determination was that of a pioneer - and opportunity made itself available to him because of his good will. I last saw Gary when, despite not feeling well, he came to our festival brunch to engage with emerging filmmakers. He will be missed dearly.

  • Judy Scott | February 28, 2011 6:24 AMReply

    I'm very sorry to hear of this - sincere condolences to his family. He was such a nice man. RIP

  • Reid Rosefelt | February 28, 2011 6:08 AMReply

    I had the good luck to work with Gary through all the years of InDigEnt He was a kind, and generous man who devoted himself to helping others. One of the main ideas behind InDigEnt was to make it possible for writers and directors get their dream projects done. And it was set up so that the cast and crew could benefit.if a film did well, as his film "Tadpole" did.

    Once I was having breakfast with him and some others at Sundance and I happened to mention that I was going to make a short film. He didn't think twice. He immediately said that there might be an extra Avid at InDigEnt that I could use. And he made it happen.

    There are a lot of tough characters in the film business, but there are also people like Gary who more than make up for them. He was a beautiful man and he will be missed.

  • donal lardner ward | February 28, 2011 5:57 AMReply

    tragic loss. gary was a kind, genuine and giving person, who never seemed to lose the childlike, "let's put on a show," enthusiasm in a field that doesn't always respond in kind. he was resilient and persistent in his creative pursuits and supportive and encouraging of others in theirs. those qualities extended far beyond the film business and his infectious grin was a welcome sight in the neighborhood, at social gatherings of various sorts and sizes, and will be deeply missed. my deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.

  • Reed Martin | February 28, 2011 5:40 AMReply

    Gary was always really nice (to everyone) and to me when I ran into him at Sundance and at various panel discussions in New York, looking for a quote. Gary would say hello to you first and always remember your name, which, as a journalist, really meant a lot. I remember right after the awards ceremony in 2002 when "Personal Velocity" had won, he told me a story of how hard things had been after "The Tic Code" in 1999 and how he had wanted to just give up and do something else. He said (in an inspirational way) that you had to love indie film so much to do because it was really really hard. Gary was always very candid in interviews and always really funny on filmmaking panels. He had hilarious self-deprecating asides and knew how to tell a joke, and also delivered inspirational anecdotes for all the aspiring filmmakers in the room. And no matter how many studio projects he did over the years, he never forgot your name and would always say hello to you first. A terrific guy who will be missed.

  • Eugene Hernandez | February 28, 2011 5:30 AMReply

    A truly terrific guy.

    I tried to put a few thoughts together last night and this morning and memories flooded in once I found an old photo of Gary from the 2003 Spirit Awards. He'd just won for producing "Personal Velocity."

    RIP, Gary.

    More: http://blogs.indiewire.com/eug/archives/rip_gary_winick/

  • Lisa France | February 28, 2011 5:16 AMReply

    One of the nicest guys ever. I spoke on many panels with Gary and found him to always be so open, kind and generous... I had no idea he was battling cancer. I'm in shock...

  • Bob Gosse | February 28, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    Gary and I met in the mid 1990's when we were both charged with doing films that had characters with Tourette's Syndrome. I had just finished editing my film and he was prepping his and asking me about how we rehearsed our scenes with that behavior. After I told him how we did it I shrugged and said, "But really we sorta worked hard for two weeks. Somehow we figured it out. That's all it was." And Gary laughed and nodded. "Isn't is great?" I intuitively knew EXACTLY what he meant. Also knew then how much he loved making films. And it shows in his work. He will be missed. Godspeed Gary..

  • eamonn bowles | February 28, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    this is truly too sad. gary was an incredibly generous, kind person, just a really good guy. condolences to those closest to him.

  • Meira Blaustein | February 28, 2011 4:46 AMReply

    Gary was one of the finest human beings in our industry that I have ever known. I fell in love with him from the first moment I met him many years ago (thank you John Sloss for introducing us!). It was during the first years of InDigEnt when we first went out to lunch, he talked about his vision for InDigEnt. Since then I was fortunate to have his support and host him in Woodstock a number of times, showing his films and having him participate on panels. Gary was incredibly talented, smart, warm, personable and so very generous and nice. I am thankful to have a few wonderful photos of him in Woodstock, with Jonas Mekas, with Parker Posey, with Ellen Kuras, Rebecca Miller, Lemore Syvan and others. Life took away a true independent spirit and a creative pioneer. I still can't believe he's gone. Very very sad.

  • Tom Hall | February 28, 2011 4:36 AMReply

    I only met Gary one time, all the way back in the early InDigEnt days, and he was so kind. This is a true loss; he was a pioneer in NYC independent film and will be missed.