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by Indiewire
January 23, 1997 2:00 AM
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Mapping Out a Deal

Mapping Out A Deal


by Eugene Hernandez



Word of the Fox Searchlight deal acquiring all
worldwide rights to the Miguel Arteta film "Star Maps" spread quickly
throughout Park City yesterday morning. The announcement capped an all
night negotiation session that began immediately after the film's wildly
successful screening at the Park City Library Center. Shortly after the
deal was announced, indieWIRE sat down with Arteta, producer Matthew
Greenfield, Attorney Jed Alpert and Searchlight President Lindsay Law to
discuss the acquisition and the film.


According to Arteta, the seeds of the deal were sown while he was
working as a runner for Addis-Wechsler and his student film caught the
eye of the company's Claudia Lewis. Now at Searchlight, Lewis was among
the first to contact him upon learning that "Star Maps" had been accepted
into Sundance. While many distributors contacted him prior to the
festival, Arteta claims that a Searchlight rep was among the only ones
to attend Friday evening's screening at the Yarrow.


Greenfield confirms that they were well aware of Searchlight's interest
in the film, but really had no idea how to judge their interest and "how
that interest related to interest from other people."


Attorney Jed Alpert, who negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers,
explained, "In my experience the distributor's enthusiasm for a film is
obvious, and the distributor who understands you (the filmmaker) and
understands the film is probably the right distributor, and often
they're the distributor offering the most money anyway, so its a simple
decision."


As the credits rolled on Tuesday night's screening, the filmmakers,
their representatives, and Searchlight executives began a night of
talking that Arteta characterizes as "intense." While those involved
fail to offer the gory details, they admitted that it is impossible get
take-out food in Park City after 11 p.m., which Arteta interpreted as a
positive sign of commitment to the project since all parties continued
working into the early morning hours towards a deal despite their
weariness and hunger.


In the end, Arteta admits it was the "honest passion" he detected from
Fox Searchlight, that led to his decision to sign with them. Alpert
adds, "Honest passion means the person knows how to market it, and that
means the film will be successful...and its not just about being
flattered, all indie films are challenges to market."


A key figure in Arteta's decision was Fox Searchlight's Lindsay Law,
who, with his experience in producing and marketing such films as
Gregory Nava's "El Norte" and Ramon Menendez's "Stand And Deliver", brings an important aspect to the deal. "They're open to (attracting) a large
Latino audience for this film, given his (Law's) track record I feel
really comfortable that they will cooperate with us...and we'll get the
most mileage (from) this film.


As for the company's plans, Law explains that Searchlight will seek to
attract both a mainstream and Latino audience in an integrated marketing
and promotion campaign that will enlist the services of firms that
specialize in attracting Latino audiences. Law adds that they are
discussing ways to build word-of-mouth and expectations for the film
through screenings and appearances at key film festivals. He underscores
that they "don't want to tag ("Star Maps") as only of interest to Latinos.
The emotions are so strong, any nationality will respond to this man's
condition."


Listening to Law discuss the plans for sharing his film with the
country, Arteta is beaming, unable to hide his excitement -- his
composure throughout the entire interview subverted by the happiness on
his face. It is with this same enthusiasm that he and the other "Star
Maps
" folks hopped in a sport ute early yesterday morning, with the deal
signed, and drove up the mountain for hours of eating, drinking and
sledding followed by a hop over a fence for a rest in a hot tub. Phone
calls home to family and friends concluded the memorable day. Smiling,
Arteta adds, (there are a) "lot of people all over Latin America that
are very happy this morning."


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