"Mean Creek" Deal; "Tupperware!" Optioned, Cannes and AFM Updates & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: James Israel has joined indieWIRE to work in administration and marketing. Israel previously worked at the Association of Independent Video & Filmmakers (AIVF). No stranger to indieWIRE, James has worked with indieWIRE's daily Park City coverage for the past three years at the Sundance Film Festival. Welcome, James!
Sarah Eaton has been promoted to senior VP of public relations at the Sundance Channel. Eaton was previously VP; she has worked at Sundance Channel since 1999.
Joe Vertullo has been named the new VP of sales for urban and Latino film distributor and producer Maverick Entertainment and its Maverick Platinum label. Vertullo is a 10-year veteran of Trimark Pictures among other entertainment companies.
Aaron Raskin has founded IraqEye Production Company, a collaborative group of Iraqi filmmakers and American Producers based in Baghdad. The group has started post-production work on the feature-length doc "The Dreams of Sparrows." The group is also planning a Baghdad International Film Festival. For info on the group, visit www.iraqeye.org.
The Boston Film & Video Foundation is closing after 28 years; the Boston Educational Film & Video Association, located at Roxbury's Film Shack, will take over running the New England Film & Video Festival.
FRIENDS OF THE FORTNIGHT: The IFP/New York will -- for the 14th year -- serve as the official U.S. rep of the Directors Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival (this year's festival is May 12-22). The IFP/NY will supply application forms to filmmakers and facilitate preview screenings. The submission deadline for New York screenings is February 25. Screenings will be held March 4-9. For more information about submission guidelines and procedure, contact Will at 212-465-8200 x. 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUPPERWARE TREATMENT: Crossroads Films, an indie production company with a first-look deal at MGM/UA, has optioned the feature film rights to Laurie Kahn-Leavitt's American Experience documentary "Tupperware!" The doc, which made the rounds on the festival circuit, explores the history and cultural significance of Tupperware and looks at the rocky history between inventor Earl Tupper and charismatic marketing guru Brownie Wise. Tom Donahue, Anura Idupuganti, and Laurie Kahn-Leavitt will co-produce the film along with Paul Miller and Crossroads principals Dan Lindau and Camille Taylor. A writer for the project hasn't been selected yet. "There was a lot of intense interest in this project, from the studio level to the indie level," said Idupuganti. "It was clear from the beginning that Crossroads was really hungry for it and interested in a hands-on collaboration with us to preserve the integrity of the story as told in the doc. I give the Crossroads team a lot of credit in our final decision to scrap going through development at a major studio."
DARLING NIKKI: Nikki, the infamous co-star of Robert Parigi's "Love Object" is making an appearance at the Angelika Film Center in New York this week. Nikki, the silicone sex doll that is one-third of the film's love triangle, will be in the Angelika lobby for the run of the film; she was also a one-time visitor to the IndieWIRE office before the movie's bow at the Tribeca Film Festival. (No, we didn't investigate those claims that Nikki is "anatomically correct.") Vitagraph opens the "erotic horror-thriller" on Friday, perfect for anyone not really in the Valentine's Day mood.
SUPER SIZED PARTY: The gang behind Morgan Spurlock's Sundance hit doc "Super Size Me" gathered in Groove in Manhattan on Wednesday night to celebrate the new deal for the film with Roadside Attractions/Goldwyn/IDP. No Big Macs were served but the masses were packed in there for some cheap/free drinks. So packed, in fact, that BUZZ and friends couldn't fight our way to the bar and sadly left after about 30 seconds. But the party, like the film, sounds like a success: attendees at the bash included director Morgan Spurlock (of course), some members of the Cinetic gang, doc interviewee Dr. Lisa Ganjhum, and a slew of folks from IDP: RJ Millard, Shani Ankori, Douglas Crapo, Tom Quinn, Marc Vives, and Phil Fornibaio.
"MEAN" DEAL: Paramount Classics has acquired distribution rights to Whitewater Films' "Mean Creek" in North America, the U.K., and Australia. The film, described as an "allegorical tale" that unspools on a river trip, premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The film is the feature film directorial from Jacob Estes, based on his Nicholl Award-winning screenplay. The film stars Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, and Carly Schroeder. Rick Rosenthal, Susan Johnson, and Hagai Shaham produced. It is the first production from Rosenthal and Johnson's Whitewater, which is also working on "Nearing's Grace" with Killer Films and John Wells Productions. The deal for "Mean Creek" was negotiated by Rena Ronson of William Morris Independent and Linda Lichter of Lichter, Grossman & Nichols, attorney for Whitewater Films.
CINEMATOGRAPHY HONORS: The American Society of Cinematographers awarded its top honors to John Schwartzman, ASC during the group's 18th annual outstanding achievement awards gala on Sunday. Schwartzman won in the feature film category for his work on "Seabiscuit." Michael Chapman, ASC ("Raging Bull," "The Fugitive," "Eulogy," "Taxi Driver") received the lifetime achievement award, while Miroslav Ondricek, ASC ("Amadeus," "Hair," "Silkwood") claimed the international achievement award. Irwin Winkler received the ASC board of governors award, Howard Anderson Jr. received the president's award, and Kevin Brownlow received a special award of recognition. The Conrad L. Hall Heritage Award was presented to two student filmmakers, Nelson Cragg from the University of Southern California and Bill Fernandez from Florida State University.
VINYL VIXENS: Dominique Swain ("Lolita," "Pumpkin") has joined the ensemble cast of Richard Zelniker's indie feature "Vinyl," about a group of women connected to a male rock band that's about to hit the big time. Thora Birch, Jena Malone, Anna Faris, and Marla Sokoloff also star. (Given Faris' hilarious singing efforts in "Lost in Translation," we hope she'll be belting something out in this flick as well.) Swain's character is a groupie trying to land the band's lead singer. Male leads for the film will be announced within coming weeks; the film is set to start shooting at the end of March. Zelnicker previously directed 1997's "Fix"; he is working with producers Bill Bannerman and Tom Rooker on "Vinyl."
SPIRITS UNCENSORED: The Independent Film Channel announced that it won't have any seven-second delays when it airs the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards live on February 28. (Maybe Brittany Murphy will top last year's babbling by flashing a boob?) John Waters will return as host. In the five days leading up to the awards, IFC will show past Spirits faves, including "Before Night Falls," "Jesus' Son," "The Grifters," "Keep the River on Your Right," and "Requiem For a Dream."
AFM BOOM: The American Film Market, to be held February 25 - March 3 in Santa Monica, announced that all of its exhibition space for this year's market sold out in early February. The market will include 291 film and TV companies, including a record 88 first time exhibitioners. Newcomers include Spain's Celebration Pictures, the U.K.'s Element X, Belgium's MMG, New Zealand's Onoma, Canada's Seville Pictures, the Russia Cinema Council, Japan's External Trade Org., and domestic firms including GreenStreet Films, Dark Matter, and Cineville. Last year's total was only 261. In terms of films, AFM will screen 379 films in 28 languages, including 246 market premieres. For a full list of titles and exhibitors, visit www.americanfilmmarket.com.
SUMO SHOWDOWN: There will be a showdown at the Director's View Film Festival in Connecticut on Sunday, as Ferne Pearlstein's feature doc "Sumo East and West" screens; sumo wrestlers will be on hand to challenge WWE wrestlers and provide a sumo wresting demo. Insert your own Weinsteins joke here. For details, visit www.dvff.org.
MARYLAND MONEY: The Sundance Institute and the Producers Club of Maryland have awarded their 2004 fellowship to Caran Hartsfield's "Bury Me Standing." The annual fund provides a $10,000 grant towards post-Sundance Lab and pre-production expenses. Hartsfield, an alum of NYU's graduate film program, previously directed the award-winning shorts "Double-Handed" and "Kiss It Up to God." "Bury Me Standing" is about bereaved relatives trying to reassemble their lives.