New Directors Opens; Kidman Celebrates "Dogville"; Plus Deals from ContentFilm & Lantern Lane
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Brain Newman, the executive director of IMAGE (Image Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.), will be leaving his post this summer to move to New York City. He will continue to lead IMAGE through the Atlanta Film Festival in June. A search committee has been formed for a new executive director; interested parties may submit their CV in writing to: IMAGE ED Search Committee, Carr, Tabb, Pope & Freeman, LLP, Two Midtown Plaza, Suite 1990, 1360 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30309.
Michael Kuhn is leaving his post as senior VP of marketing, sales, and publicity for Madstone Theaters. Stevi Cavendar, senior director of marketing, will be managing the department.
PARTY-HOPPING: Over at the new New York City Meat Packing District hotspot One, adjacent to the new Hotel Gansevoort, Nicole Kidman held court on Monday night as she celebrated the debut of Lions Gate's "Dogville." Among the attendees was Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, with his wife Pat Kaufman from New York's Governor's Office for Film and TV. Troma's Kaufman told Buzz that he is gearing up for the 30th anniversary of his ultra-indie movie company, not to mention his 30th wedding anniversary. He and Troma will be back on the Croisette in Cannes this year with a slate of new movies. Making the scene were Ben Gazzara carrying a small dog, Lauren Bacall, Gael Garcia Bernal, and artists Francesco Clemente and Jeff Koons.
On Wednesday night, HBO saluted Jim McKay and the cast and crew of his new film "Everyday People" with a party at Josephina at Lincoln Square. The fete marked the opening of the 2004 New Directors/New Films Series presented by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Doc director Jehane Noujaim ("Control Room") celebrated her new distribution deal at Magnolia Pictures, while filmmaker Ondi Timoner ("DIG!") barely raised an eyebrow among the guests when she took a moment to feed her young son Joaquim while chatting with attendees. Director McKay, married to filmmaker Hannah Weyer, will soon have another mouth to feed. The two are expecting their second child later this year.
SUNDANCE PICKS DOCS: The Sundance Institute Doc Fund has selected 11 features for its first round of grant funding. Chosen this year are, for Work in Progress grants, Anne Aghion's "In Rwanda, We Say 'The Family That Does Not Speak Dies,'" Shantha Bloemen & JoMarie Fecci's "Western Sahara, Africa's Last Colony," Julie Mallozzi's "Monkey Dance," Patrice O'Neill's "The Fire Next Time," Jed Riffe's "Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law," Susan Stern's "The Self-Made Man," Pamela Yates' "Passage Through Fear." Chosen for development grants are Fibi Kraus' "Marry Me Out," while supplemental grants are going to Simone Bitton's "The Wall," Khalo Matabane's "Story of a Beautiful Country," and Jonathan Stack's "War Without End." Combined, the projects will receive a total of $395,000.
NEW EYES ON THE RHINO: Madstone has started the Madstone University Filmmaker Program, which will let film students practice editing using footage from an actual indie film, "Rhinoceros Eyes." An editing lab will be set up at nine film schools in the U.S., with students getting access to 50 hours of completed footage from "Rhinoceros Eyes," two original scores, three voice-over versions, and copies of the shooting script. Aaron Woodley's debut film was the first feature film from the Madstone Directors Program; it won the 2003 Toronto Film Festival Discovery Awards and Madstone will release it in theaters starting April 23. "Each school can interpret the project however they see fit," said Madstone CEO Chip Seelig. "The advanced editing classes at USC and University of Georgia, for example, have chosen to recut the film in its entirety. Other schools may re-edit just a few scenes; still others will be given the footage to use on any number of editing projects for years to come." Student works will be shown on campus or at a local Madstone theater concurrent with the film's theatrical openings; the best student selections may also appear on the "Rhinoceros Eyes" DVD. Woodley, who is the nephew of David Cronenberg, doesn't seem that nervous that film students will be taking over his film. "Some filmmakers would be nervous to let their footage out. It's like showing their dirty laundry," he said. "But I'm excited to see what the students do. It should be really interesting for them, and fascinating for me... When I was in film school we'd get a few scenes from 'Gunsmoke' or a really bad soap opera to cut together, and it was all follow-the-script, master-medium-close-up stuff." The film stars Michael Pitt ("The Dreamers"), a young prop worker who falls in love with a film production designer (Paige Turco) while being investigated by a detective (Gale Harold, "Queer as Folk").
"COOL" FOR CONTENT: As the DMX-starrer "Never Die Alone," based on Donald Goines book, hits theaters from Fox Searchlight today, ContentFilm has greenlit another film based on a Goines work. Ernest Dickerson, who worked with Content to direct "Never Die Alone," is expected to tackle the next film as well, which will be an adaptation of Goines' novel "Daddy Cool." Oren Moverman ("Jesus' Son") wrote the adapted screenplay. James Gibson will executive produce, with ContentFilm's Alessandro Camon producing. The company is in talks for DMX to play a supporting role in "Daddy Cool," with his Bloodline Pictures helping to produce. The film follows a professional hitman whose home life is thrown into tumult when his teenage daughter runs away with a no-good boyfriend. In a statement, ContentFilm heads John Schmidt and Ed Pressman said, "'Never Die Alone' turned out terrific, thanks to a great script, brilliant direction and cinematography, and breathtaking performances. We look forward to working with much of the same team on 'Daddy Cool,' which is perhaps Donald Goines' masterpiece and represents for us an expansion of the themes explored in 'Never Die Alone.' This is a gripping and profoundly moving story with a timeless quality."
CHARITABLE PRODUCTION; Indie production company Crossroads Films has optioned the screenplay "Acts of Charity," written by Chris Hardy from a story developed by Hardy and Alex Winter ("Fever"). The film is about a young corporate exec who gets sent on a humanitarian mission to a struggling African nation. Alan Rickman is attached to play the role of a British ex-pat journalist. Crossroads' Dan Lindau and Cami Taylor will co-produce the film with Paul Miller ("Lone Star," "Prozac Nation").
"OTHER PEOPLE" DEAL: Lantern Lane Entertainment will handle the theatrical release of "Seeing Other People," Wally Wolodarsky's romantic comedy starring Jay Mohr, Julianne Nicholson, Lauren Graham, Josh Charles, Andy Richter, Jonathan Davis, and Liz Phair. The film, produced by Gavin Polone of film and TV company Pariah, will open in select markets starting May 7. Lantern Lane, which is a producer's rep and sales company, recently worked on its first theatrical distribution project, Nick Broomfield's "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer."
"VINYL" MEN: Shane West and Lukas Haas have signed on to join the ensemble cast of "Vinyl," the indie feature written and directed by Richard Zelniker. The film is about the women behind a male rock band on the verge of success; previously announced female stars are Thora Birch, Anna Faris, Jena Malone, Marla Sokoloff, and Dominique Swain. West ("A Walk to Remember") will play a bad-boy lead guitarist and Haas ("Witness") will play a sensitive drummer who falls for the wrong girl. The film will start shooting in April.
ACTION FOR ASHCROFT: Those "literate smut" experts at Nerve.com are sponsoring their first amateur video contest. Nerve's John Ashcroft Video Project is looking for the sexiest 60-second-or-less video that includes a discussion of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Musician Moby, indie producer Ted Hope, and director John Cameron Mitchell are judging the entries to name three winners that will recieve cash prizes adn be streamed on the site. As Nerve says on its site, "Frankly, we're not sure what to expect. The sexier the better, but we're really looking for smart, funny, dialogue. Explicitness is great, but not mandatory." Entries must be postmarked by April 7; for details and the entry form visit www.nerve.com/promos/VideoContest/.
[Eugene Hernandez contributed to this report.]