Our Very Own Party; A "Pippin" Deal; Chopper's New Job, Landmark in D.C. and Much More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: British Lion Television has promoted Ciara Byrne to executive director of Lion Television Inc., and has appointed Catherine Scheinman to VP of program development. Scheinman had been director of acquisitions and co-productions for MetroChannels.
Andrew Johnston, film critic for Radar magazine, has taken over as chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. The NYFCC said that it will announce its 2003 awards on December 15, with an awards dinner to be held on January 4.
Danny Glover will return to the third International Black Panther Film Festival as honorary chair. The fest runs in Harlem, NY, from July 31 - August 3.
Sandy Henderson has been named head of sales and marketing for the production, design, and DVD units of Zealot, based in Sydney. She had worked on international distribution with Summit Entertainment in L.A.
Mark Starowicz is heading up the new documentary production unit at Canadian Broadcasting Corp./Radio Canada.
WARNER WELCOMING GILL? Industry folks have been buzzing for months about the formation of a new "classics division" at Warner Bros. The studio has signaled that it will indeed launch the unit, but speculation has been rampant about who will run the outfit. A number of names have been bandied about for the past few months, including Ira Deutchman, Scott Greenstein, and even film critic Elvis Mitchell. Now it looks like former Miramax exec Mark Gill will take the top post. No announcement has been made yet, but the studio is said to be negotiating with Stratus Film Company where Gill is a partner. His partners at Stratus are financier Bob Yari and Mark Gordon.
FOR ONCE, DRINKS ON US: Instead of soaking up someone else's open bar per our usual, indieWIRE hooked up with our pals at Stellar Network to throw our own party on Wednesday, to celebrate our recent Webby award as well as indieWIRE's seventh anniversary. The crowds (and we do mean crowds) sipped on Skyy vodka and listened to the electro DJ stylings of Stephen Kijak ("Cinemania" co-director). Pals in attendance included filmmakers Jem Cohen, Jennifer Dworkin, Dylan Kidd, Jesse Moss, Peter Callahan, Jeff Israel, James Israel, Helen Stickler, Dylan Kidd, producer Ben Barenholtz, Cowboy's John Vanco and Greg Williams, Plexifilm's Gary Hustwit, Hypnotic's Joe Revitte, AIVF's Elizabeth Peters, IFP's Ramona Gonzales and Mindy Bond, Wellspring's Rob Williams and Marie Therese Guirgis, NYUFF's Ed Halter, Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles, Dirty Rice's Anne Chaisson and Scott Moody, David Kwok and Keith Weckstein from the Tribeca fest, Denise Kasell, Rajendra Roy, and Mark Rabinowitz from the Hamptons Film Festival, Meira Blaustein from the Woodstock Film Festival, several representatives from the Mayor's Office of Film and Television, one nice transvestite, and assorted drunk friends who have absolutely nothing to do with the film biz but who we love anyway (especially Andrew Andrew). After the free booze ended at Suede, revelers trekked over to the Gramercy Park Hotel bar to keep things going well past midnight. Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with us!
HAVANA HEATS UP: So "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" isn't the most indie project on the map, but it's already our favorite soon-to-be-guilty-pleasure. The Artisan/Miramax project has wrapped principal photography in Puerto Rico. As previously announced, the leads are hot young things Diego Luna ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") and Romola Garai ("Nicholas Nickleby"), joined by Sela Ward, John Slattery, Mika Boorem, Jonathan Jackson, Rene Lavan, and January Jones. The film, slated for a Valentine's Day 2004 release, is "inspired by" the 1987 original, but these young, ill-matched lovers are dancing in revolution-era Cuba instead of the ol' Kellerman's resort where Baby escaped being put in a corner.
PIMPIN' PIPPIN: Miramax did wonders with the jazz-age in the Windy City with last year's "Chicago," and now it's hoping that it can do the same with, uh, the Holy Roman Empire. The company has acquired rights to the Broadway musical "Pippin," a musical about the son of Charlemagne and his ordeals with sex, politics, and war. The Broadway version, which ran from 1972-1977, was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse and written by Roger Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
BANKING A DEAL: New York-based indie producer/distributor CAVU Pictures announced that it has acquired worldwide rights to Ghazi Albuliwi's debut feature, "West Bank Brooklyn." The film, to hit theaters in February 2004, tells the story of Palestinian-American friends living in Brooklyn, New York. The film has played at the AFI, GenArt, Palm Beach, and Philadelphia festivals. The film will be CAVU's third theatrical release, after "Under Hellgate Bridge" and the July release "The Holy Land."
FEMALE TALK: Yesterday, Richard Eyre ("Iris") started principal photography on the British feature "Compleat Female Stage Beauty," starring Billy Crudup and Claire Danes. The film, based on Jeffrey Hatcher's screenplay, is about a progressive theater company in the 1660s. Shooting will continue until late August in and around London and at Shepperton Studios. The cast also includes Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, and Ben Chaplin. "Compleat" is produced and financed by N1 European Filmproduktions-GmbH & Co. KG in association with Qwerty Films. Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Hardy Justice are producing for Tribeca Productions, with Michael Dreyer co-producing. Artisan will release the film in the U.S. and Momentum Pictures will release in the U.K., with TV rights going to BBC Films.
LANDMARK IN THE BELTWAY: Landmark is hitting Washington, D.C. The arthouse chain announced its 55th theater, with construction already underway for the E Street Cinema, a new eight-screen venue to open later in 2003 in D.C.'s Lincoln Square. The company also has another theater nearby, the Bethesda Row Cinema in Bethesda, MD.
OFFLINE PARTY: Jed Weintrob's "On_Line," about pals who run a live erotic website, opens today in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and -- of course for Silicon Valley cyber-porn addicts -- San Jose. After screenings at Cinema Village, there will be an after-party at the Coral Room (512 West 29th Street), complete with mermaids and some potentially scary interactive flirtation. Bring your ticket stub for admission. For advance tickets, visit http://www.cinemavillage.com; for info on the film, visit http://www.onlinethemovie.com.
CHOPPER HOLDING COURT: While Eric Bana is hulking through Hollywood, the man that inspired Bana's most famous previous role, reformed criminal Mark "Chopper" Read, is getting ready for the jury... he's heading this year's jury at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in Australia. "For someone who wasn't even invited to the opening night of his own film, it is a very nice feeling to be welcomed by the people at MUFF," Chopper said. "I have long been a supporter of underground culture and look forward to viewing this year's entries." The festival runs July 3-13, with programs on Mondo pioneer Jack Sargeant, a fetish party plus screenings of Australian and international flicks such as "Scarlet Diva," "Razor Eaters," "Cleaning Up!," and the provocatively titled "Lesbo-A-Go-Go." For a full lineup, visit http://www.muff.com.au.
SUMMERHILL IN FALL: Director William Tyler Smith ("The Third Mind") is set to go into production in September on "Summerhill," from the script he co-wrote with Julian David Hoxter. The film will be based on the real-life stories from Summerhill, the alternative school in Suffolk, England. Jake Weber ("U-571," "Meet Joe Black"), a Summerhill alumnus, is set to star, with former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek providing the score. Morris S. Levy of New York-based MEGA Films is executive producing, in association with Social Art Productions. The flick starts shooting in the fall in Suffolk and also in Carmel, California.
SUMMER BASH: indieWIRE staffers sadly missed indie publicist Susan Norget's low-key bash on Monday night. The weather cooperated for a garden party, lit by Japanese lanterns, where guests drank sangria and snacked on "extra kicky" guacamole and salsa and listened to songs by French pop crooner Serge Gainsbourg. Guests included Eamonn Bowles from Magnolia Pictures, Ryan Werner from Palm Pictures, producer George LaVoo, filmmakers Scott Saunders, Karim Ainouz, and Ira Sachs, Harris Dew and Mike Maggiore from Film Forum, and other guests.
NICHOLLS NUMBERS: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it received 6,045 entries for this year's Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. The number represents an a whopping, uh, one application more than last year, but the entrants came from a record 38 countries. Fellowships will be announced in October and awarded in November.
MORE TREKKIES: Paramount Pictures has greenlit the documentary "Trekkies 2," which is unsurprisingly a follow-up to the doc "Trekkies." Revisiting the subject are director Roger Nygard, host/executive producer Denise Crosby, and producer Mike Leahy. Nygard hopes to revisit some of the original subjects of the first doc to see what they've been up to in the intervening 7 years, and he also plans to talk to foreign "Star Trek" fans in countries from Germany to Brazil.