PARK CITY 2001 BUZZ: Cuts Hit New Line/Fine Line; "Double Whammy" Deal; Blow Up and Lot47; sputnik Shorts and 20 Years of Indies
by Eugene Hernandez and Maud Kersnowski /indieWIRE
>> Cuts Hit New Line and Fine Line; 20% Said to Be Laid Off
(indieWIRE/01.24.01) -- One day after New Line and Fine Line scored a
Sundance triumph with a rousing screening of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Amy Henkels -- a Senior VP who shepherded the project -- was among the
executives laid off by the company in the wake of the arrival of a new
company President and the recent Time Warner/AOL merger. Rumors of the cuts have been circulating recently and one New Line exec who was cut yesterday
told indieWIRE that the layoffs were expected to hit 20% across all areas of
New Line Cinema and its specialty division, Fine Line Features.
"There were 20% cuts [at New Line] across the board, ranging from VPs to
assistants," a laid off New Line exec told indieWIRE. "It's because of the
merger -- all of the companies were ordered to streamline." He continued,
"Fine Line was hit today in New York. L.A. is probably tomorrow." Requests
for information about the layoffs were referred to a New Line spokesperson.
Calls to the New Line rep were not returned by press time.
Amy Henkels, a key face in the indie community, got the call yesterday from
the company's new President, Toby Emmerich. She was hardly bitter in a
conversation yesterday, offering that the move will propel her into a new
direction. "I feel like I have had a great run -- with a standing ovation
for 'Hedwig' (on Monday), I am going out with a bang." Henkels, who was
shepherding the new Todd Solondz project [both "Hedwig" and the Solondz film
are productions with Killer Films], realized that New Line was entering a
new dimension once Emmerich took the reigns. Earlier this week, New Line let
out the word that both movies would now be released by Fine Line.
"Toby needs to put the right people in place -- they are defining the two
lines, New Line and Fine Line." Henkels added frankly.
Looking ahead, Henkels again reflected on the high she felt during the
tremendous ovation that greeted "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" on Monday, "This
is certainly a good segue," she explained, "I feel like I am starting a whole new career." [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Double Whammy Takes Seven Figures
(indieWIRE/01.24.01) -- Lions Gate grabbed "Double Whammy" written and directed by Tom DiCillo promising a major release. Gold Circle Films' President David Kronemyer, William-Morris' Cassian Elwes and UTA's Howard Cohen closed the mid-seven figure pact with Lions Gate Releasing Co-Presidents Mark Urman and Tom Ortenberg for North America Rights. Myriad Pictures bought the foreign rights two months ago for six million.
"Enigma" directed by Michael Apted, Billy Wirth's "MacArthur Park", "Green Dragon" by Timothy Linh Bui are all in serious discussions with distributors. "L.I.E." has multiple deals on the table. [Maud Kersnowski]
>> Blow Up Teams With Lot 47 Films
(indieWIRE/01.24.01) -- Lot 47 Films has signed a deal to release half of the features shot by digital producer Blow Up Pictures in the next three years. Blow Up, which co-produced "Series-7" with Killer Films, promised to give the Lipsky Brothers' distribution company, Lot 47, 50% of their new digital films with budgets of one million or less.
Covering North American rights in all media, Blow-Up hopes to explode into a "digital studio," as Blow Up's JoanaVicente calls it. "We can say to directors, if you went to Sundance and were the hot movie you'd get this same distribution," Blow Up's Jason Kliot told indieWIRE.
Kliot has been outspoken about his fears that digital films will be pigeon-holed into vanity pieces and hobbies because of their low entry price and availability, and believes that having distribution locked in before a small film begins shooting will protect its theatrical prospects. "We didn't want some piddlely-wink cable distribution deal," exclaimed Kliot. "This is the [digital film] marginalization buster."
Lot 47 has limited input and cannot reject a submitted film, but they will be present through the entire production process. The Lipskys contended that filmmakers will no longer have to spend time and energy on how best to position themselves for distributors. "We have unprecedented access," co-president Mark Lipsky said of the Blow Up films. "For filmmakers it's like being in a cocoon. It's a safe place." "Many filmmakers are planning their life around next year's Sundance," Mark noted. "Sundance will only be a launch," said Co-President Jeff Lipsky.
"How do you rebuild a community because the mini-majors have obliterated that -- now if people don't see five spots on 'Friends' they don't see the movie," Mark Lipsky continued. "When I founded October [Films] we wanted to NOT be the next Miramax, but we became that. We from Lot 47 want to be the next what-October-was-going-to-be," he remarked. [Maud Kersnowski]
>> sputnik Nabs Park City Shorts
(indieWIRE/01.24.01) -- sputnik7 and Palm Pictures snagged five shorts in Park City yesterday. Three of the films can be found at Sundance: "Untitled001: Darkness" by Belief, and "Webdreamer," by Erik Adigard, are Online Festival entrants, while Elyse Couvillion's "Sweet" plays in the Short Film Competition. Other deals signed in the neighborhood were the Digidance Film Festival selection, "Race Speedster," produced and directed by Scott Rosann and Scary Little Town, and Slamdance's "Pop Gun," by Scott Pittock. sputnik7 and Palm are promising more acquisitions to come.
>> Indie Films 20 Years Later
(indieWIRE/01.24.01) -- A collection of indie notables, you could even say icons, gathered on a panel headed by Geoffrey Gillmore, to muse about the future of independent film and laugh about the glory days when Sundance was a winter retreat rather than a marketplace and media event. Hollywood distributors and the press fared particularly badly at the hands of the panel, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
"When we were making films there wasn't access to Hollywood. We didn't think
this was our ticket to Hollywood," explained filmmaker Charles Burnett
("Killer of Sheep"). "Now I don't know the difference between an indie film
and a studio [one] sometimes."
"[First time filmmakers] come from nowhere and suddenly they're the next hot
thing. They're on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. That changes the
aspirations of people in film school and writing scripts," said Bingham Ray,
co-founder of October Films.
By focusing on stars and box office numbers many on the panel seemed to
believe that the press was partly responsible for the changes in the
independent film world. "The press is definitely making it worse," commented
Mark Gill, Miramax exec. and self described "recovering journalist."
No journalists appeared on the panel. [Maud Kersnowski]