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Rosenow's "Crossing Fields" Crosses into Self-Distribution

By Indiewire | Indiewire March 12, 1998 at 2:00AM

Rosenow's "Crossing Fields" Crosses into Self-Distribution
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Rosenow's "Crossing Fields" Crosses into Self-Distribution

By Mary Sampson




First time director James Rosenow had a tough decision to make. His
feature debut, "Crossing Fields", was set to open at Cincinnati's
Esquire theater on Friday night. On Wednesday, Rosenow got word that
the film, which still lacks a distributor, was being seriously
considered for an invitation to the Los Angeles International Film
Festival. As the LAIFF doesn't allow films in the festival that have been
released theatrically, Rosenow had to either jeopardize his chances to get
into the festival (and the press and distribution exposure that comes along
with it) or pull the movie from the theater at the last minute. As they
say in football, he chose not to take the points off the board, and went
ahead with the opening. Thanks in part to positive press, the film grossed
$3,300 (at $6.00 a ticket) on one screen, handily out-grossing the five
other films playing at the multiplex art house. Ticket sales for
self-distributed films are not tracked by market scorekeepers like EDI.
If they were, "Crossing Fields" would have landed in the indie top ten.


As the LAIFF doesn't allow films in the festival that have been released
theatrically, Rosenow had to either jeopardize his chances to get into the
festival (and the press and distribution exposure that comes along with it)
or pull the movie from the theater at the last minute.


First time director James Rosenow thought he had a tough decision to
make. His feature debut, "Crossing Fields", was set to open at Cincinnati's
Esquire theater last Friday night, but on Wednesday, Rosenow got word that
the film, which still lacks a distributor, was being considered for invitation
to the Los Angeles International Film Festival. As the LAIFF doesn't allow
films in the festival that have been released theatrically, Rosenow feared
he would have to either forego the festival (and the press and distribution
exposure that comes along with it) or pull the movie from the theater at
the last minute. Well, As they say in football, he chose not to
take the points off the board, and went ahead
with the opening. Thanks in part to positive press, the film grossed
$3,300 (at $6.00 a ticket) on one screen last weekend, handily out-grossing
the five other films playing at the multiplex art house. Ticket sales for
self-distributed films are not tracked by market scorekeepers like EDI.
If they were, "Crossing Fields" would have landed in the indie top ten.


With rare insight and respect, James Rosenow's first feature film tells
the story of a middle-aged, middle-class, mid-western homemaker who
finds her moral beliefs challenged by a series of surrounding events.
Unapologetically feminist in theme, "Crossing Fields" indicts the system
that oppresses women without demonizing men. The film stars Reedy Gibbs
and Gwynth Walsh, two veteran - and mostly unheard of - actresses, as
best friends living in a rural community. It premiered at this year's
Hamptons International Film Festival where it received Lifetime
Television's "Lifetime Vision Award" for a film depicting issues related
to women. indieWIRE spoke with Rosenow earlier this year.


indieWIRE: This was an ambitious script with a modest budget, so let's
start with how you stretched the money for this film with an
Artist-In-Residence program at a University. You've said you've never
heard of a filmmaker doing this before. How did you come to think of
it?


James Rosenow: I got the idea when a filmmaker friend of mine went to
teach at a University. He called me up and said "Hey James, why don't
you come out here and do a film with me." And I thought "Hey, why don't
I do my own film at a University." It's a win-win proposition. A lot
of Universities want to offer some type of film studies but can't afford
to start a film school. With a working filmmaker on campus, students
get a chance to learn from participating in the process. And not just
as PA's. We had students as 2nd and 3rd assistant directors. Another
student was our production coordinator. They were really thrown into
the mix. We got a lot out of it too - office space, housing for cast
and crew in the vacant dorms, the goodwill of the community, and, most
importantly, students willing to help out as interns on the film. Given
our budget, we couldn't have done it without them.


iW: Would you do it again?


Rosenow: Probably not as there are down sides to it. Because the
students have never done their jobs before, it slows down the shoot
significantly. We had multiple locations, many of which were far away
from each other, and a lot of them were outdoors. One scene in
particular, the confrontation scene between Carol and Jessica, took two
days to shoot when it should have taken one. The sun was moving across
the sky and we had to have this big scrim and the lights needed constant
adjusting. We only had one professional gaffer, who was really a best
boy who had stepped up to be a gaffer. The rest were students. I want
everyone to understand that they did an extraordinary job, but there was
no way they were going to be able to work as fast as someone who had
done it before.


iW: So you would only recommend this program to filmmakers who have
limited budgets and a lot of time?


Rosenow: Or just a simpler script.


iW: So you've decided to self-distribute "Crossing Fields". Have you
been turned down by all
potential buyers?


Rosenow: No, but the ones I have shown it to all say the same thing:
"It's a great story", "incredibly acted", "I can't believe how
emotional I got", "it drew me in"...."But it has to be edgier."


iW: Really? I thought it was edgy to the point of being provocative.


Rosenow: Exactly. But it doesn't have the same kind of edginess found
in the usual alternative film, like an urban setting, 20-something
characters, violence and kinky sex.. I'm sympathetic to the situation
distributors are in. There's so much pressure placed on them for every
movie to succeed, it forces executives to stop trusting their instincts
and start looking for elements that they recognize from previous
movies. But I think there is a market out there for this kind of film
and I feel strongly that there's a whole segment of the population
that's not having their needs and issues addressed in films these days.


iW: How?


Rosenow: I'll start by opening the film somewhere just outside New
York, like Broadway shows sometimes do. After it builds up some
momentum, I'll bring it into New York City. And, of course, I'll take
it to the Midwest. I'm not crazy. I know how hard it is to
self-distribute a film, and how big a risk I'm taking. I wouldn't do it
if the response I keep getting from audiences wasn't so overwhelming.
I've screened this film for over 800 people so far. Nobody is coming up
to me afterwards and saying things like "Nice job James, I liked what
you did with the tractor scene", or "What are you doing for your next
project?" Everyone wants to talk about the issues the film raises. One
woman told me she's waited over 10 years to see a film like this one.


iW: Speaking of 'a film like this one', "Crossing Fields" consists
mostly of female characters. And the main male character is African
American. Where did you get the confidence to tell a story from these
points of view?


Rosenow: I grew up in the mid-west with a household full of strong
females. And a close friend of my family, Michael, was the inspiration
for the African American character. I based the character of James on
him. During the writing, I turned to Michael for guidance whenever I
was uncertain about what James might do or say.


iW: Have you received any criticism from women or blacks about the way
these characters are portrayed?


Rosenow: I haven't. Maybe that's because everyone is just being
polite, but many of the African Americans who've seen it have told me
they were impressed with the character of James. And women are usually
amazed when, after they see the film, they find out it wasn't a woman
who wrote it.


iW: Did anyone try to discourage you from making this film by claiming
that no-one would go see a movie about a middle-aged, middle-class
woman?


Rosenow: No because I didn't shop the script around to industry
people. And I don't think I would have changed it if they had tried to
discourage me. I knew that as a first time filmmaker I had to get out
there and make something interesting. I think that people who are
staying away from movies today are sick of only seeing Generation Xers.
Which isn't to say I don't enjoy those movies - I do - or that they
don't have a right to be made. It's just that it's not enough to focus
only on them.


[NOTE: "Crossing Fields" will continue to screen at the Esquire in
Cincinnati.]

This article is related to: Interviews