Speedman's Latest; Tanner Returns; Acquisitions Deals, Tribeca's Final Parties & More
by Wendy Mitchell
INDUSTRY MOVES: Michael Ellenbogen and Evan Brownstein have joined Co.Op Artists/Media Cooperative. Ellenbogen had been a film/market analyst at Focus Features and Brownstein previously worked at Interpublic.
Sony Pictures Entertainment announced a new pact with Michael Barker and Tom Bernard to extend their term as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics for another five years. Barker and Bernard founded SPC in 1991 with former partner Marcie Bloom.
SPEEDMAN'S NEW "DAY": indieWIRE caught up with actor Scott Speedman during the Tribeca Film Festival to discuss his latest film, Tony Piccirillo's debut film "The 24th Day." Speedman ("My Life Without Me," TV's "Felicity") plays Tom, a young man who just found out he's HIV-positive. Tom numbs the pain with alcohol, but he still has plenty of rage for the one man he slept with in his life, Dan (James Marsden), so he kidnaps Dan to confront him. Much of the film -- which started as a play -- takes place as the two men grapple (physically and emotionally) in a small New York apartment. From the premise, it could have been a disaster, but the film is quite impressive, obviously based in part on strong performances from Speedman and Marsden. When he first read the script, Speedman says, " I thought I was going to be kind of naked in it -- not literally -- but it's just me and Jimmy in a room. I thought it was a character I didn't know... He's a very specific, isolated man in his own world and I wanted to see if I could get there. The character was the most interesting thing."
One thing that's most impressive about the film is the shifting moral lines -- it's not a simple attacker/victim story. "I don't try to judge what [Tom's] doing, I just try to get inside what he's doing," Speedman says. "On one level, it is this human being doing something awful. But as the movie continues you see where he's coming from to a degree. I like that the movie isn't saying, 'this is right' or 'this is wrong.'"
Strangely enough, Speedman's next role is another HIV-positive character. This one is in Thom Fitzgerald's "Three Needles," as a porn star who has AIDS and is concealing his disease so he can continue to work (the role was developed before the recent real-life porn world AIDS scare). Speedman says that he hasn't yet watched a lot of porn to get into character. "It could be guilt-free porn," he jokes. After that, he's working on "Blue Valentine" with Derek Cianfrance. In choosing projects, Speedman says he prefers "smaller stuff... everybody talks about independent movies, but it's really just movies about people, and they happen to be independent because big companies don't want to pay for movies about people. Selfishly, that's where I'm best. I can accept the losses with these movies... if they don't work, at least it was a noble effort."
TANNER '04: The Sundance Channel is working with Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman on the sequel to their miniseries "Tanner'88." The channel will air a new three-part series starting in October; production on the project will start in June. Original "Tanner" cast members Cynthia Nixon, Michael Murphy, Pamela Reed, and Matt Malloy will star in the update, which follows Tanner's daughter Alex, a documentary filmmaker, as she tries to make a film about the presidency. As with the original series, fact and fiction will blend as Tanner interacts with real political candidates; filming will end in July at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Trudeau wrote the new series, which Altman will direct; Matthew Seig and Wren Arthur of Sandcastle 5 will produce with Altman, Trudeau, and Sundance Channel's Adam Pincus executive producing. The channel had been airing the original series since February.
"FACE" DEAL: Women Make Movies has acquired the North American distribution rights to Cathy Henkel's "The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face," which recently tied for the best documentary feature prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is about the rape of the director's mother. Films Transit is handling worldwide sales for the film; it is also slated for broadcast on the Sundance Channel in 2005.
BUYING "CHOOCH": In other acquisitions news, Artistic License has nabbed the North American distribution rights to "Chooch." The Fruitbasket Films production is about two Queens cousins who go on an ill-fated trip to Cancun. Carmine Famiglietti, who starred in and co-wrote the Sundance 2004 film "Lbs.," costars with Joseph Summa. Artistic License plans an August 27 opening in New York, with the film rolling out later.
FESTIVAL FUNDERS: Two film festivals got some good sponsor news recently. Bank One will serve as the title sponsor of the 40th Chicago International Film Festival, Cinema/Chicago announced. Bank One's involvement has helped the development of the fest's "Four Decades of Discovery" screening and discussion series, which has invited filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Patrice Chereau, and Mike Leigh. The sponsorship will also allow for a film industry leadership panel. Bank One will promote the festival with posters and flyers at its 230 Chicago-area branches, and the bank's customers will be eligible for special ticket discounts.
Also, Atlanta's IMAGE Film & Video Center announced that Turner Broadcasting System has pledged $500,000 to support the Atlanta Film Festival and the Out on Film Festival. TBS had been a presenting sponsor during the past four years, and has now committeed to the next five years. The half million is the largest pledge in IMAGE's history.
A NIGHT AT NOBU: Now that Cannes is underway, the Tribeca Film Festival seems like a distant memory, but we'd be remiss if we didn't recap two parties late in the festival. On Friday night, BUZZ made her way over to Churrascaria Plataforma for Sony Classics' party in honor of Hector Babenco's "Carandiru." The Brazilian prison drama was playing at Tribeca and opens in theaters today. The restaurant is famous for its overflowing mounds of grilled meats, but all the meat we saw were fried meatballs, some fried shrimp, and fried chicken puffs (do you notice the fried theme?). Mojitos were served, but champagne became more appropriate when Sony Classics co-head Michael Barker raised a toast to Babenco, who previously directed films including "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Attendees included Dr. Drauzio Varella (whose life inspired the film), Brazilian hotty Rodrigo Santoro (who stars in "Carandiru" and also stole Laura Linney's heart in "Love Actually"), Amy Irving, writer William Kennedy, Bruno Barreto, Tribeca's Peter Scarlet, and artist/director Julian Schnabel.
After a few fried morsels, we were ready for the main course, over at Nobu, for Showtime Independent Films. Nobu's famed sushi and other top-notch food (Kobe beef) was served in copious quantities to attendees including Showtime's Mathew Blank and Robert Greenblatt, Glenn Close, Mario and Melvin Van Peebles, Aidan Quinn, Laura Elena Harring, Michael C.Hall (of rival HBO's "Six Feet Under" fame), Kyra Sedgwick, director Chris Eyre, "Control Room" director Jehane Noujaim, Tim Blake Nelson, and basically anybody who is anybody in the New York indie film world. It was such a good party that people actually danced at the end. One intrepid partygoer we know -- an indie film mainstay who evidently has a stomach of steel -- set out with the goal of eating and drinking $1000 worth of free food and libations -- with more than a dozen plates of sushi, a few of those salmon tartare glasses, and some expensive champagne and liquor, we think he made his goal.