The Rabbi Reports: The Nantucket Film Festival, Part 2
by Mark Rabinowitz
The festival turned out to be a nice mix of films, panel discussions,
script readings and "Morning coffee with..." sessions. The latter were
intimate conversations in a coffee house atmosphere with discussions
moderated by fest board member Jace Alexander that featured folks such
as directors Greg Mottola ("The Daytrippers"), Peter Cohn ("Drunks") and
Robert Bella ("Colin Fitz"); producers Maggie Renzi ("Lone Star", "Matewan") and Sarah Green ("American Buffalo", "Passion Fish") and entertainment attorney Harris Tulchin imparting their particular knowledge about the film industry and their own answers to the ubiquitous question: How do I
get my film made?
Renzi weighed in on everything from how odd it was to be invited to "the
dance" when so many indie figures were present at this year's Oscar
ceremonies to how much she wanted the lone studio film, "Jerry Maguire",
to lose. (It was o.k. if another indie won the screenplay Oscar - Sayles
was nomi nated for "Lone Star" - "But please don't let it be "Jerry Maguire"). Tulchin, meanwhile, presented a multi-page outline that he
said was indispensable for the screenwriter or producer who wants to
avoid coming to the negotiating table not knowing thing one about the
business aspects of the industry. Do all of you producers or writers out
there know what you should ask for in terms of an advance? How about why
there are almost never "net receipts" on a film and that "gross dollars"
are the gold that everyone should pan for? Well, those at these coffees
learned all of that and more.
The readings underscored why this festival is first and foremost about
the screenwriters. Most of the films had been touring the festivals for
months this year, and while some still want and deserve distribution
(more on that in another dispatch from the fest), many were reaching the
end of their run at festivals. This event was not heavy with acquisition
execs but I would wager that some indie producers might want to show up
next year looking for projects in script form.
There were five professionally cast readings of unproduced screenplays
performed with actors such as Jace Alexander ("Eight Men Out"), Maddie
Corman ("Seven Minutes in Heaven", John Shea (""Jerry Maguire""), Callie Thorne ("Ed's Next Move", TV's "Homicide"), Dana
Wheeler-Nicholson ("The Pompatus of Love", "Fletch"), Chris Noth (TV's "Law & Order"), and Mary McCormack ("Private Parts", TV's "Murder One"). I find readings to be a wonderful way to imagine a film without such baggage as producers, DP's, sound designers, costumers, and of course, studio
execs. Close your eyes while the narrator sets the scene and you're on
Court Central at Stade Roland Garros in Paris for the French Open, or in
an Iowa cornfield watching a single engine prop plane crash into a
freight train and burst into flame. It's up to the listener to build
their own sets and dress the characters and a challenge for the actors
to make a character alive without moving from a chair. In both readings
I attended, Warren Leight's ("The Night We Never Met") "Love-40", and Pete Nelson's "Peace, Love & War", I built my sets and developed crushes on
characters and the actors put me in the story, making it possible for me
to forget that I was in a hot and stuffy theater watching people read
Note to fest staff: think about possibly holding readings and panel
discussions in an open air tent with a PA system -- less likely to have
people nodding off that way.
See my next dispatch to read about pitching on the golf course with R.J.
Cutler, how Marla Maples took one on the chin for the team and, oh yeah,