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"Trafficking" No Borders with "After Hours" writer Joseph Minion

By Indiewire | Indiewire September 21, 1998 at 2:00AM

"Trafficking" No Borders with "After Hours" writerJoseph Minion
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"Trafficking" No Borders with "After Hours" writer
Joseph Minion

by Anthony Kaufman




While directors with completed films busily pursue movers and shakers in
the beehive that is the Angelika Film Center, there is another part of
the market, deep in the back rooms in a building across the street -- a
more relaxed alternative to the chaos that usually surrounds the IFFM.
They call it No Borders. And among the roughly 50 scripts and
works-in-progress included by invitation only, there is a list of
accomplished directors (Charles Burnett, George Hickenlooper), producers
(Jim McKay, Sam Shaw), writers (John Hanson, Joseph Minion) and actors
(Rosanna Arquette, Billy Baldwin) all committed to projects in need of
financing. No Borders participants don't need to seek out the reps; the
buyers come to them.


To be selected for No Borders, projects must include a director,
screenwriter, or producer who has at least one feature film which has
been distributed or screened at a major festival; 20% of financing
already in place; and the project's elements strongly support
co-financing possibilities. Projects are selected by the program's four
presenting organizations: the IFP, CineMart, the Filmstiftung
Nordheim-Westfalen and the Sundance Institute.


"I'm not even sure of this thing I'm in," says Joseph Minion. "I'm in
the No Borders sidebar," he says questioning, "which is basically for
works-in-progress?" Minion doesn't know it, but his unfinished second
feature "Trafficking" is well positioned within No Borders. Along with
producers George LaVoo and Laura Gabbert, Minion, known for writing
Martin Scorsese's screwball masterwork "After Hours," and the tweaked
Nicholas Cage starrer, "Vampire's Kiss," will be meeting with reps from
such distributors as Fox Searchlight and Miramax, as well as smaller
outfits like Redeemable Features and IFC productions.


Like many of those inside No Borders, Minion already has contacts within
the industry -- his name is recognized in screenwriting circles and his
first script "After Hours" garnered Scorsese a Palme d'Or for Best
Director at Cannes ‘86. But even these accolades don't make it any
easier to get a picture finished. "You haven't seen the film," Minion
laughs. "It's got no stars. The market is all about celebrity and
stars. And that's all anyone is really interested in. Everyone that
I've ever met in the business works in companies that are interested in
stars. Hopefully, there'll be a distributor that will be engaged by the
film substantively," he considers. "Than this won't be an issue."


Starring the virtually unknown actors Jack Kerrigan, Martha Gehman,
(friends of his line producer), Alan Naggar (his neighbor) and John
Fleck (a friend and well-known theater actor in LA), "Trafficking" is
the story of Joseph Infante, an L.A. private eye who crumbles while
investigating a woman with multiple personalities. The film, mostly
shot on 16mm, now waits in an AVID output stage for finishing funds to
complete such work as opticals, ADR, more sound work, and a blow up to
35mm. "This is a huge amount of money," he remarks, "and I am trying to
find someone to help us take it that distance."


"We pulled a miracle out of our asses," says Minion of the two-week,
multiple-location, ultra-low budget feature. The film is Minion's
second attempt at directing since he attended NYU and Columbia film
schools back in the early 80's. His first directorial outing was called
"Daddy's Boys" for Roger Coreman, "a piece of shit, but I have a fond
spot in my heart for it," he says, which used sets from Coreman's "Big
Bad Mama II" and was shot in 17 days. Still, the experience was useful
for Minion: "I learned how you get into this mode of being constantly on
adrenaline," he says. "Physiologically, it's like being in a war, no
time to relax. . . and learning to think on your feet."


Of his experiences with Scorsese just out of film school, the
writer-now-director says, "It was an education. It was interesting to
see what sort of stuff he liked in rewrites and what he didn't. He
really loves documentary. Even when he's making fiction films, they
seem very real. So even in this absurdist, loopy, black comic movie, I
could see him pushing to make things as real as possible. . . I think it
effected me. I think I learned. I think what this is all about is
making films that have resonance. It was quite an eye-opener, to
understand how certain films work." "Trafficking," claims Minion "is one
of the most unreal movies you'll ever see. . . , but internally, it's
absolutely the product of a real zeitgeist that is definitely resonant."


Although the only time Minion stepped foot into the IFFM was as an
audience member, producer LaVoo is a two-year No Borders veteran. In
1996, his No Borders documentary-in-progress "World's End," directed by
Richard Curling, received financing from Britain's Channel 4. And last
year, his No Borders entry, "Getting to Know You," based on three short
stories from Joyce Carol Oates, eventually landed at ShadowCatcher
Entertainment.


"Unlike some seminars where people just come to fish around," he says,
"last year, they had people at No Borders who were seriously looking to
finance movies." Although ShadowCatcher was not at the market, there
was another financier that came on board and it was because of that
portion of the financing, that LaVoo was able to attract the new
production company. "Without No Borders, we wouldn't have gotten to
where we are now," says LaVoo, on a phone call from the Jersey Shore two
days into production.


On the general usefulness of the sidebar, LaVoo offers, "Every time you
go into one of these situations, it helps you to position your project a
little bit better, it helps you get a sense of how to talk about it, how
to take it a step further in development, how to package it a little bit
better. So that when you're dealing with people who are real players,
you have an even stronger sense if you're close to hitting the mark."


"Joe is a true writer," said Producer LaVoo. "He's kept himself out of
that part of the business. This is all going to be a very new experience
for him." But LaVoo sees Minion's market greenness an asset. "He's
going to go into it with a freshness, it's going to work for both sides,
for him and the people that he's meeting." When asked if he's planning
some sort of pitch or strategy, Minion replies, "Let the trailer speak
for itself. . . You can't really control it. Just put the energy out
there. Why? You got any tips?"

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