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by Indiewire
January 22, 2004 2:00 AM
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Warner Independent Makes Its First Deal, Plus a Report on the "Frank International Film Festival"

Warner Independent Makes Its First Deal, Plus a Report on the "Frank International Film Festival"

by Eugene Hernandez and Karl Beck



Laura Dern, Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Watts are all smiles at the "We Don't Live Here Anymore" Party on Tuesday, where producers Watts and Ruffalo negotiated a $2 million dollar distribution deal with Warner Independent Pictures. Photo Credit: Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com


A second round of buying is playing out at Sundance with Warner Independent Pictures making its first feature acquisition with a deal for "We Don't Live Here Anymore," IFC Films signing a pact for the controversial Sundance debut, "CSA: The Confederate States of America" and late Wednesday, Sony Pictures Classics nabbing "A Touch of Pink." A number of other titles were considered hot films at press time.

A coat closet at the WireImage studio on Main St. served as the makeshift negotiating table with company head Mark Gill sequestered during the LG/MAC party for the film Tuesday with film producer Naomi Watts, exec producer Mark Ruffalo and others. Gill, the former Miramax exec who founded Warner Independent last year, confirmed Wednesday that he spent $2 million for the North American and UK rights to John Curran's film. It was written by Larry Gross (based on two short stories by Andre Dubus II) and stars Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. Gill indicated that he expects to release the movie in late August or September.

Reached at the airport on his way home Wednesday afternoon, Mark Gill told indieWIRE that the film met his criteria of acquiring "smart movies for grown-ups." The film is the story of a pair of New England couples whose, in the words of an announcement, "lives become inextricably intertwined and turned upside-down in a tide of passion, suspicion, humor, anger and stunning revelations." Gill added that the movie tackles "crucial issues of our time." Harvey Kahn and Jonas Goodman of Front Street Productions and Naomi Watts produced it.

While this is his first acquisition of a finished feature, he has also made deals for five productions. The company's first release will be Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" in June; it is the follow-up to the director's "Before Sunrise," with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. In July, the company plans to release Gregory Jacobs' "Criminal" (a re-make of "Nine Queens") starring John C. Reilly, Diego Luna and Maggie Gyllenhaal, while Michael Mayer's "At Home at the End of the World," with Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts and Sissy Spacek will be released in July. Also on the slate for later in the year are Jordan Roberts' "Around the Bend" with Michael Caine, Christopher Walken and Josh Lucas, and John-Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement." The company started production this week on John Maybury's "The Jacket" with Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelly Lynch, Daniel Craig, and Kris Kristofferson.

IFC Films nabbed the provocative dramatic feature "CSA: The Confederate States of America" by Kansas film studies professor Kevin Wilmott. The film, an American Spectrum section movie at Sundance, is a mock doc that imagines what would have happened if the south had won the Civil War. Spike Lee, who recently came on board as an executive producer of the movie calls it "eye opening and jaw dropping."

The film stars Charles Frank, Evamarii Johnson, Rupert Pate, and Larry Peterson. The film was produced by Rick Cowan and executive produced by Spike Lee and Marvin Yoth. The deal was negotiated by Sarah Lash for IFC and sold by Andrew Herwitz of The Film Sales Company.

"Kevin Willmott has made a completely original film that is provocative and confrontational," said IFC Entertainment head Jonathan Sehring in a prepared statement. "It is exactly the kind of project that IFC embraces; it asks more questions than it answers, it's extraordinarily brave, and it's an example of superb and purposeful filmmaking. We're thrilled to be working with Kevin and Rick and are proud to add this to our slate."

In a late pact Wednesday, Sony Pictures Classics acquired rights in North America and several other territories for Ian Iqbal Rashid's gay-themed, culture clash comedy "Touch Of Pink." The film, produced by Jennifer Kawaja, Martin Pope, and Julia Sereny, stars Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Kristen Holden-Ried, and Suleka Mathew is playing in the premieres section at Sundance. The film is writer/director Ian Iqbal Rashid's debut feature.

As of indieWIRE's afternoon deadline, deals for a number of films, including "Super Size Me," "The Woodsman," and "DIG!" among others were in the works. [Eugene Hernandez]


SONY GETS HEIGHTS

At a Café Terigo luncheon Wednesday, Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard announced a deal for "Heights," a new film from Chris Terrio that they hope to take to Cannes this year. The director co-wrote the film with Amy Fox; it stars Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Jesse Bradford, and Isabella Rossellini and is in post-production. Ismail Merchant and James Ivory are among the producers of the film.


ODENKIRK'S FILM FESTIVAL FRENZY

Bob Odenkirk, well known for his four-year collaboration with David Cross on HBO's "Mr. Show" and the film "Run Ronnie Run!," which premiered at Sundance in 2002, returns to Sundance with the short "The Frank International Film Festival," his take on the fest world.

"There are festivals that are massive... and there are festivals that never got put down -- they're leftover vestiges from the heyday of festivals, and then you have the really rinky-dink festivals," Odenkirk humorously explained when he spoke with indieWIRE about the inspiration and premise for "Frank." The short, screening before "Overnight" in Sundance's Midnight section, is a mockumentary which follows Odenkirk as he tours with his (real-life) feature film and directorial debut "Melvin Goes to Dinner," which premiered at Slamdance last year.

Odenkirk's fictional Frank International Film Festival is probably the world's smallest festival. Anyone familiar with the festival circuit and experience will appreciate "Frank"'s details about housing, festival hookups, and panel discussions. Odenkirk isn't only interested in making fun of the festival scene, though, saying that both South by Southwest and Boston Independent Film Festival were supportive to him and gracious to filmmakers. Odenkirk, who has worked as writer, actor, producer, and editor, is enjoying his more recent work directing and plans on co-directing "The Mr. Show Movie" with longtime collaborator and "Mr. Show Movie" co-writer David Cross.

"The Frank International Film Festival" short, which was edited down for festival-literate audiences, is also available in its full-length version as an extra on the "Melvin Goes to Dinner" DVD; "Melvin Goes to Dinner" will screen on Sundance Channel in April. [Karl Beck]

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