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BIZ Briefs for the week of 01/04/99

BIZ Briefs for the week of 01/04/99

Compiled by Mark Rabinowitz, Anthony Kaufman, Maya Churi, and Eugene Hernandez

>> AVID Wins an Oscar; Other Sci-Tech Academy Award Winners Announced

An Academy Award of Merit for scientific and technical achievement will be
presented to Avid Technology, Inc. for “the concept, system design, and
engineering of the Avid Film Composer for motion picture editing.” The
announcement of the Oscar for Avid, along with the recipients of 34 other
Sci-Tech awards, was made yesterday by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences President Robert Rehme.

According to the Academy, Sci-Tech Oscars are awarded “for devices,
methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding
value to the arts and sciences of motion pictures and that also have a
proven history of use in the motion picture industry.” While Avid will
receive the only Oscar statuette presented during the February 27th
ceremony, among the recipients of Academy plaques representing scientific
and engineering awards are the developers of microphone boom poles, camera
lenses, spray film cleaner, time code slates, camera dollies, visual effects
software, digital audio editing equipment, and laser film recording
technology for transferring digital data onto film stock. [Eugene Hernandez]

>> NFJC Presents Grants

The National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC) has announced the
winners of $150,000 in completion grants given to five films from its
Fund for Jewish Documentary Filmmaking. All of the films explore
complex facets of the Jewish experience, from the unknown story of
Crypto-Jews in America to the urban landscape of existential cartoonist
Ben Katchor. Founded in 1960 by the Council of Jewish Federations, the
NFJC is dedicated to strengthening Jewish continuity and fostering an
American Jewish cultural identity. The Film Fund is a collaboration with
the Righteous Persons Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg, which
provided seed money of $650,000 in 1996. Since then, the Fund has
granted over $450,000 to 19 films.

The 1998 Award winners are:

Andre’s Lives” Directed by Brad Lichtenstein, about the Bauhaus-trained
architect Andre Steiner who saved thousands of Slovak Jews during the
Holocaust. After testifying during the Nuremberg Trials, he emigrated to
Atlanta with his family to begin a new life. Having never shared his
story, Andre returns to Slovakia at age 89 with his sons to engage with
his past for the first time.

Anusim: A Story of the Crypto-Jews in North America” Directed by Nick
Athas and Daniel Goldberg, about the many Crypto-Jews forced to convert
to Catholicism and immigrate to North America in order to escape the
Spanish Inquisition.

The March” Directed by Abraham Ravett. About the filmmaker’s parents
who survived the Auschwitz Death March of 1945, but while his father
never spoke about it, his mother continuously made references to the
miracle of her survival.

The Pleasures of Urban Decay” Directed by Samuel Ball. Ben Katchor who
has been hailed as the creator of the last great Jewish American comic
strip, guides the audience through the shadowy landscape of old
skyscrapers, neglected warehouses, all-night cafeterias, and other urban
ephemera that serve as the inspiration for his graphic literature.

Promises” Directed by B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro. About the Arab
and Israeli children living in and around Jerusalem who witness the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film is an expression of their hopes,
fears, anxieties and understandings. [Maya Churi]

The 1999 Film Fund deadline is April 1. For information and applications
visit the NFJC website @


>> Goya Oh Boy’a! Trueba Tops Spain’s Top Film Nominees

Spanish films don’t have the easiest time getting picked up for U.S.
distribution, but the race for Spain’s top film awards, the Goyas, is
a good indicator of the most likely candidates. Topping the
list with 18 nominations is Fernando Treuba’s “The Girl of Your Dreams” (“La Nina de Tus Ojos”), about a group of Spanish filmmakers living in
Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich. The film stars Spanish
starlet Penelope Cruz (currently appearing on U.S. screens in “The Hi-Lo
“) who was also nominated for a Best Actress award. Director
Trueba is renowned in the U.S. for his 1994 Best Foreign Language Film
La Belle Epoque.”

Also competing for top awards is the country’s submission for Oscar
consideration, “The Grandfather” (“El Abuelo”) directed by Jose Luis Garci
with 13 nominations, and 25-year-old filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar’s
surreal thriller “Abre los Ojos,” which will be released in the U.S.
this April by Artisan Entertainment, and which came away with 10
nominations. Fernando Leon’s Sundance bound, second feature “Barrio
(“Neighborhood”) will also compete in the top categories for best film and
best director with 6 nominations. Other films which garnered
nominations were the Leonor Watling starrer, “La Hora de Los Valientes
and Fine Line’s Toronto acquisition, “The Lovers of the Arctic Circle
(“Los Amantes del Circulo Polar”) directed by Julio Medem. The awards
ceremony will take place on Jan. 23. [Anthony Kaufman]

>> 286 Feature Films Eligible For 71st Academy Awards Consideration

Robert Rehme, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
, has announced the field of feature films eligible for this
year’s Academy Awards consideration, which totals 286 films. It is the
highest number of films eligible for Academy Awards consideration since
1973, topping last year’s total by 11.

To qualify for consideration under Academy rules, a feature-length film
must receive public theatrical exhibition in a commercial theater in Los
Angeles between January 1, 1998, and midnight December 31, 1998, for a
run of seven consecutive days. As is usual, several films sneaked just
under the wire of eligibility in limited release this year, including
Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.”

Films submitted in the Documentary, Foreign Language and Short Films
categories are viewed and selected by special voting panels of Academy
members, and have different eligibility requirements. Foreign language
films and documentary features can be submitted both in their own
categories and for consideration in 24 “regular” categories, including
Best Picture.

Nominations will be announced in all categories at the Academy on
February 9. The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 21,
1999, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in LA, and will be televised on
ABC. For further information, visit www.oscars.org.

[Kevin Dreyfuss]

>> Spielberg Confirms Discusses DreamWorks’ Interest in Financing Indies

In an interview with Los Angeles Time film critic Kenneth Turan
published last week, filmmaker Steven Spielberg confirmed that
DreamWorks SKG, the independently owned Hollywood Studio that he formed
with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, is interested in launching a
specialty film division.

Explaining that the “the independent revolution is the most exciting
thing that’s happened since the French New Wave,” Spielberg added,
“Miramax is actually my favorite company in town. I think it’s amazing
that they didn’t narrow their range to European pickups or low-ball
financing of very talented filmmakers; they also will occasionally make
the Roger Corman films, the ones that go boo in the night. I like the
way they’re stretching. It means they don’t take themselves that

While Spielberg admitted that at this point he has “a larger appetite
than our business plan allows me to have,” he explained that he loved
Thomas Vinterberg’s acclaimed digitally-shot Danish film, “The
,” and admitted that it is the type of film he could imagine
his company financing. “I think if Thomas Vinterberg had told me that
story and come to me with that concept of shooting a movie in available
light, I would have found the financing for him to make that picture,”
Spielberg told Turan, “I would have been very happy to put either
DreamWorks name or a smaller, independent distribution branch of
DreamWorks on it and release it. So I’m just open to anything. “

[Eugene Hernandez]

>> National Crix Reveal Picks

The National Society of Film Critics met on Sunday, and Steven
Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” emerged as the only multiple award-winner,
nabbing the Best Picture of the Year, Best Director and Best Screenplay
(Scott Frank). The complete awards handed out are as follows:

Best Picture of the Year – “Out of Sight” (Runner-up: “Affliction,” dir.
Paul Schrader

Best Director – Steven Soderbergh (Runners-up: Steven Spielberg for
“Saving Private Ryan” and Terrence Malick for “The Thin Red Line”)

Best Screenplay – Scott Frank

Best Actor – Nick Nolte, “Affliction

Best Actress – Alley Sheedy, “High Art

Best Supporting Actor – Bill Murray, “Rushmore

Best Supporting Actress – Judi Dench, “Shakespeare in Love

Best Cinematography – John Toll, “The Thin Red Line

Best Foreign Language Film – “Taste of Cherry,” dir. Abbas Kiarostami
(Runner-up: “Fireworks,” dir. Takeshi Kitano)

Best Experimental Film – “Mother and Son,” dir. Aleksander Sokurov

Best Documentary – “The Farm: Angola U.S.A.,” dir. Jonathan Stack and Liz

Special Citation: Walter Murch, Rick Schmidlin, Bob O’Neil and Jonathan
Rosenbaum for their work restoring Orson Wells’ “Touch of Evil

Special Citation: The publication of an expanded edition of Manny
Farber’s “Negative Space,” a collection of film criticism originally
published in the 1970s.
[Mark Rabinowitz]

>> “Broken Vessels” Picked Up

LAIFF ’98 prize-winner “Broken Vessels,” one of the hottest un-distributed
films of the past nine months, has finally found a theatrical home in
the United States. According to a source close to the deal, indie
distributor Unapix has picked up U.S. theatrical rights to Scott Ziehl’s
festival fave for a sum under one million dollars.

“Vessels,” which was ranked at the top of indieWIRE’s year-end list
of favorite undistributed films won the audience prize at the Los
Angeles Independent Film Festival and also screened at the 1998 Toronto
Film Festival. The film was repped by John Sloss and his team of
Micah Green and Joy Newhouse under recently formed banner, Sloss
Special Projects

Earlier this year, Unapix acquired the rights to Jeffrey Dupre’s Sundance
documentary Audience Award winner, “Out of the Past.” [Mark Rabinowitz]


(Dec 18, 1998) ++ indieWIRE Picks Favorite Pics (without U.S. Distribution)
of 1998

(Apr 21, 1998) “Broken Vessels” Wins Top LAIFF Prize Amid Acquisitions

>> Cohen Departs Stratosphere

Less than a year after Stratosphere Entertainment announced its
lineup of releases during a press conference at the Sundance
Film Festival, company co-founder and President Paul Cohen has
left the company.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Thom Geier confirmed the news in the
publication a few days before Christmas. In a statement published
in the Hollywood trade publication, Cohen said, “It has become quite
clear to me recently that my vision of what Stratosphere could
be, and Mr. Icahn’s agenda for the future of the company are no
longer compatible.” Geier noted that the announcement came the
same day as a New York Times article profiling the eighteen month
old distributor.

Countering Cohen, Stratosphere financer and Chairman Carl Icahn also
released a statement to the Reporter, indicating that “the results
during the past few months have been disappointing and that several
projects have gone over budget.” According to the Reporter, company VP’s
Richard Abramowitz and Ronna Wallace will remain in place and Icahn is
committed to the Stratosphere’s future. [Eugene Hernandez]

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