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Biz briefs for the week of 01/11/99

Biz briefs for the week of 01/11/99

Compiled by Eugene Hernandez, Mark Rabinowitz, Kevin Dreyfuss and Maya Churi

>> Clein + White Becomes Clein + Walker, Panagakis Upped

Veteran NY-LA public relations firm Clein + White has undergone a name
change, and will now be known as Clein + Walker, Inc. – Marketing, Media
& Creative Services, reflecting Cara White’s departure some time ago and
Jeremy Walker’s recent return to C+W after a brief stint running rival
PR firm Denis Davidson Associates‘ New York Office. Walker will head
C+W’s New York office, while company co-founder Harry Clein will
continue to head up the Los Angeles operations. In addition to the name
change, four-year C+W vet and former senior publicist Alex Panagakis,
has been upped to the position of vice president. Recently, four C+W
publicists, including NY office head Jeff Hill and vice president
Shannon Treusch, left the company to open a new firm, Falco Ink.

>> Strand Nabs Two Fest Faves

Strand Releasing has acquired the U.S. rights to David Moreton’s “Edge
of Seventeen
” and Gaspar Noe’s “I Stand Alone” (Seul contre tous), both
of which are slated to screen at the upcoming Sundance Film festival.
Moreton’s film is a portrayal of the coming out of a 17 year-old
teenager in mid ’80’s Sandusky, Ohio, and stars Chris Stafford in the
lead role. The film has played in New York, San Francisco and Los
Angeles gay film festivals, and will screen in the American Spectrum
section at Sundance.

Noe’s “I Stand Alone” screened to received critical notice at the
Toronto, Telluride, New York and Vancouver fests, and won the critics’
prize for the best film of Critic’s Week at the 1998 Cannes Film
Festival. After screening in the World Cinema section at Sundance, the
film is scheduled to play at the Rotterdam Film Festival. The film is a
disturbing look at a racist, misogynist middle-aged ex-con trying to
turn his life around.

“Seventeen” is set for a theatrical release in May of this year, while
“I Stand Alone” will open exclusively at New York’s Film Forum on March
17th, and in April in Los Angeles.

>> Kazan To Receive Honorary Oscar

Five-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Elia Kazan will receive an
Honorary Academy Award at this year’s ceremony on March 21st. The Board
of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)
voted director Kazan the award, which according to AMPAS rules may be
awarded for “exceptional distinction in the making of motion pictures or
for outstanding service to the Academy.” Kazan received his first Oscar
for directing “Gentleman’s Agreement” in 1947, which also won for Best
Picture and Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm). His second Best Director
Oscar came for 1954’s “On the Waterfront.” He was also nominated for
Best Director for 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “East of Eden” (1955)
and 1963’s “America America.”

Kazan was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and emigrated to the
United States with his Greek parents at age four. After graduating
college, Kazan’s stint at the drama department at Yale provided him with
his entree into a career in entertainment. Already an accomplished stage
director, his first film directorial effort, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,”
won two Oscars, one for Supporting Actor for James Dunn and a Special
Award for Outstanding Child Actress for Peggy Ann Garner. In 1952, Kazan
testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC),
naming almost a dozen actors, writers and others as Communists,
including writer Clifford Odets (“Sweet Smell of Success”) who himself
testified before the committee in May of that year, naming Kazan in turn.

Past recipients of honorary Academy Awards include Fred Astaire, Greta
Garbo, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Kirk Douglas and
Stanley Donen.

>> National Board of Review Creates Pakula Award, “Bulworth” First Honoree

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures (NBR) will honor the
late director Alan J. Pakula by creating an award in his name, and
bestowing the innaugural honor on Warren Beatty’s 1998 standout film,
Bulworth.” In a prepared release, the Board stated that “Bulworth” was
“a bold uproarious and provocative motion picture that will long be
remembered as a significant example of ‘the political games’ of the
nineties.” In 1976, the NBR presented Best Picture and Best Director
honors to Pakula’s “All the President’s Men” and in 1981 Beatty was
awarded the NBR’s Best Director honor for “Reds.” In 1974, the two men
collaborated on “The Parallax View,” which Pakula directed an in which
Beatty starred. The award will be presented, along with the rest of the
NBR’s 1998 honors, on February 8th in New York City.

>> Diller Offer Expires

After Daily Variety reported last week that Barry Diller was exploring
the possibility of purchasing October Films and various assets of
Polygram, it turns out that the October board of directors failed to
agree on Diller’s offer, allowing it to expire at 5pm EST on Monday.
Variety reported on Tuesday that Diller made an offer comprised
completely of stock in the Diller-owned USA Networks, and according to
the Trade, October’s board couldn’t agree on a number of parts of the
deal, including the price offered, and “the idea of working in a
Diller-controlled universe.” 51% of October is owned by Universal
Studios, while various minority share investors own the remaining
portion, including Allen & Co. and Siegler Collery & Co.

>> Academy Rules Change at the Expense of Docs

Five fewer documentaries will receive recognition by the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences
next year as a result of changes that were
adopted at a meeting of the AMPAS rules committee last week. While the
group rejected proposals that would have established new Oscar categories
for casting, stunt coordination, title design, and feature animation, the
committee essentially erased the Documentary Short Subject Oscar, by
combining it with the Documentary Feature category.

Commenting on the shift in a prepared statement, Academy President Robert
Rehme explained, “The combined category will continue to give the really
extraordinary short theatrical documentary a place to be recognized, but
except for the Imax films, there really isn’t enough non-television work in
the genre to justify a separate award these days.”

Reacting to the change in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Liz
Garbus who directed the 1998 Sundance Film Festival award winning
documentary “The Farm” said, “It’s distressing that the Academy would be
limiting the ways to recognize documentary filmmakers.” Noting that
receiving notice by the Academy is an important way for documentaries to
receive national exposure, she questioned, “For every doc, short or long,
there are (now) only 5 nominations slots available — what exactly is this

Also combined by the Academy committee were the Dramatic Score and Musical
or Comedy Score categories. On the other hand, while the committee
considered combining the Sound and Sound Effects categories they were
maintained, but a final decision will be made in April. [Eugene Hernandez
and Anthony Kaufman]

>> Red Sky Brings In “The Herd” For Canada

Red Sky Entertainment has picked up the Canadian theatrical, television
and home video rights from the National Film Board of Canada to Peter
Lynch’s historical feature “The Herd.” The historical feature film deals
with master reindeer herder Andy Bahr and his 1,500-mile trek from
Alaska to Canada’s Northwest Territory with a small group of Inuit and
Sami herders and 3,000 reindeer, and was nominated for a Genie Award.
The Canadian government bought the herd to attempt to provide a
livelihood for the Mackenzie Delta Inuit, and while the drive was
intended to be completed in 18 months, it actually took six years. “The
Herd” stars Don McKellar (“Last Night”), Colm Feore (“Thirty-two Short
Films About Glenn Gould”) and Don Lennox as Bahr with his voice provided
by Graham Greene (“Dances With Wolves”).

Lynch’s previous film, the non-fiction “Project Grizzly” was one of the
top ten Canadian theatrical releases of 1997. Red Sky plans to release
“The Herd” in several major Canadian markets in March, 1999. [Mark Rabinowitz]

>> Jewison to Receive Academy’s Thalberg Award

Producer/Director Norman Jewison has been selected to receive the Irving
G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
‘ Board of Governors. The prize will be presented at the
Academy Awards presentation on March 21st.

Jewison, who is known for establishing the Canadian Centre for Advanced
Film Studies in Toronto, has been nominated three times for Best
Director, for “In the Heat of the Night,” “Moonstruck” and “Fiddler on
the Roof
.” As a producer, four of his films have received nominations
for Best Picture: “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,”
“Fiddler on the Roof,” “A Soldier’s Story” and “Moonstruck.” Jewison’s
“In the Heat of the Night” won the Best Picture Oscar. In total,
Jewison’s movies have earned more than 10 Academy Awards and 45

Norman Jewison began as an actor in London and wrote for the BBC. He
later directed TV programs in his native Toronto as well as shows in New
York. [Eugene Hernandez]

>> Diller Eyeing October Films and Polygram

According to a Variety report published on Friday, USA Networks
Chairman Barry Diller is eyeing Universal Studios‘ owned October Films
as well as Polygram Filmed Entertainment which owns Gramercy. According
to the article, last year Diller began discussing a purchase of
Universal or Polygram with Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Variety characterized the discussions as “exploratory” and indicated
that October executives and investors declined comment. [Eugene Hernandez]

>>”Pi” Contest Winner Announced

Upon the theatrical release of Darren Aronofsky’s science-fiction
thriller, “Pi” the Sundance Channel and Artisan Entertainment announced
the implementation of a short film contest to be judged by Aronofsky
(who won the 1998 Dramatic Competition Directing Award at the Sundance
Film festival). They concluded the contest last month and announced the
winner: Andrew Levy’s “Dog Pie.” The short film had its premiere on the
Sundance Channel on December 25th.

Filmmakers were asked to submit a short film (ten minutes or less),
presenting their interpretation of “the chaos they find in their lives
and the answers hidden within.” The winner, “Dog Pie,” focuses on a
writer who struggles with creative anxiety and conjures up escapist
images of what it must be like to live as a dog. Slowly, as people stop
to gaze at the imaginary transcendent pet, his writing progresses.

“Dog Pie” filmmaker Andrew Levy, lives in Los Angeles and has worked
creating commercials for various production companies and is an
established photographer who’s work can be seen in corporate collections
on both coasts. [Maya Churi]

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