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Open City Blows Up with New DV Division

Open City Blows Up with New DV Division

Anthony Kaufman

Open City Films, the production company attending Park City with Tony
Bui’s competition film, ‘Three Seasons,” have announced the formation
of Blow Up Pictures, a new division devoted to the production of fiction
and documentary films made exclusively in digital video for eventual
theatrical distribution. The announcement comes on the heels of last
week’s news that Next Wave Films is moving into digital production. The
new division will be run by Sharan Sklar, who is leaving the IFP as
Director of the IFFM. Sklar, along with a 3-4 person staff, will work
with Open City co-founders Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente to produce
approximately 6 films a year, ranging from the very low budget to
budgets up to a million dollars each.

“The fuse that ignited Blow Up,” says Kliot, “was ‘The Celebration
[Thomas Vinterberg’s October Films successful DV release and Cannes
Award Winner], because, all of a sudden, people were finally willing to
go with it.” Sklar says, “It’s really exciting having been at the
Market and seeing that motion towards filmmakers trying to figure out
new ways to make their films. . . . A lot of filmmakers are saying
everyone is moving in that direction and it seems really important to be
there for them.”

Blow Up Pictures has already set the first three productions of its DV
slate, “Chuck and Buck” directed by Miguel Arteta (“Star Maps“), “The
Pornographer, A Love Story
” directed by Alan Wade (“Julian Po“) and in
development is “Lyrical Deviance,” directed by Scott Saunders, whose
video-shot feature “The Headhunter’s Sister” garnered him the 1998
Independent Spirit Someone To Watch Award.

“What’s essential to what [Blow Up Pictures] is,” says Jason Kliot:
“One: total creative control. We are committed to that and our main
investor and fundraiser is committed to that. We understand that the
economics of that work as well as in terms of our moral and philosphical
stance.” Utilizing the cheaper means of digital production, Kliot wants
to give filmmakers theoption to shoot, edit and then reshoot their
films, as well as longer production schedules and give directors the
opportunity to workshop on video before they shoot their final products
“like a mini-Sundance lab.” Kliot serves up the analogy of moving from a
manual typewriter to a word processor. “What if you were never allowed
to go back over it, except to cut it up with scissors,”says Kliot,
comparing shooting and editing in the expensive medium of film with the
restrictions of a typewriter. Today, even “Proust would have a big
problem with that.”

One of the key investors of the new division is Chuck Rusbasan, a
managing director of a New York investment banking firm. “I came to the
conclusion that spending 1-2 million dollars on an average, generic
independent film is a losing proposition,” says Rusbasan. “And it’s very
difficult for me statistically to say this is a good thing to do. So,”
he says, “Blow Up takes the whole equation and flips it all around. Now
for the cost of one indie film, you can do three indie films or five
films indie films. It’s a different game and I find it very

The second and essential point for Blow Up Pictures is theatrical
distribution. “We intend every film we make to be theatrically
distributed,” says Kliot, “and our budgets are focused on those issues
— we are preparing these films for theatrical release. We are very
worried about marginalization. I do not think digital films should be
seen by people alone at their computers or alone in front of their
TV’s. That is going to be a very sad thing if our society just fades
into that.”

“That’s part of why we’re called Blow Up'” adds Kliot. “One of the
meanings of blow up’ is destroying the past, but blowing that up and
using the old distribution system until it’s surpassed.” Will that date
ever come? As Kliot laughingly admits, “We’re petrified that Blow Up
will get bigger than Open City.”

[The website for Blow Up Pictures is http://]

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