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DAILY NEWS: From the LA Film Fest — Award Winners and Biz Deals

DAILY NEWS: From the LA Film Fest -- Award Winners and Biz Deals

DAILY NEWS: From the LA Film Fest -- Award Winners and Biz Deals

by Eugene Hernandez and Maud Kersnowski/indieWIRE

>> “Jessica” and “Falls” Take Top LA Film Fest Awards

(indieWIRE/04.30.01) — Charles Herman-Wurmfeld‘s “Kissing Jessica Stein” won the audience award and a special critics jury prize yesterday, as the Los Angeles Film Festival presented its awards. Described as a film about a woman who is fed up with the dating scene, the lead character answers a personal ad followed by
pursuing her first same-sex relationship. Heather Juergensen and Jennifer
were singled out by the jury for their writing and acting.

The Critics Jury of Jami Bernard (New York Daily News), Emanuel Levy (Screen International) and Stephanie Zacharek (, chose Josh Apter and Peter Olsen‘s “Kaaterskill Falls” as the winner of the critics award. The movie is about a couple’s marriage that falls apart after they pick up a hitchhiker on a weekend getaway.

The audience award for Best Short went to Eric Anderson for “Horses on

51 feature films and 48 shorts screened at the festival, for an audience of
30,000. Business activity was higher this year, as is reported today in
indieWIRE. [Eugene Hernandez]

[indieWIRE will publish a festival wrap-up soon.]

>> LA Film Fest Busy with Biz Activity

(indieWIRE/04.30.01) — With three acquisitions and the possibility of more
to come the 2001 Los Angeles Film Festival christened more than a new name,
last week. It started re-building a reputation as a place where deals
happen. This years combination of fewer premieres, fewer movie stars and
less industry marketing turned LAFF into an arena where films were bought.
“Next year the festival is going to receive a lot more attention. This year
buyers sent junior executives and assistants,” observed Micah Green of Sloss
which brokered the deal with IFC for “The Chateau” earlier this week. “If some of these companies had sent senior executives they might have been
able to spot these films earlier and buy them for a lot less money.”

“In past years, it’s been a lot of great casts in not very good movies. This
year there’s a lot more quality,” said Larry Greenberg, Manager of
Acquisitions for Showtime Networks and Sundance Channel. Greenberg picked up Marina Zenovich‘s “Who Is Bernard Tapie?” for the Sundance Channel after seeing the documentary for the first time last Monday. “We have a long
standing relationship with Marina. We knew we wanted to see the film,”
Greenberg explained. The Sundance bought Zenovich’s previous doc,
Independents Day.”

The fact that more films didn’t sell during LAFF may not reflect a lack of
interest as much as the problem of the economics of filmmaking not adding
up. “Some people are just not ready to sell,” Greenberg reported. “I made an offer yesterday on a film, and it was a good deal. I was told: that’s not even enough to get
it out of the lab.”

“We decided to focus less on movie stars and more on movies,” LAFF Director
Richard Raddon told indieWIRE. But an experienced, heavy hitting cast and
crew still holds some weight in Hollywood. Lions Gate‘s big buy announced at
the festival, Michael Radford‘s (“Il Postino,” “White Mischief,” “1984“) “Dancing at the Blue Iguana” came with a complete constellation in the
credits. Daryl Hannah (“Grumpy Old Men,” “Steel Magnolias“), Jennifer Tilly (“Stuart Little“) and Elias Koteas (“The Thin Red Line,” “Apt Pupil“) top the cast list of this improvised feature about strippers in the Valley. “When you’ve got Melanie Griffith in a film the tickets fly, but when it’s a documentary about a Cuban American going back home. It’s a lot tougher to
sell,” Raddon commented. “We had to do a lot more community marketing.”

For the first time LAFF’s marketing campaign targeted the general public
rather than the film industry exclusively. A strategy that seems to be
helping filmmakers and acquisition teams. “When people who just want to go
see a movie one night pick a film [at the festival]. That’s what makes the
distributors take notice,” Green said. Even though, “The Chateau” attracted
interest after its Rotterdam world premiere, Los Angeles sealed the deal.
“What clinched it was a really good screening here. It would not have
happened without the LAFF,” he said.

The switch from a roster filled with world premieres to films building buzz
on the festival circuit increased the number of deals signed last week. In
today’s environment few festival premieres, even at Sundance, convert to
immediate sales. “In order for a film to be bought the head financial
person, usually the CEO, and the head of marketing have to see the movie and
nod to each other,” explained producer rep Jeff Dowd. “It takes time. We’re
making a marriage. It’s not a quickie in a hotel room.” [Maud Kersnowski]

>> indieWIRE DAILY NEWS FRIDAY: Panahi Reacts to Being Held in Airport; Coens and Barenholtz; Cannes’ Fortnight; and Argentine Films

(indieWIRE/04.27.01) — Jafar Panahi is lashing out over alleged
mistreatment when he was held at JFK last week, en route to a film festival
in South America. The director has written a letter about the experience
which is being published by indieWIRE. Also today, the Coen Brothers are
reuniting with producer Ben Barenholtz, Anthony Kaufman offers his thoughts
on the Cannes Directors Fortnight lineup and the Film Society of Lincoln
offers Argentinian films.”

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