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DAILY NEWS: Indies Seeking Distribution; Gen Art Lineup; and Farewell Fifth Night

DAILY NEWS: Indies Seeking Distribution; Gen Art Lineup; and Farewell Fifth Night

DAILY NEWS: Indies Seeking Distribution; Gen Art Lineup; and Farewell Fifth Night

with articles by Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and Jacque Lynn Schiller/indieWIRE

>> In Search of a Home; Challenging American Indies Remain On The Market Even After a Bountiful Sundance

(indieWIRE: 04.02.02) — A few months ago as filmmakers and industry execs
prepared for the annual Sundance Film Festival, an unauthorized videotape of
competition entry “The Slaughter Rule” made the rounds among would-be
buyers. In the final days before a festival like Sundance, competitive
acquisitions execs vie to see anticipated entries like “The Slaughter Rule,”
which stars David Morse and Ryan Gosling (hailed for his performance in the 2001 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “The Believer“). Despite what was
considered a bountiful Sundance in terms of acquisitions activity, the movie
would ultimately leave the festival without a distribution deal. In fact, a
number of the more challenging titles in Park City remain unsigned, although
deals now seem likely for some of the films. Two seeking distribution are
“The Slaughter Rule” and “Paradox Lake,” which are currently screening in
New York as part of the prestigious New Directors/New Films series at MoMA.

“The Slaughter Rule” producers, trying to re-position a film that has
received critical acclaim but still no deal, were hit with the reality of
the situation when they arrived at Sundance back in January. In a
pre-screening conversation, a colleague gushed to one of the producers about
the movie, only to stop herself after she realized her error. She had been a
part of the secret network of execs who had viewed the film on tape before
the festival. To this day, producers remain unable to pinpoint the source of
the leak.

Cinetic‘s Micah Green, who is not involved with the movie, observed
that the leak of “The Slaughter Rule” tape affected the film’s ability to
get a deal at Sundance. “(This is the) reason why we don’t like tapes
getting out,” Green told indieWIRE last week. “Any seller knows who the best
potential buyers are,” he added, clarifying that it is a seller’s job to
“characterize it to them (and) show it to them in an optimum environment.”
In a case like this, the film started off on the wrong foot.

On top of that, the film is not an easy sell. At nearly two hours long and
with a challenging subject matter, the film by first-time feature directors
(and twin brothers) Alex and Andrew Smith, showcases a number of powerful performances and offers beautiful widescreen Montana vistas as the story
unfolds — elements that simply don’t translate well on tape.

“It’s a more challenging film than people had expected,” added Green, who
offered that the film is well-regarded in the biz community, but explained
that many buyers expressed doubts about how to market and release the
picture. He concluded that the wrong people saw the film first and made an
evaluation that hurt the movie’s biz prospects.

“It looks beautiful,” one acquisitions exec who re-watched the film at the
New Directors series told indieWIRE. He was one of the many who first saw
the film on videotape before Sundance. “I saw it on the big screen, (and my)
reaction was 10 times better,” he admitted after the screening last week.

The picture remains a tough sell. As this past weekend’s public screenings
at New Directors/New Films approached, producer Michael Robinson talked
with indieWIRE about the challenges facing the movie. Unsure of the impact
of the all-important New York Times film review that is provided to each New
Directors entry, the producer indicated that the picture remains incomplete.
While the directors trimmed a few minutes from the movie after Sundance,
there is no financing left to tighten the picture.

That aside, The New York Times’ Stephen Holden praised the movie in
Friday’s review, calling the film, “a bleak, lyrical meditation on the
frontier spirit and American machismo and its torments.” Continuing he
added, “The story of an embattled relationship between a football coach (and
part-time newspaper vendor) and his golden-boy protege echoes movies as
dissimilar as ‘The Last Picture Show,’ ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ ‘McCabe and Mrs.Miller‘ and ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye.'”

In the case of Sundance competition entry “Paradox Lake,” another New
Directors/New Films entry, the situation is a bit different. Shot on film
and video, with an experimental, non-fiction touch, the narrative film
directed, edited, shot and co-written by Przemyslaw Shemie Reut takes
viewers inside a camp for autistic children, offering a window into an
unseen world.

“The story unfolds so subtly and with such authenticity that when it ends, a
flood of emotion is unleashed that has been kept back by the fear of missing
a single moment,” wrote Sundance programmer Trevor Groth in the Festival
catalog. Going into the event, the film seemed an unlikely contender for a
deal given its uncommercial aspects. Positive reactions at Sundance and in
Berlin have now made the film a viable property. In this case a film with
lower biz expectations has come to be viewed as viable.

While star-driven films often have less trouble finding deals, in the case
of a film like “Paradox Lake,” critical acclaim can put a film on the radar
of business-types. The film, which is being sold by Rudolph & Beer, is set
for key festvals in a number of key arthouse markets, including Los Angeles,
Cleveland, and Philadelphia.

“That is a film that is building (and it) could result ultimately in
meaningful distribution,” observed Cinetic’s Green. “To me that is not
one that has slipped through, it is one (that is) making its way up.”

A pair of American indies from Park City that are not screening here at New
Directors are among the movies still in pursuit of a deal, and both are not
easy sells: Jed Weintrob‘s “On_Line” and Brian Flemming‘s “Nothing So Strange.”

Designed as a look inside a truth-seeking coalition that forms a fictional
assassination of Bill Gates, Brian Flemming’s compelling DV movie
used early awareness and a crafty website to garner significant media
attention in advance of its Slamdance debut in January. Yet, it left Park
City without much industry buzz as many biz-types simply did not make the
trip up the hill to see the picture at Slamdance’s Silver Mine screenings.

“This crackling good movie is a smart, aware, polemical work concealed
beneath a surface so playful — a “mockumentarty” approach handled as
expertly as Christopher Guest‘s films — that you don’t even realize you’re
learning anything,” commented Scott Foundas in a Variety review (he also
plugged the film in indieWIRE). “Pic should receive more fest exposure and
specialized commercial play,” he added in the piece.

In addition to the Variety notice, Time Magazine, People Magazine, an item
on the Drudge Report and a live CNN interview fueled interest in the film,
which is being sold by Josh Braun. A New Yorker reporter watched the film
yesterday alongside buyers at a New York City screening yesterday morning,
while an L.A. showing is set for tonight.

“I don’t think the film has been seen enough by distributors,” Braun told
indieWIRE last week. “At Slamdance it just wasn’t seen by many people.”

In the case of Jed Weintrob’s intriguing and insightful “On_Line,” produced
by Tanya Selvaratnam and Adam Brightman, the film is considered tough based on its sexy subject matter. Add to that the fact that the film was another
one considered a tough project to market by would-be buyers.

The story unfolds in an online environment and has played well at festivals,
it was a hit in Berlin and won the best narrative feature prize at Cinequest
in San Jose.

“The film plays extremely well,” explained Richard Abramowitz who is repping
the film, “No one felt a pressing need to go to every festival.”

Abramowitz explained that he and the producers decided to be very strategic
about accepting festival invitations, as a way of building interest in the
picture. “In anticipation that the film would get acquired, we decided to
limit the number of festivals that the film was in.”

Now the team is about to turn the acclaim and interest into a distribution
deal, even though they faced resistance early on.

“It turned out not to be as obvious a choice for acquisition as some people
would have thought going in,” commented Abramowitz, “It has no movie stars
and the subject matter is a little bit dicey.”

“Somehow a lot of people managed to miss what could be a watershed marketing
opportunity,” Abramowitz explained. “Clearly, the Internet is a tool, it
seem to me that this is a film that speaks directly to a segment of the
Internet audience.”

Despite the challenges, Abramowitz expects a domestic distribution deal to
be announced soon and a pact for foreign sales is also on tap. Additionally,
it will screen this month at the annual Gen Art Film Festival in Manhattan.

“People define a good film as one that makes money,” Abramowitz concluded,
“The fact is, it is a business and its important to find a way to marry the
two.” [Eugene Hernandez]

[DISCLAIMER: GMD Studios, a producer of the film “Nothing So Strange,” is
an investor in and part owner of indieWIRE.]

>> Gen Art To Open Seventh Year With “Love in the Time of Money”

(indieWIRE: 04.02.02) — New Yorkers should start banking some extra hours
of sleep as the Gen Art Film Festival, notorious for its seven nights of
films and raucous parties, is just around the corner. Peter Mattei‘s “Love
in the Time of Money
,” starring Steve Buscemi and Rosario Dawson, will kick off the weeklong event with its East Coast premiere on April 24.

Boasting more than 600 submissions this year, the fest will include one
world premiere, five East Coast premieres and one New York premiere. “The
films we are screening this year raise the bar for Gen Art’s independent
film program,” Jeffrey Abramson, Director of Gen Art’s Film Division, said.
“Programming Director Julie La’Bassiere and her programming committee have
created a slate that reflects a wealth of talent and diversity which has
never before been seen at the festival,”

Features screening this year also include Bertha Bay-Sa Pan’s “Face,”
Richard Bean’s “Tatoo: A Love Story,” George Ratliff’s documentary “Hell
,” Jeb Weintrob’s “On_Line,” Susan Kraker and Pi Ware’s “Solitude,” and Richard Murray’s “Snipes.” Shorts include Geoffrey Haley’s “The Parlor,” Michelle Harris’s “Firebug,” JT Walker’s “Passengers,” Matthew Cole Weiss’ “Mean People Suck,” David Brooks’ “Member,” Christopher Romero’s “Joe and Charlie at the Ranch,” and Zack Resnicoff’s “The Clearing.”

A Music in Film and Television panel will be conducted April 27 at Loews
34th Street, and a discussion on Fashion in Film and Television
will take place April 28 at the same location.

Now in its seventh year, Gen Art is boasting a new title sponsor, Target
Stores. [Jacque Lynn Schiller]

[For more information visit the Gen Art website at www.genart.org.]

>> Fifth Night Screenplay Reading Series at the Nuyorican to Close Eight Year Program Tonight

(indieWIRE: 04.02.02) — The Fifth Night Screenplay Reading Series, an
institution for many New York screenwriters, filmmakers, and others in
the creative community, will host its final reading tonight due to a lack of funding, organizers have announced.

Founded in 1994 as a forum to allow writers an opportunity to showcase
their work and receive feedback, the series evolved into a weekly Tuesday
evening event featuring writers, casts and directors. Fifth Night describes
the weekly readings as a “sellers market, where the writers exhibit their
work to industry professionals, directors of development, producers,
production companies and agents seeking out new, up-and-coming talent.”

Downtown Manhattan’s venerable Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which helped create the
program, has hosted 212 readings since Fifth Night’s creation eight years
ago, according to Alexandra Berger, Fifth Night’s Senior Director, who spoke
with indieWIRE. Thirty-nine of the screenplays have either been made into
films or are currently in production and more than 2,000 actors including
Liev Schreiber, Karen Allen, Kyra Sedgwick, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, Christina Ricci, Alan Arkin, and John Leguizamo have participated in the readings. Writers have included Karyn Kusama (“Girlfight“), Michael Ondaatje (“The English Patient“), Darnell Martin (“I Like it Like That“), Jeremy Pikser (“Bulworth“), Maria Maggenti (“The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love“), and Matthew Harrison (“Kicked in the Head“).

Past Fifth Night participants currently in production include Steven Starr‘s
Rosebud,” Marcus Hahn and Brian Cange‘s “Coyote Run,” Maryam Dalan‘s “Romeo Run,” and Eve Pomerance’s “The Secret Trials of Effie Gray.” Berger indicated she is still determined to find funding for the program, but the search continues as of now. The last scheduled reading (tonight at 8pm at the Nuyorican) is Katherine Burger‘s “Forever Wild,” described by Fifth
Night as “a contemporary retelling of Peter Greenaway‘s ‘The Draghtman’s
,”Forever Wild‘ casts a gimlet eye on a world where social
climbing is considered a greater sin than murder.” [Brian Brooks]

[For more information or reservations, call (212) 529-9329].

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