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DAILY NEWS: Wellspring Gets Denis Film; IFP Summit; and Academy Funds Fests

DAILY NEWS: Wellspring Gets Denis Film; IFP Summit; and Academy Funds Fests

DAILY NEWS: Wellspring Gets Denis Film; IFP Summit; and Academy Funds Fests

by Eugene Hernandez, Matthew Ross and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

>> Wellspring Nabs Claire Denis’ “Friday Night”

(indieWIRE: 10.07.02) — Independent distributor Wellspring Media has picked
up U.S. rights to “Friday Night,” the new film from acclaimed French director
Claire Denis. The film screened at the Venice and Toronto film festivals earlier this year, and it will be shown this weekend as part of the 40th
New York Film Festival.

While not one of the festival season’s most talked-about titles, “Friday
Night” was nonetheless the subject to a recent bidding frenzy among several
art-house distributors. The film, which takes place during one night in
Paris, follows Laure, a woman who is in the process of moving in with her
lover. Her plans get derailed, however, after a terrible traffic jam and an
encounter with a mysterious stranger.

Denis first rose to prominence in 1988 with her debut feature, “Chocolat,”
and has gone to direct six other features, including “Beau Travail,”
Nenette et Boni,” and the controversial “Trouble Every Day,” which Lot 47 released earlier this year. “Friday Night” is slated for a spring 2003
debut. [Matthew Ross]

>> Panelists Consider Politics and Pretension at 2002 IFP Summit

(indieWIRE: 10.07.02) — On the final day of the 2002 IFP Market,
panelists considered the fate of the independent film business and the
challenges of entertainment in the current international political
climate. Worth considering were some of the topics raised on the final
session of Friday’s all-day IFP Summit, “The Creative Gatekeeper —
Structures for the Future
.” The discussion, moderated by Liz Manne
(partner in the recently formed Duopoly), sought to explore how a
group of independent film gatekeepers view the business and its
challenges. “What are the structures or new paradigms needed going
forward to finance and distribute original, independent work?” asked
the seminar description. Panelists included Eamonn Bowles of Magnolia
, Jonathan Sehring of IFC Entertainment, producer Ed Pressman of Content Film and attorney and rep Stephen Beer of Rudolph & Beer.

“It is becoming harder and harder for the critically driven Sundance sort
of film to really reach a broad theatrical marketplace,” explained Steven
Beer, pinpointing a fact that came up at other panels during the IFP Market.
“We really have to do more,” he explained.

Not surprisingly, the success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was an early
topic of discussion. IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring, whose
IFC Films made a service deal with the movie’s producers to release the
picture on their behalf, could only imagine that “great word of mouth”
was the reason for the film’s tremendous success at the box-office over
the past few months. Beyond that, he admitted, everyone at his company
was dumbfounded by the movie’s incredible success.

Beer offered a hope that the success of “Wedding” would inspire a new
model of theatrical distribution, one that gives smaller films a chance
to find an audience. “The word of mouth magic of ‘My Big Fat Greek
Wedding’ tells the story that in today’s marketplace if a film doesn’t
perform theatrically by the second weekend, it is pulled,” explained
Beer. “The institutional mechanics between the distribution company
and the theater and the exhibitor is a model that really needs to be
drastically re-worked so that films can gain word of mouth.” Beer went
on to advocate for an altered revenue split (between distributors and
exhibitors) to allow the word of mouth to build.

“There are so many broken models presently that could drastically be
re-worked so that the exhibitor could be rewarded very handsomely for
hanging onto a film that could work if it only had the time to work,”
Beer said.

Distributor and exhibitor Eamonn Bowles faces such issues regularly
at Magnolia Pictures, a company that distributes independent films
and also owns a growing arthouse chain. For his lesson he looks to
past successes. Recalling the plan he implemented with “Croupier
while he was at Shooting Gallery, Bowles advocated that in the
current climate distributors and marketers should focus on getting
the right audience into theaters early in a film’s run, rather than
trying to “cast the widest net to get the most people.” Getting the
right audience early and then building from there is a formula that
can work and give the film time to build its audience through word
of mouth, he explained. While “Croupier” never worked with the “mall
audience,” according to Bowles, it reached must-see status within a
segment of arthouse viewers. Eventually, quipped Bowles, it got to
the point where in some circles those who didn’t see it and embrace
it might be outcast and suffer sort of cinematic peer pressure.

“Pretension is one of the cornerstones of the art film business,”
Bowles offered to a burst of knowing smiles and laughter from
attendees and panelists, “But you have to use it the right way.”
Calling Bowles’ comment the quote of the day, moderator Liz Manne
asked producer Ed Pressman to consider the flip side, asking him
to consider the cornerstone of the Hollywood film businees.
“Pretension,” Pressman shot back quickly, he then paused and stated
simply, “Power.”

Shifting gears to discuss how the current international political
and social crises are affecting the types of movies that are being
made, Manne asked Pressman for his views on the subject. The producer,
singled out a picture from his company’s initial slate. Entitled “Hebrew
,” the producer described the movie as “a Hassidic ‘Shaft.'”
Calling the new movie, which is still in post-production, “A profound
reaction to an impossible time,” Pressman continued, “It’s a way of
laughing at the political climate, it’s a direct outgrowth of these

“In a climate like today’s, the reaction to a film that is politically
engaged could be amazing,” Pressman offered, explaining that Hollywood
will not touch such subjects right now. The producer told attendees
that he is still trying to bring the Edward Abbey cult classic, “The
Monkey Wrench Gang
,” to the big screen. Described as the story of
“environmental warriors” seeking to protect the wilderness at all
costs, the project has drawn the support of Sean Penn, Neil Young,
Pearl Jam and others, yet it remains in limbo.

“It has sense of civil disobedience that America was built on
philosophically,” Pressman continued, describing the movie, “But
in a time of the fear of terrorism, the line between civil
disobedience and terrorism becomes hard to distinguish and the
studios have a hard time considering it.” Yet he concluded, “In
my mind this film, or films like it, connect with a new generation
of people that are frustrated.” [Eugene Hernandez]

>> AMPAS Names Recipients of its Festival Grants Program

(indieWIRE: 10.07.02) — The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has
named eighteen U.S. film festivals to share i$250,000 in grant money for next
year. Cash grants range from $25,000 for such notable festivals as Chicago
, IFP West Los Angeles, San Francisco International and Telluride film festivals, to $5,000 for L.A.’s Pan African Film Festival. Other events receiving money include New Directors/New Films ($20,000), Cleveland, Santa Barbara, Seattle and the Virginia Film Festival which each received $15,000. San Jose’s Cinequest and Nashville each received $10,000 and Aspen ShortsFest, San Francisco and the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival were among the events which were awarded $7,500.

The festivals were selected from a pool of 77 applicants. Program Coordinator
Greg Beal indicated in a release that the Academy targeted festivals that are
more accessible to the general public and bring the public into contact with
films and filmmakers. The Festival Grants Program was established by the
Academy five years ago and has made 61 grants to film festivals.
[Brian Brooks]

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