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Filmmaker Magazine’s Steamy Bash; Takeshi Kitano Updates “Zatoichi”; Docs at the Whitney & More

Filmmaker Magazine's Steamy Bash; Takeshi Kitano Updates "Zatoichi"; Docs at the Whitney & More

Filmmaker Magazine’s Steamy Bash; Takeshi Kitano Updates “Zatoichi”; Docs at the Whitney & More

by Wendy Mitchell

Cowboy Pictures’ John Vanco with Filmmaker magazine’s Matthew Ross at the Filmmaker party on Tuesday. Credit: Wendy Mitchell/© 2003 indieWIRE.

INDUSTRY MOVES: PR maven Jeanne Berney said that she is leaving Rogers & Cowan. She hasn’t announced her future plans yet other than to spend some quality time for a few weeks in Bronxville, NY, where she lives with husband Bob Berney, head of Newmarket Films.

Bob Freemon, formerly with Cineric Inc., is now with Metropolis Film Labs. The New York-based Metropolis does blow-ups, opticals, digital effects, printing, restoration, video-to-film transfers, and title design.

Woo Jung Cho is leaving Rudolph & Beer to concentrate on producing films, including Thomas Allen Harris’ “Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela,” Peter Sutherland’s “165 Lives,” and other projects. Cho will also continue to rep films including “Flag Wars.”

Dan Lombardo has taken over as president of Cinesite Hollywood, with Jerry Pooler stepping up to the new post of executive director, creative. Lombardo will also continue to serve as general manager of Cinesite, a subsidiary of Kodak’s Digital Imaging division.

Bill Lischak was promoted to president of First Look Media. Lischak, formerly CFO and COO, takes on oversight of the day-to-day operations of the company. Robbie Little, founder of Overseas Filmgroup, will step back from day-to-day operations to focus on new business for First Look and to concentrate on projects in development at Little Film Company (“The Boys from County Clare”). Little will remain a minority shareholder and a member of First Look’s board.

Starz Encore Group announced that Que Spalding, the company’s president of distribution, will retire at the end of 2003. He has been with the company since 1990. Robert B. Clasen, former president of Comcast Cable Communications, has been named president of sales and marketing for Starz. In this new post, he will oversee all affiliate relations and distribution activities that had been headed by Spaulding. Also, Jillaina Wachendorf has been promoted to executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing.

A-LIST, A LINE: Tuesday night at Filmmaker Magazine’s party at Flow, the crowds were so eager to mingle (or swill free Sam Adams) that even indie film A-listers were willing to wait in line of more than a hundred people to get in. (Buzz, of course, ran into some acquaintances at the front of the line and abruptly cut in.) Inside, the place was crowded and rather steamy, but folks were enjoying themselves (that is, until we smelled an electrical fire-like aroma and fled the basement faster than you can say “Great White”…luckily it was a false alarm). Among the revelers we spotted were Ben Coccio (“Zero Day”), Greg Pak (“Robot Stories”), Jesse Moss (“Speedo”) — all of whom are among Filmmaker mag’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film; Cowboy’s John Vanco and Greg Williams; “Cinemania” director Steven Kijak; Kodak’s Anne Hubbell; producers Diana Williams, Madeleine Leskin, and Anne Chaisson; Paul Rachman from Slamdance; Magnolia’s Eamonn Bowles, publicist Susan Norget; film scribes Guy V. Cimbalo and Mike Jones; indieWIRE writer Anthony Kaufman; a dude trying to rip off Mark “Rabbi” Rabinowitz’s wardrobe stylings (sans hat); and some woman who managed to fall asleep in a corner despite the throbbing crowds. Rip Van Winkle didn’t make it to the after-party at a nearby dive bar.

LIVING BY THE SWORD: Director Takeshi Kitano’s “Zatoichi” is now in post-production for a September release in Japan. Kitano stars as the cult figure Zatoichi, a blind masseur and gambler who is also a master swordsman. (The role was originated by actor Shintaro Katsu in a series of films from 1962-1989.) “In Japan, the Zatoichi character has been virtually synonymous with the late Mr. Shintaro Katsu,” said Kitano in a prepared statement. “From the beginning, I was aware that if I was going to play this character, I had to direct the film myself and make Zatoichi my own. The first thing I did was dye my hair blonde.” If you want a sneak preview of the film, see a trailer at “Beat” Kitano, famous for directing films like “Brother,” “Dolls,” and “Violent Cop” is tackling a period piece for the first time. “With the help of our choreographer, I consciously composed the swordfighting to have a more intense and realistic look, unlike typical period films where victims fall even though the sword doesn’t come close to touching their bodies,” he said. Bandai Visual, Tokyo FM, Dentsu, TV Asahi, Saito Entertainment, and Office Kitano are producing, with world sales handled by Celluloid Dreams.

JAILTIME: Belladonna Productions (“L.I.E.”) is in pre-production on “Jailbait,” described as a “stark and disturbing, often comical” look at two unlikely cellmates, one serving time for marijuana possession and vandalism, one serving time for murdering his wife. Brett C. Leonard will write the screenplay based on his recently staged theatrical version of “Jailbait”; he also makes his directorial debut with the project. Cast members attached include Stephen Adly Guirgis (star of the New York staging of “Jailbait” and also the writer of “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train”), Michael Pitt, and Laila Robins. John Campbell (“My Own Private Idaho,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”) will serve as director of photography. Shooting starts July 21 in New York, with Rene Bastian and Linda Moran of Belladonna, with Dan O’Meara.

WHITNEY DOCS: The Whitney Museum of American Art’s “The American Effect” exhibit, which opens today, are about global and domestic perceptions of the United States as a superpower. The museum will be showing a number of documentary films and videos as part of the exhibit. Some highlights will be Chantal Akerman’s “From the Other Side,” Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco’s “Daughter from Danang,” Marlo Poras’ “Mai’s America,” Sherine Salama’s “Wedding in Ramallah,” Heiner Stadler’s “Eat, Sleep, No Women,” and Stephanie Block’s “Life and Debt.” Shorts will include Ane Lan’s “Amerika,” Pawel Kruk’s “Larger than Life,” and Bjorn Melhus’ “America Sells.” The exhibit, which includes many other art forms, will run through October 12. For details, visit

DARKNESS DEAL: Hypnotic announced that it has secured the exclusive feature film and TV rights to Nintendo’s “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem” video game. Hypnotic will spearhead all TV and film development, financing, production, and distribution rights. The companies describe the game thusly: “Across history 12 chosen people come together to decide the destiny of the human race. As game play progresses, these 12 souls find their lives turn apart by the unseen evil.” Someone call Ben Affleck.

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