New Distro Joins IDP; Kliot & Vicente News; “Mommie” and “Glass” Party Reports; Adieu to The Screening Room & More
by Wendy Mitchell and Eugene Hernandez
INDUSTRY MOVES: Carrie Byalick has left IDPR to join Miramax Films in New York.
KLIOT AND VICENTE PARTNER WITH HDNET: Contrary to a report in Thursday’s Variety, producer Jason Kliot is not leaving Open City, however he and his business partner and wife Joana Vicente will partner with Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner on HDnet, a new cable and satellite network. The Blow Up Pictures founders will run HDNet Films, the High Def production arm of HDnet. The team plans to produce up to eight films each year, shot on high definition digital video and with budgets up to $2 million. Cuban and Wagner recently announced that they are acquiring the Landmark Theaters arthouse chain.
IDP PARTNERS WITH COHEN: Independent Distribution Partners (IDP) is adding a new company to its partnership. Roadside Attractions, a new distribution company being formed by departing UTA agent Howard Cohen and producer Eric d’Arbeloff (“Lovely & Amazing”), will add more films to the IDP pipeline, picking up some slack for the dormant Stratosphere and the quiet Fireworks, which initially launched IDP with Samuel Goldwyn Films. IDP is also now handling distribution of George Hickenlooper’s “The Mayor of Sunset Strip” for First Look. The company is currently releasing “The Returner” and “Mambo Italiano.”
SUNDANCE SERIES FINALE: Sundance Channel chief Larry Aidem, who said that he fell in love with actor Charles Busch in the ’80s with “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” toasted the final film in the Sundance Film Series slate this week. Mark Rucker’s “Die Mommie Die,” which opens today, screened Monday night in Manhattan with a showing at Loews 34th Street followed by a festive party at Laura Belle, the swanky Times Square party space. “We have achieved most of what we set out to do,” said Sundance Channel head Larry Aidem during his opening remarks. “We hope to do even better in 2004.” Aidem was joined on stage by the director and the always hilarious writer and star of the film, Charles Busch, who called the movie, “a helluva damn good picture!” Stars Jason Priestley and Stark Sands joined the celebration, along with Natasha Lyonne, who sported a revealing J. Lo-esque dress that at one point in the evening revealed a little too much. Thankfully, a producer was there to put things back in the right place.
OSCAR: Five screenplays have been chosen from the more than 6,000 submitted for the 2003 Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Each writer, or writing team, will receive $30,000 in prize money. The winners are “Augmentation” by Andrea R. Herman from Roswell, Georgia; “Linda and Henry” by Tejal K. Desai and Brian C. Wray from Middletown, Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York, respectively; “Revival” by Annie Reid from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; “Season of the Witch” by Bragi Schut Jr. of Los Angeles, California; and “Trucker” by James N. Motter from Los Angeles.
DOC NODS: The International Documentary Association announced the nominees for its 19th annual awards, to be announced December 12 at a gala in Hollywood. Of the 300 submissions in teh feature category, the final 13 nominees are: “Balseros,” “Berga: Soldiers of Another War,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Das Leben Geht Weiter” (Life Goes On), “The Day I Will Never Forget,” “Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life & Work of Piri Thomas,” “Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine,” “Lost Boys of Sudan,” “Lost in La Mancha,” “My Flesh and Blood,” “Tupac: Resurrection,” “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and “The Weather Underground.” For nominees in other categories, visit http://www.documentary.org.
RAISING A “GLASS”: Tuesday night at new West Village hotspot HUE, Lions Gate, Guess, and Interview magazine celebrated the premiere of Billy Ray’s feature debut, “Shattered Glass.” Ray introduced star Hayden Christensen to attendees, and Mr. Star Wars posed for a shot for indieWIRE’s guest photographer for the evening, David Kwok from the Tribeca Film Festival. Stars Chloë Sevigny and Peter Sarsgaard, along with a host of beautiful people no doubt drawn from the Interview/Guess crowds, mingled with such journalism notables as “60 Minutes” co-host Steve Croft. Actors Scott Speedman and Martha Plimpton also made the scene in support of the film, with Plimpton chatting up Kroft for a while and asking that we snap a shot and send it to her for her personal collection. Guest photog Kwok bumped friendly elbows inside the party with celeb shooter Patrick McMullan who is celebrating the recent publication of his new photo book, “so80s.”
MONK MOVIE: New York based GreeneStreet Films is reteaming with “Piñero” director Leon Ichaso for a biopic on jazz great Thelonious Monk. Harry Colomby (“Breakdown,” “Johnny Dangerously”), who was also Monk’s longtime manager, is producing with GreeneStreet’s Fisher Stevens and John Penotti. “The passion and artistry Leon brings to all of his work will make this a memorable film — a film that Thelonious Monk more than deserves,” Colomby said in a prepared statement.
SOUNDTRACK STYLES: Music industry vets Walter Yetnikoff and Tracy McKnight have started a new label called Commotion Records, which will focus exclusively on film soundtracks. Yetnikoff, of course, was a key exec at CBS and Sony, working with greats from Michael Jackson to the Rolling Stones. McKnight has been an artist manager, music producer, and music supervisor for more than 50 films. KOCH Entertainment will handle the label’s sales and marketing. “Our niche is, for the moment, indie movies,” Yetnikoff said in a prepared statement. “Tracy and I felt this was the right place to start, because we’re creating a unique approach that no one else is doing. We’re ready to collaborate with a director or a studio in order to do the music supervising, acquire the soundtrack, or both.”
The label’s first release will be the lauded soundtrack to the Vegas noir romance “The Cooler.” Grammy winner Mark Isham composed the film’s jazzy score, which includes some vocals by Diana Krall, Joey Fatone, and Paul Sorvino. The CD will be released November 11.
IN PRODUCTION: Two new North American productions are in progress. In Montreal, “May” director Lucky McKee is shooting psychological horror story “The Woods.” The United Artists production stars Agnes Brucker as a boarding school student neglected by her parents (Bruce Campbell and Emma Campbell) and facing a troubled headmistress (Patricia Clarkson). The script was written by David Ross and the film is produced by Bryan and Sean Furst and Ed Pressman.
In New York, Overbrook Entertainment has started principal photography on “Saving Face,” a romantic comedy set in the Chinese immigrant community. Alice Wu wrote and directed; James Lassiter, Will Smith, and Teddy Zee are producing, with Forensic Films’ Robin O’Hara and Scott Macaulay executive producing along with Greenestreet’s Joihn Penotti. “Saving Face” will shoot for six weeks in New York, starring Joan Chen, Michelle Krusiec, and Lynn Chen.
WELLSPRING’S STOKED: Wellspring has acquired the worldwide rights, excluding the U.S., Canada, and Carribean basin, for Helen Stickler’s buzzworthy doc “Stoked.” Palm Pictures released the film, about the troubled life of pro skateboarder Mark “Gator” Rogowski, domestically in late August. Wellspring said it planned to license the film internationally starting immediately.
LORD JIM: Mission Pictures and Myriad Pictures announced plans to co-finance and co-produce the comedy “Piccadilly Jim,” which will star Sam Rockwell, Tom Wilkinson, and Amanda Peet. John McKay (“Crush”) will direct from a screenplay by Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”). The film, based on the novel by PG Wodehouse about an American (Rockwell) in 1930s England, is expected to start shooting in November in the U.K. Peter Zernin and Graham Broadbent will produce alongside Mission chairman Andrew Hauptman. Universal Pictures has already acquired distribution rights in the U.K., Australia, South Africa, Latin America, and France.
WOMEN ON TOP: The High Falls Film Festival will kick off in Rochester, NY, on November 5 with a screening of Jim Sheridan’s Oscar-hopeful “In America.” Before closing on November 9, High Falls will present more than 90 feature and short films, panels, and events. The festival, now in its third year, prides itself on presenting “work created by women behind the camera,” from producers and directors to stuntwomen and composers. Panelists and master class teachers will include Vicky Jenson (“Shrek”), composer Shirley Walker, cinematographer John Bailey, and stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, who is receiving the festival’s “Web of Life” award. For details visit http://www.highfallsfilmfestival.com.
GRITTY: In another gal-friendly event, the L.A. group G.R.I.T (Girls Reeling It Together) will host its third-annual screening of films by female directors on November 5 at the Los Angeles Film School Screening Room. Selections include Genevieve Anderson’s “Fear of Falling,” Melissa M. Brown’s “Fear of Falling,” and Renie Oxley’s “Irene’s Last Call.” To RSVP, call 310-772-8122.
VIP DPS: The International Cinematographers Guild recently surveyed its members about the most influential cinematographers in history. The winners? Billy Bitzer, Jordan Cronenweth, Conrad Hall, James Wong Howe, Sven Nykvist, Vittorio Storaro, Gregg Toland, Haskell Wexler, Gordon Willis, Freddie Young, and Vilmos Zsigmond. They will be recognized at a November 8 gala at the Guild’s new headquarters in Hollywood.
GOODBYE TO THE SCREENING ROOM: indieWIRE bids a fond farewell to a favorite New York hangout. The Screening Room in Lower Manhattan, which opened on nearly the same day as indieWIRE launched back in 1996, closed its doors last night after friends from the film community gathered for a final drink and snacks. The restaurant, bar and movie theater had been for sale, with partners keeping the place open with their own funding for some time now. Partner Henry Hershkowitz told indieWIRE that 9/11 was the final nail in the coffin for the site, not to mention increasing competition for arthouse films from places like the new Sunshine theater in the East Village.
Last night, as well-wishers dropped in for farewell drinks, moviegoers bought tickets to the final screenings of “demonlover” and “The Secret Lives of Dentists.” As the evening began to wind down, photographer Tom LeGoff, whose portraits of indie stars and directors have hung permanently in the seven year old site, dropped in having just heard the sad news. Not much later in the evening he began selling his prints off the walls as the bar owners passed out t-shirts to guests. Attendees defied the NYC smoking ban on the final night, with one owner exclaiming, “What are they going to do, shut us down?!”