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The Buying Game: indieWIRE’s 2006 Guide to Acquisitions

The Buying Game: indieWIRE's 2006 Guide to Acquisitions

This is the third edition of indieWIRE’s guide to acquisitions executives. The list is designed, we hope, to give insight to indieWIRE readers, especially emerging filmmakers and producers, who may not be familiar with some of the people behind this fundamental aspect of the film business. Additionally, this buyers guide should give some knowledge on the acquisitions process and also many of the people who play a large part in determining what eventually appears in theaters.

A number of company buyers have yet to respond to indieWIRE’s survey; additional buyers profiles will be added as additional companies respond to the request.

Focus Features: No response yet.

Sarah Lash, IFC Films
BACKGROUND: Education: English-philosophy double major @ Colgate U., Hamilton, NY. Semester @ Stockholm U. Where i took a class in Swedish cinema and watched Bergman films at the Swedish Film Instit. I started out as an acquisitions intern at October Films working for Bingham Ray. My first full time job in the industry was entry level marketing/publicity at Cinepix Film Properties which ultimately became Lionsgate.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “2046,” “The Edukators,” “My Summer Of Love,” “Goodnight And Good Luck,” “History Of Violence,” “Nobody Knows,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Walk The Line,” “Breakfast On Pluto,” “Shop Girl,” “Brokeback Mountain”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Brothers,” “Manderlay,” “12 And Holding,” “Pierrepont,” “Brothers Of The Head”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We are open to all genres, more so than ever.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Unless you have big name cast and/or big name director, jury and/or audience awards, early critical support, and word of mouth which happen at film festivals are some of the strongest tools for getting buyer attention. Be strategic and get into the most prestigious festivals possible. Think big picture and plan ahead since better fests often require regional if not a national premiere. A sales agent with a good reputation helps, of course, too. Look at comparable films that were handled well and who sold them.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: I’d caution against excessive hype (which can result in disappointment or backlash) or anything gimicky. If selling the film to a distributor is the ultimate goal, i recommend filmmakers don’t spend significant time or energy creating marketing campaigns.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: Compression of exhibition windows and universal releases are inevitable and should be a boon to independent films. Delivery and access will go through a lot of exciting changes and the landscape will be very different in the next three to five years.

Richard Lorber, Koch/Lorber
BACKGROUND: After long toiling in the valley of academia, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia, writing art criticism for Artforum and teaching at NYU, I came to my senses. If I was going to breathe such thin air I might as well scale the peaks…and the media beckoned….not knowing anything about it put me on a level playing field with everyone else in 1981 when my partner and I started Fox Lorber. We made it up as we went along…ten years and three or four buyouts/buybacks later i came full cycle and started releasing art films on video since there had to be something out there I wanted to watch. Another ten years and a few more buyout/buybacks–Fox Lorber to Winstar to Wellspring, etc. I had learned more about investment banking than I wanted to know, sold my company, it seemed for keeps and realized it was time to retire from retirement. So I happily started anew three years ago as Koch Lorber– releasing now 10 or so films a year theatrically and about 40 or more on dvd–classics, foreign art house and feature docs. I love finding great films that I have a chance to bring to many screens, big and small all finding appreciative audiences, often starved for quality. Also proud to say I’m Chairman of the Board of New York’s Film Forum. Please go and give to the best not-for-profit cinema in the world…popcorn’s on me.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: From all the big game festivals last year Cache was the one I chased hardest and lost. Those I loved the most and got are “The Syrian Bride” (in national release now) and, coming soon, the astonishing doc, “Our Brand is Crisis” (you’ll be hearing more about it this spring). Like most of my colleagues I see about 300+ films a year at festivals and screenings that no one else will ever see. Sadly, too many lost gems to enumerate or even remember…glad somebody’s keeping track…

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: Lars von Trier’s and Jorgen Leth’s “The Five Obstructions,” Techine’s “Changing Times” (releasing in May), “Save the Green Planet,” “Los Olvidados,” “La Dolce Vita,” Depardon’s “10th District Court,” Resnais’s “Muriel” (coming later this year).

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: Recent festival winners, mostly international, politically and intellectually compelling feature docs, world cinema classics (even our English releases somehow wind up in foreign video sections–I’m happy that my Fox and Koch Lorber business names have become a foreign arthouse brand…)

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Take an entrepreneurial approach to self distribution. Show me how much you’ll risk to get your film shown. Make me jealous of how well you can do it on your own.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Narcissistic self promotion…and not having a clue what my company is about.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: Fragmentation and consolidation [are] occurring simulaneously on different levels [and] digital technology inverting supply and demand. New business models [are] provoking fresh thought (for a change) in a post-video era with broadband ubiquity, it’s all starting to get interesting again –hope I can survive so much fun.

Jason Constantine, SVP Acquisitions and Co-Productions, Lionsgate
BACKGROUND: Grew up in Santa Ana, CA, attended Princeton University undergrad, and LMU Film School for MFA. Worked in feature film production and post-production for a few years while making several short films; joined the Trimark Acquisitions team in 1998.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Crash,” “Saw 2,” “Batman Begins,” “Munich,” “History of Violence,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Beyond the Sea,” “Syrianna,” “Paradise Now,” “The Sea Inside”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Crash,” “Open Water,” “Saw,” “Saw 2,” “Lord of War,” “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “Beyond the Sea,” “Hard Candy,” “The Cooler,” “The Descent,” “Skinwalkers”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We’re looking for films that have an indie credibility with a commercial sensibility. And we’re always on the hunt for the following genres: Horror-thrillers (The “Saw” franchise, “The Descent,” “Hostel”) / Inspiring African-American movies (The Tyler Perry movies, “Rize”, “Akeelah and the Bee”) / Male teen comedies (“Waiting” “Employee of the Month”) / Review driven, word-of-mouth pictures (“Crash”, “Open Water”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”) / Compelling subjects for our documentary division (“Grizzly Man” “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man”, “US vs. John Lennon”)

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: A film only needs one distributor. Focus less on the bidding war you hope to create and more on being proactive about which distributor you think would be the ideal one to release your film. If you are writing a screenplay or about to go into production, then begin with the end in mind: make sure your film has elements which will make it stand-out in a competitive marketplace — (that might be a high concept, or might be the cast, or might be a fresh twist on a particular genre…but you need to have something that distinguishes your film). If you have a finished movie, then ultimately it’s your film that gets the attention of buyers, so make sure acquisition execs get to see it in the most appropriate context. For instance, if it’s a comedy or a horror movie, screen it in front of an audience so execs can experience the group dynamic and reactions.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Don’t tell a buyer you have the “next Saw” or the “next Crash” or next “Whale Rider”. Your film should stand on its own. And do your homework on each specific buyer. You should know what films each distributor has released in the last two years to get a sense of what kind of films that distributor is looking for on an active basis.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: The marketplace is as competitive as it has ever been. The cost of reaching theatergoers is more expensive than ever (in both time and money) — whether for a wide release movie or a platform release film. So an indie film has to have some quality which allows it to “stand-out” from the rest of the marketplace. That can be cast, or a high concept, or strong reviews — or any combination of those three. Your film needs to be not only a movie people respond to when they are sitting in the theater watching it — but it also has to be a film which people are willing to go out of their way to see. Remember that an indie film is not just competing against other indie films, an indie film is competing against all movies in the marketplace on any given weekend.

Tom Quinn, Head of Acquisitions, Magnolia Pictures
BACKGROUND: Born in North Carolina, but grew up in Europe and the Middle East. Was an actor for six years before working in publicity at Dennis Davidson Associates in Los Angeles. Left to become Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.’s personal assistant (and later moved into acquisitions at the company’s New York office).

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Head-On,” “2046,” “Boys Of Baraka,” “Darwin’s Nightmare,” “Cachet,” “Mutual Appreciation,” “Grizzly Man,” “Fateless,” “Unknown White Male,” “Broken Flowers,” “The Sun,” “Old Boy,” “Batman Begins,” “Duck Season,” “The Beat My Heart Skipped,” “Paradise Now,” “Jesus Is Magic”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: World’s Fastest Indian, Pulse, Keane, Ong Bak, Woman Thou Art Loosed

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We’re complete eclecticists. Any genre, size, format or language is of interest to us…the only consistency being a very genuine appreciation for all of our films and filmmakers.


WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Films ultimately sell themselves, so overhyping or comparing your film to any number of recent successes comes across as either desperate or naive.

Miramax Films: No response yet.

Palm Pictures: No response yet.

Paramount Classics: No response yet.

Picturehouse Films: No response yet.

Doug Witkins, Picture This! Entertainment
BACKGROUND: Grew up in Cupertino, Calif., and graduated from Stanford University. Selected as one of 9 nationwide to participate in the IRTS Foundation Summer Fellowship in the broadcast business. At the end of this fellowship, he landed a job at a 25-person ad agency/production house and worked as a director and producer of TV commercials and industrial films. Moved to Los Angeles and did publicity work for KNBC before joining NBC Entertainment in the Story and Comedy departments, then went to film distributor Heritage Entertainment. In 1984, he started DW Diversified, Inc., and its first label, Amazing Movies, which is a sales agent of American films to the foreign market. Founded Picture This!, Amazing’s art house label, in 1996 and Picture This!’ domestic branch in 1998.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Schizo,” “Before The Fall,” “Garcon Stupide,” “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” “Brokeback Mountain”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Whole New Thing,” “The Masseur,” “Cold Showers,” “7 Virgins”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: Gay/Lesbian and coming-of-age [films] have been our specialty.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Easier said than done, but get programmed at an important film festival. Many of our acquisitions occur at Cannes, Toronto, Berlin and Sundance. We are usually happy to screen titles in our area of specialization that come independently of those events, however. Strong visuals (production stills) get our attention. We don’t require name actors in our films, but the overall production values must be high.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Mailing submissions that say “Requested Material” on the envelope, when, in fact, we never requested it. Mass, impersonal emails. Emails without a compelling subject line.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: With more movies opening theatrically on a given weekend than ever before, it has become more challenging to carve out an audience. Still, with excellent reviews and strong marketing, it is possible to garner the box office return and attention of the press that one needs to make money down the road in videogram sales. We are looking forward to this year’s introduction of High Definition discs to the home entertainment marketplace and feel this will be a welcome shot in the arm for the maturing DVD format.

Eric d’Arbeloff, Roadside Attractions
BACKGROUND: My producing credits include “Lovely & Amazing” and “Trick.” I have a BA in English from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Capote” “Mad Hot Ballroom” “Me You and Everyone We Know” “Brokeback Mountain” “Squid and the Whale”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Wah-Wah” “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic” “Pretty Persuasion” “Ladies in Lavender” “Walk on Water”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We are open to anything that we think is good. We tend to like films that have a willingness to entertain, be they comedies or serious dramas.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: We like to work with reputable producer’s reps.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: I think it’s mostly about common sense. The only thing that bothers me is when people don’t take “no” for an answer or expect that I owe them an in depth analysis of why I’m passing. So much of this is about instinct.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: It’s challenging to get people’s attention with so many films being released and huge amounts of money being spent on advertising. Ancillary sales, in both DVD and television, also seem to be in a lull. On the other hand, I’m proud that a truly independent company like ours can uncover underserved niches and do real theatrical business with films like “Ladies In Lavender” and “Walk on Water.” The next few years should be interesting — there is so much technological change happening — who knows what’s next?

Michael Galinsky, Rumur Releasing
BACKGROUND: I have been a filmmaker for the last 10 years. Before starting to make films I was in a band called Sleepyhead that toured extensively in the US and Europe. My partner Suki Hawley and I made a couple of music related narratives that we self-distributed through underground circles “Half-Cocked” was released on video via Matador Records and we toured with the film like we would with a band to support the release. After making “Radiation” which premired at Sundance 99, I worked at for a couple of years doing a little bit of everything from marketing to editorial, creating a cinema section of the site and booking films at colleges. Along with Rumur partner David Beilinson, Suki and I completed a documentary film called “Horns and Halos”. We had a great deal of success with that film on the festival circuit and eventually decided to theatrically release it ourselves. We actually did quite well, and the 15 city run led to a very strong DVD release….. which led us to start our company Rumur Releasing to combine grass roots efforts with internet marketing to build a profile for important films that wouldn’t otherwise get the respect they deserve.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: With a 3 1/2 year old, a film on the fest circuit (Code 33), and a new distro company I didn’t see enough. “Capote,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Mail Order Wife,” “Live in Maid,” “Occupation: Dreamland” and “Darwin’s Nightmare” all stood out from what I did see.


TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We are looking for a wide variety of documentaries and narratives . Don’t want to pigeonhole it.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Try to get the film to some writers before a festival so that some people have seen it and know it’s good. If there are strong supporters then word will get around that it’s a film worth seeing.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: I think that seemingly like a stalker is probably a bad way.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: It seems a bit precarious. The whole system is set up based on the idea of theatrical releases. Especially from a review driven point of view. The best writers write about films that are in theaters. However, with the advent of netfilx etc, it appears that less people are actually going to go to the movies. DVD and VOD can be viable means of getting revenue to support films, but the system of raising awareness probably is going to go through some painful changes before those means of distribution can exist without a theatrical run.

Peter Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn Films
BACKGROUND: Peter Goldwyn is the VP of Acquisitions for Samuel Goldwyn Films. He began his career writing and directing socio-political documentaries and regional commercials for Motion Inc. and Banyan Film, respectively. Peter then worked for Satellite Films on national commercials and ESPN International as an Assistant Director covering live sporting events. In 2001 he joined Samuel Goldwyn Films acquiring such films as the Oscar-nominated feature “El Crimen Del Padre Amaro,” “Raising Victor Vargas,” and the more recent Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me,” and the intellectually and spiritually challenging “What the Bleep Do We Know.” Under his new title, Peter picked up the biting new comedy “Pretty Persuasion” and critically acclaimed “The Squid and The Whale,” which took best writer and director at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival 2005, and is now nominated for three Golden Globes.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “The Beat that my Heart Skipped” “Bittersweet Life” “Brokeback Mountain” “Walk on Water” “Squid and the Whale” “Paradise Now” “A History of Violence” “Syrianna” “Merry Christmas” “Duck Season”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Squid and the Whale” “Walk on Water” “Pretty Persuasion” “Marylin Hotchlkiss Ballroom Dancing”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We don’t focus on genre, but the project itself. We try to keep our slate of films diverse, as well as making a consistent effort to look for films for underserved audiences

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Great films will speak for themselves. A well-know sales agent and a spot at an A-list festival always helps.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Harassment. I see a lot of movies. If you have given me a screener or invited me to your movie I will see it, however there are only so many hours in a day. I will do my best to get back to you.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: The film business is constantly changing, and I hope that while everyone discusses collapsing windows and various new methods of distribution, that film will still remain a communal experience and the theatrical release of a film remains an important part of a film’s life.

Udy Epstein, Seventh Art Releasing
BACKGROUND: MFA in film production from AFI; writer/producer of fiction films, co founder of 7th art in 1994.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “March of the Penguins,” “Rize,” “The Devil and Daniel Johnson,” “Enron,” Good Night and Good Luck,” “Pride and Prejudice” (still have many more to see)

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Who Gets to Call it Art?” (international rights), “Workingman’s Death” (Toronto 05), “The Art of Flight” (AFI, IDFA 05), “Muskrat Lovely,” “Breast Cancer Diaries” (in production).

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: Mostly documentary films.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Get your film accepted by good festivals.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Tons of postcards, sending memorabilia or bottles of wine, telling us the marketing plan and sending bad trailers.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: We are dealing mostly with small doc films (less commercial)- for those (statistically the majority of doc films) it has been tough and would stay that way.

Ken Eisen, President of Shadow Distribution
BACKGROUND: Came to love films watching “Mon Oncle” and “High and Low” when my parents took me with them to movies in New York. That love grew at Colby College, where I ran a film society, and went nova when I saw “The Conformist.” My life course was fixed. I sat in the American Film Institute theater and other theaters in Washington, D.C. in the mid 1970s, absorbing all celluloid. I then returned to Maine and helped found Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville and, much later, the Maine International Film Festival…and Shadow.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: Of course, all of ours (“The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill”; “Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus”; “Touch The Sound; Edvard Munch” (Restored Version). From Others: “The World”; “Yuva”; “Good Night And Good Luck”; “Cache”…And The New Print Of The Conformist!)

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: All of the ones above and our upcoming releases: Yang Ban Xi; The Beauty Academy of Kabul and Heading South (Ver La Sud)

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We don’t look by genre, but our films are documentaries, foreign films and, less often, American indies.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Make a great film with integrity. That will get our attention.


GENERAL THOUGHTS: There’s too much business and not enough film in it. There’s a chicken-and-egg situation sadly now in existence that ensures that most of the attention on film gets directed into a few particular works, worthy or not. Audiences, journalists, reviewers and the industry have accepted a system in which hype rules.

Dylan Leiner, Sony Pictures Classics
BACKGROUND: 2006 will be my 10th year at the Sundance Film Festival for Sony Pictures Classics. One of my most memorable years was 1997, the first deal with which I was involved in, was for Errol Morris’ “Fast Cheap & Out of Control.” Ten minutes before the start of the film, we used [Sony Classics co-president] Tom Bernard’s back as a table in the Men’s Room of the Egyptian Theater to sign the deal. We hadn’t yet seen the film but an hour into the movie I looked over at Tom and [SPC co-president] Michael Barker who were laughing like hyenas amidst a sea of smiling faces and felt pretty good about the decision we had made.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Cache,” “Batman Begins,” “Capote,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Match Point,” “Syriana,” “Enron,” “Gunner Palace,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Look At Me,” “Saraband”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: One Of The Recent Films We Financed Is Friends With Money, Which Opens This Year’s Sundance Film Festival. We Acquired Pedro Almodovar’s Volver At The Script Stage. We Purchased Junebug At Last Year’s Sundance Festival, And Within The Last Few Months The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, House Of Sand And Who Killed The Electric Car?

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We don’t categorize films based on genre. We are interested in director-driven films that tell compelling stories in unique ways. Our aim is to have the most eclectic range of films possible – from comedy to drama to thriller, in documentary, narrative or even animated form. What all the films have in common is their quality.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: A film’s life is just beginning when the editing process is finished. Research the companies that distribute your favorite films, find out the people who were at those companies when those films were acquired and then track down and speak with filmmakers whose films may have been successes as well as those that might not have been with those same distribution companies. Filmmakers who’ve been down the road with a distributor are often the best resources in learning about a particular company. Then armed with that information, try to organize a meeting with those individuals at the companies in which you are interested. You will learn a lot just in the process of setting up those meetings and once you’re there – in those environments – you will have a chance to really kick the tires. Many distributors will be impressed with this resourcefulness and your own advance work will often align you with the company best suited to your film and your own personality.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Relying entirely on sales agents, lawyers and producer reps can undermine your own end goal. By doing the leg work yourself you will become empowered and also forge your own personal relationships with distributors.

Don’t assume that the world of distribution is a level playing field. As companies have personalities, they also have strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to those that have a consistent track record. It is for a reason. Again, speak to filmmakers that have had commercial successes and failures with the companies in which you are interested in working.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: In September of 1979 a group of filmmakers got together in New York to show their films as part of a showcase of independent features. Funded mostly out of the New York Council of the Arts and co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the gathering represented a group of formerly disenfranchised filmmakers empowering themselves in a way that hadn’t been done before. This event demonstrated the power of the independent spirit and it was out of this event that the IFP was born.

Today the business has matured to a point where filmmakers are not as challenged to do the leg work themselves, which ultimately undermines their own independence. All of the big agencies now have entire departments dedicated to financing and selling independent movies, there are law firms that focus as much on sales as on production counsel, and sales agents who even encourage filmmakers not to interact with distributors.

When it comes time to sell the film, whether working totally independently or with a team of representatives, it is vital that filmmakers today remain as in control of the process of selling the movie as they were in making it. Being involved every step of the way in what happens with the picture is the only way to control the future of a given film.

And it is only through such independent thinking and dogged self sufficiency that our current industry will produce the next wave of filmmakers in the vein of Louis Malle, Pedro Almodovar, Richard Linklater, Stephen Frears, Todd Haynes and John Sayles.

Strand Releasing: No response yet.

Jane Giles, Head of Acquisitions, Tartan Films
BACKGROUND: I studied film and have worked in the industry for the last 20 years. My first job was running the infamous Scala Cinema for owner/producer Stephen Woolley. Since then I’ve worked for the National Film Theatre, London and Rotterdam Film Festivals, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Channel 4 Television, the British Film Institute, and I forget how many others, but always in either exhibition or distribution.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: My 10 favourite films released last year in the UK: “A History of Violence” “Mysterious Skin” “The Beat that My Heart Skipped” “Murderball” “Kung Fu Hustle” “Battle in Heaven” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” “Last Days” “Sideways” “Bombon the Dog”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” “Lady Vengeance,” “Wal-Mart”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: Across the board, but Tartan particularly loves horror and Asia Extreme.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: It’s like that bit in Jane Campion’s film “Holy Smoke” when Harvey Keitel writes ‘BE KIND’ on Kate Winslet’s forehead. By the way, I’m Harvey, you’re Kate. And if you cant be kind, you better be funny.



ThinkFilm: No response yet.

Richard Wolff, TLA Releasing
BACKGROUND: Director of acquisitions, four years for TLA Releasing in North America, eight for and now, for TLA Releasing in the United Kingdom which launched in September of 2005.

Graduated from Temple University with a B.S. and MBA in marketing. One of the partners of the TLA Entertainment Group and a key member in establishing the company from its beginning as a repertory movie theatre in Philadelphia (known as the Theatre of the Living Arts) in the late ’60s to a chain of video stores in the mid-’80s (including New York’s Greenwich Village store). TLA Entertainment Group, who will be celebrating it’s 25th anniversary in May of 2006, also includes an online retail element at and theatrical film/video distribution in North America and United Kingdom.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Far Side of the Moon,” “The Man Who Copied,” “Dorian Blues,” “The Aristocrats,” “Capote,” “Me, You & Everyone We Know.”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Adam & Steve,” “20 Centimeters,” “Say Uncle,” “Another Gay Movie,” “Evilenko,” “The Ape,” “Chicken Tikka Masala,” “Shooting Livien,” “eXposed: Making of a Legend,” “Swindled,” “Celebrity Shorts,” and “Sin Destino.”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: TLA Releasing’s focus is incredibly diverse. We are always on the look out for quality gay, international and American films with a little bit of “art” and/or “pop” appeal. We also don’t shy away from controversial material either while we’re on the look out for audience pleasers.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Be realistic and open to new ideas for distributing your film. With Video-on-Demand and the possibility of releasing a film in theaters, video and pay-per-view, day and date – there are some great opportunities for your film to reach a wider audience.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Not knowing who your audience for the film is and when pitching your film, being unreceptive to alternatives for distribution which could expose the film to a bigger audience.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: We’re finding that most folks are less inclined to go theaters the opening weekend of a film unless the film has an “event” feel to it. Box office reports reflect this trend. The audience is certainly there, we just have to be more creative and offer additional options, so they can find the film.

Paul Federbush, Warner Independent Pictures
BACKGROUND: Began entertainment career as an agent trainee at International Creative Management after spending three years at Lazard Fr res in New York. Graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and holds an MFA in filmmaking. Recently served as VP of Acquisitions and Co-Production at Gaylord Films/Pandora, working on projects including “Donnie Darko,” “A Walk to Remember,” “White Oleander,” “Cypher,” “Welcome to Collinwood,” and “The Heart of Me.” Also a veteran of New Line/Fine Line.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Brokeback Mountain,” “Paradise Now,” “Syriana,” “Goodnight and Goodluck,” “Walk the Line,” “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Cache,” “Old Boy,” “Matchpoint,” “Squid and the Whale,” “Brick,” “Harsh Times”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Paradise Now,” “March of the Penguins”


HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Don’t expend a lot of energy trying. It is our job to be there.


GENERAL THOUGHTS: The independent scene is healthy, but the middle is falling out of the studio business. There will still be tentpoles, but there will be a downward pressure on budgets on all others towards the range of the indie divisions.

The Weinstein Company: No response yet.

Marie Therese Guirgis, Wellspring
BACKGROUND: I’ve been at Wellspring since 1999 and seen it through many changes!! It’s almost been like working at four different companies. I have been working in acquisitions this whole time and recently started overseeing theatrical distribution as well. Rob Williams works with me in acquisitions. I went to graduate school for Film History and Theory.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: Some of my favorite films of 2005 were “40 Shades of Blue,” “Head On,” “Kings and Queen,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Mondovino,” “Palindromes,” “2046” and many more…

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Unknown White Male,” “Live Freaky! Die Freaky!,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Kings and Queen”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: Like most independent companies we don’t look for any one genre but we pursue films that we believe will generate a lot of publicity and strong reviews, that will have long-term value- these tend to be films made by clearly extremely talented directors.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: The best way to get buyers attention is to work with a a sales agent or producers representative who has strong relationships with buyers on all levels and who has a good reputation for quality films. Additional ways are sending buyers any very strong reviews your film has received from significant critics and submitting your film to key respected regional and international film festivals — not just the obvious 5 or 6 major ones.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Submit a film with a fully developed marketing plan and “evidence” that there is an enormous audience for your film- or generally assuming that you know more than a distributor does about film releasing and the potential for most films. We make mistakes for sure but as a whole, we’re pretty aware of the market and how many people will actually go see a certain movie in the theater.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: More and more I think filmmakers and producers should stop pursuing theatrical releases at the cost of financial ruin for themselves. It is an increasingly tough mode of distribution and DVD and TV are perhaps even more effective ways of getting your film seen and you actually stand a chance of making your money back that way.

Debra Zimmerman, Women Make Movies
BACKGROUND: Executive Director of Women Make Movies since 1983. Altough most people think I am the founder of Women Make Movies, I am not. However, I did become the Executive Director when I was a child.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: “Me You and Everyone We Know,” “Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Darwin’s NIghtmare,” “The Holy Girl,” and of course, “Sisters in Law.”

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “Sisters in Law,” “The Grace Lee Project”

TYPES OF FILMS COMPANY LOOKS FOR: We are looking for cutting-edge documentaries that give depth to today’s headlines, as well as artistically and intellectually challenging works in all genres.

HOW TO GET THE ATTENTION OF BUYERS: Create an excellent festival strategy. Get someone to champion your film – a festival programmer, a filmmaker we’ve worked with, etc.

WRONG WAY TO GET ATTENTION: Insisting that we have to see the film on the big screen, though we would love to see all acquisitions that way, it just is not possible.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: I am excited about the new opportunities that digital cinemas will bring but nervous about the new vertical stragies of combining production, distribution and exhibition. Isn’t this the same kind of scenario that brought about the anti-trust suits that caused the studios to divest themselves of cinemas? And though it is great that there are more documentaries in the theatres, I worry that the shortening of windows between theatrical, broadcast and DVD will make it harder for smaller, truly independent films to succeed.

Nancy Gerstman & Emily Russo, co-presidents, Zeitgeist
BACKGROUND: Emily: Worked in production and distribution before founding Zeitgeist with Nancy Gerstman almost 18 years ago. Graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a degree in Cinema Studies (23 years ago). Nancy: A devoted film buff from a very young age; sold tickets at the Bleecker Street and Carnegie Hall Cinemas in NYC; worked for Landmark Theatres in San Francisco; was mentored by Fran Spielman at First Run Features before founding Zeitgeist with Emily Russo in 1988.

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2005: Of course our own but also: “The Emperor’s Journey” (‘Penguins’ when they were still speaking French); “Capote”; anything with George Clooney

FILMS INVOLVED WITH ACQUIRING: “The Corporation”; “Ballets Russes”; “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days”; “My Dad is 100 Years Old” (Maddin/Rossellini); “The World”

GENERAL THOUGHTS: We feel that if we love a film enough to take it on for distribution we’ll be able to find an audience for it. But with so many films in the marketplace right now it’s not feasible or even right for us to throw a film out into the world without our traditional careful marketing and extreme attention to detail.

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