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RIP Gary Winick

RIP Gary Winick

Gary Winick at the 2003 Spirit Awards (pictured right). The producer and director, a fixture in New York’s indie community in the 90’s and then through the last decade, passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was just 49 years old.

Some brief thoughts.

Brian Brooks and I were hanging out backstage at the Spirit Awards that year, chatting with folks. Gary had just accepted the prize as producer of the John Cassavetes Award winner, “Personal Velocity.” He emerged from the tent smiling and Brian quickly snapped a photo. There’s a higher-res version of this image somewhere in indieWIRE’s digital photo archive, but this will do for now.

It was a warm day in Santa Monica, Gary was dressed casually in his white t-shirt and approached us with his characteristic casual smile. As usual, he spoke rather softly, but enthusiastically.

I remember the moment because the prize was further validation of the tremendous work that Gary and others (John Sloss and Jonathan Sehring) did to lay the foundation for a digital indie movement at the end of the 90s. InDigEnt and Blow-Up Pictures (from Joana Vicente and Jason Kliot) ushered in a wave of low budget production and experimentation that I wrote a lot about in the early days of indieWIRE (and in a few print magazine articles). So, I got to know Gary quite well in those days. Others who know him even better will certainly weigh in with their own thoughts, but I have such fond memories of Gary and that period.

Not long after this photo was taken, Gary made the leap to Hollywood, with the terrific studio comedy, “13 Going on 30,” a mainstream movie that I really enjoyed. He got some heat for ‘going Hollywood’, but seemed to take it all in stride as his career blossomed.

Gary was simply passionate about filmmaking.

I met him early on in indieIRE’s life, I believe it was at the Hamptons fest in the mid 90s. He was there with his film “Sweet Nothing.” Years later, bitten by digital film bug, Gary was at that fest with “The Tic Code,” a movie that paved the way for he, John Sloss and IFC Films to launch InDigEnt.

Somewhere in that aforementioned indieWIRE archive, there’s a photo of Gary with friend John Sloss, outside the Library Theater in Park City, smiling on the day that Winick’s “Tadpole” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It was a big moment for both guys and an iconic Sundance memory because it was part of ushering in a new low-budget era for that fest. We published that photo in print in indieWIRE’s photo copied newsletter. Maybe that’s why I can still see it in my head.

Later, Gary had a major impact on my good friend Matt Dentler, who summed it up well last night, “Without him I would have never met my wife. And without him, we may not have the NY film community we have today…He leaves behind a legacy of supporting indie film and NYC.

RIP, Gary.

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