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Breaking Film Industry News — Awards, Acquisitions, Festival Buzz, Grants, and More

Everything industry insiders need to know this month at the movies, from newly announced awards to festival lineups, acquisitions and more.

reality bites

“Reality Bites”

November 30

– SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, announced today the projects that will receive a total of $240,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM Rainin Grants. Seven filmmaking teams were granted funding to support the next stage of their creative process, from screenwriting to post-production. SFFILM Rainin Grants are awarded twice annually to filmmakers whose narrative feature films will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community and/or meaningfully explore pressing social issues.

SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the United States. The SFFILM Rainin Grant program has awarded over $5 million to more than 100 projects since its inception, including Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You,” Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “Monsters and Men,” Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakthrough “Patti Cake$,” Chloé Zhao’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12,” Ryan Coogler’s debut feature “Fruitvale Station,” and Ben Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Danielle DiGiacomo, VP of Distribution at the Orchard; Lauren Kushner, SFFILM Senior Manager of Artist Development; Rivkah Beth Medow, filmmaker and Kenneth Rainin Foundation Board Director; and Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM Director of Artist Development.

The jury noted in a statement: “We are thrilled to support these seven ambitious projects and the voices — both lyrical and incisive — of these talented filmmakers. This cohort of SFFILM Rainin grantees are grappling beautifully with questions of how we define ourselves and our homes in a world that is constantly changing. We very much look forward to playing a part in elevating their visions in the months ahead.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the Spring 2019 round of SFFILM Rainin Grants; the deadline to apply is February 20. For more information visit sffilm.org/makers.


Ceylan Özgün Özçelik, writer/director/producer; Armagan Lale, producer — screenwriting – $25,000
On the feast of the sacrifice, a family gathering of women turns into a tragicomic night of bloody vengeance.

“all dirts roads taste of salt”
Raven Jackson, writer/director; Maria Altamirano, producer — screenwriting – $25,000
In lyrical, non-linear portraits evoking the texture of memories, “all dirt roads taste of salt” viscerally and experientially explores the life of a Black woman in the American South, from her youth to her older years.

Matthew Fifer, writer/co-director; Kieran Mulcare, co-director; Jeremy Truong and Ramfis Myrthil, producers — post-production – $40,000
Some things are worth waiting 17 years for, others should have come out sooner.

Tom Quinn, writer/director; Craig Shilowich, Alexandra Byer, and Matthew Thurm, producers — post-production – $50,000
For 35 years, Nora Pancowski has been the postmaster of Colewell, Pennsylvania. She runs the office out of her home and has become the center of this community, which has no other common space. When Nora receives word that her office will be closed, she must decide whether to relocate and take a new job or face retirement in Colewell.

Kate McLean and Mario Furloni, writer/directors; Laura Heberton, producer — post-production – $50,000
Aging pot farmer Devi suddenly finds her world shattered as she races to bring in what could be her final harvest.

Pedro González Kuhn, director; Rodrigo Ordoñez, writer; Vanessa Perez and Laura Irene Arvizu, producers — development – $25,000
Enrique is deported to Mexico, a country he has never called home. As he struggles to integrate, survive, and force his way back to the US, he meets Rita, who provides shelter and protection that he has never had before, which makes him question where home really is.

“Sandy Song, The High Priestess of Souls”
Pete Lee, writer/director — screenwriting – $25,000
Sandy Song, a grumpy middle-aged grifter, becomes the sole defender of Oakland’s Chinatown in a battle against loan sharks, white saviors, and demons.

November 29

– Magnolia Pictures announced today that they will release “Hail Satan?,” a timely new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Penny Lane in theaters spring 2019. Magnolia has worldwide rights to the film, which charts the rise of The Satanic Temple, a mysterious organization whose mission may not be what people expect. The film will world premiere in U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

November 27

– Film Independent has announced that Aubrey Plaza will host the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards. The show will broadcast live exclusively on IFC at 2:00 pm PT/ 5:00 pm ET on Saturday, February 23, 2019. “I am truly honored and delighted to host the Spirits Awards this year,” said Plaza. “It is a dream come true to host a show that celebrates my greatest loves… independent film, the people that make them possible and live television!”

November 26

– The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Alfonso Cuarón with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at its annual Film Awards Gala for “Roma.” The Film Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart and Entertainment Tonight and presented by American Express, will be held on Thursday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 3-14.

“Alfonso Cuarón’s latest feature ‘Roma’ is a masterful achievement in filmmaking,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “Drawing upon his childhood memories, Cuarón has created an emotionally driven story about a family growing up in 1970s Mexico City. A film he not only directed, but also was a writer, producer, cinematographer and editor. For his ability to take on many roles and for his expert storytelling of this subject matter, the festival is proud to present Alfonso Cuarón with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award.”

Cuarón joins previously announced honorees Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Rami Malek and “Green Book.” Past recipients of the Sonny Bono Visionary Award include filmmakers Danny Boyle, Michel Hazanavicius, Tom Hooper, Tom McCarthy, Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino. The award is named after the festival’s founder and former Palm Springs Mayor, accorded to a filmmaker that breaks boundaries in the work.

Molly Shannon and Susan Ziegler in “Wild Nights With Emily”


– Greenwich Entertainment announced today its acquisition of “Wild Nights with Emily,” a dramatic comedy about Emily Dickinson. The film, which had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, was written and directed by Madeleine Olnekand stars Molly Shannon as the beloved poet. Greenwich will release the film theatrically early next year.

“Madeleine’s witty, madcap yet poignant and absolutely necessary version of Emily’s life is an Emily we’ve never seen before, but one that has been hiding in plain sight all along,” said Ed Arentz from Greenwich Entertainment. “’Wild Nights with Emily’ will delight the poet’s legion of fans, satisfy serious scholars and addresses our particular moment in a very telling way.”

November 20

– SFFILM, in partnership with the Westridge Foundation, announced today the projects that will receive a total of $100,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM Westridge Grants. Five filmmaking teams were granted funding to help support the screenwriting and project development stages of their narrative feature films. SFFILM Westridge Grants, which are awarded twice annually, are designed for US-based filmmakers whose stories take place primarily in the United States and focus on the significant social issues and questions of our time. The next application period will open later this month.

SFFILM Westridge Grants provide support to film projects in their critical early stages, safeguarding filmmakers’ creative processes and allowing artists to concentrate on thoughtfully developing their stories while building the right strategy and infrastructure to guide them through financing and production. In addition to cash grants, recipients will benefit from SFFILM’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development program, SFFILM Makers, as well as support and counsel from SFFILM and Westridge Foundation staff.


Captain C!
John Paul Su, writer/director – screenwriting – $20,000
Caleb Diaz is an eleven-year-old Filipino-American queer comic book fanboy who lives in a diverse working-class neighborhood in American suburbia. After saving his classmate from a group of bullies, he is wrongfully accused of stabbing that same classmate. With the impending threat of expulsion, he struggles to prove his innocence, and fulfill his dream of becoming his family’s ultimate superhero.

Invoking Juan Angel
Daniel Eduvijes Carrera, writer/director – screenwriting – $20,000
Mexican immigrant Magdalena Cruz is hired as the live-in caretaker for Ian, a severely ill child whose forced isolation has created budding psychic abilities and a fascination for the paranormal. But unbeknownst to Ian’s overprotective father, the distressed Magdalena has a child of her own hidden in the basement bedroom. After the two boys share an unexpected encounter, Ian is convinced the mysterious child must be a ghost and seeks to unravel his tragic story.

Paul S. Flores, writer; Tashana Landray, producer – screenwriting – $20,000
Sixteen-year-old Edgar wants nothing to do with his father, former gang member Fausto (known as “Placas” for his many tattoos). Placas wants what every father wants: to provide a better life for his son. As Placas strives to put his past behind him, going through tattoo removal and therapy, Edgar is recruited by a rival gang. As Placas’ past and Edgar’s future collide, they both face choices that will change the course of their lives.

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, writer/director; Cara Marcous, producer – screenwriting – $20,000
Inspired by true events, Qimmit tells the story of Suvlu, an Iñupiaq hunter who is forced to make a monstrous decision for the survival of his family.

Righteous Acts
Alicia D. Ortega, writer – screenwriting – $20,000
Homeschooled teenager Judith thinks she’s finally found her people when she joins the cast of a megachurch “hell house,” where evangelical teens aim to scare people into salvation. But when she doesn’t land the coveted role of the Abortion Girl, she convinces herself she’s the only player doing God’s work and that it’s her holy duty to expose the true wages of sin.

– Sundance Institute announced today the eight members of the inaugural class of the Momentum Fellowship, a full-year program of deep, customized creative and professional support for writers, directors, and producers from underrepresented communities working across documentary and feature filmmaking, episodic content, and virtual reality, who are poised to take the next step in their careers.

The Momentum Fellowship evolved from the former Women at Sundance Fellowship, a highly successful model that merited evolution and expansion for impact across a greater cohort of underrepresented communities. Those eligible for this larger, more intersectional program now include artists identifying as women, non-binary, and/or transgender, artists of color, and artists with disabilities.

The 2019 Momentum Fellows are ​Alexandria Bombach​​, ​Amber Fares​​,​ Josh Feldman​​,​ Yance Ford​​, ​Ro Haber​​, Megha Kadakia​​, ​Alysa Nahmias​​, and ​Eva Vives​​.

“Our inaugural class of fellows bring such an array of unique talents and experiences to the creative table, and we are beyond excited for this year of collaboration and development,” said ​Karim Ahmad​​, Director of Outreach & Inclusion. “We also hope that this intersectional approach will be a model for increasingly vital conversations about allyship across demographic silos in the artist and industry communities at large.”

November 19

– The band’s getting back together again at the 18th Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T. “This Is Spinal Tap” will return to the big screen for the iconic mockumentary’s 35th anniversary at the 2019 Festival. Generation X will also have a comeback for the 25th anniversary of “Reality Bites.” The storytellers behind the cult classics will be on hand for cast and creator reunions. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24 – May 5.

“This Is Spinal Tap” stars and creators Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner, who also directed, will turn it up to eleven again with a one-night-only anniversary celebration 35 years in the making. Released in 1984, the mockumentary follows the fictional heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap on tour. After the screening, the four will pay tribute to the band with a special musical performance and a conversation to follow.

Tribeca will celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Reality Bites,” a film that captured the zeitgeist of the 90s. Starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, and Ben Stiller, who also directed, the film was released in 1994. A conversation will follow the screening to take a look back at the making of the film and the characters who have come to embody the spirit of Generation X.

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

– The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will award Viggo Mortenson the American Riviera Award when the festival convenes for its 34th year this winter.  Mortenson will be recognized for his many attributes to the art of film over the years, and most recently, his work in Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures’ “Green Book.”

“Viggo is one of the steadiest acting forces in cinema and one of its greatest chameleons,” said Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director, Roger Durling. “As Tony Lip in Green Book, he delivers the capstone to his remarkable career. He encapsulates the American Riviera Award. We greatly admire and love him.”

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Mortenson will join the list of previous recipients which includes Sam Rockwell, Jeff Bridges, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Annette Bening, Sandra Bullock, Mickey Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, and Diane Lane.

November 16

– “Black Panther” returns to the big screen with free screenings at nonprofit art house theaters nationwide on Tuesday, November 27 at 4:00pm PT/7:00pm ET. Presented by Film Comment, a publication of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and supported by the Art House Convergence, the event will feature a post-screening Q&A with director Ryan Coogler, taking place at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA, streamed live to participating theaters. A full list of theaters can be found below. Check local theater listings for more details.

The one-night-only event offers audiences an opportunity to experience the acclaimed film on the big screen once again with their local communities. Leading up to and during the Q&A, attendees are invited to submit their questions to Ryan Coogler on Twitter with the hashtag #AskBlackPanther. All attendees will receive a free one-year digital subscription to Film Comment magazine. Coogler, director and co-writer of Black Panther, was featured on the cover of Film Comment’s March-April 2018 issue with a story by Devika Girish. Nicolas Rapold, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, will moderate the discussion.

– AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi announced the films that received this year’s Jury and Audience awards, including “The Biggest Little Farm,” “Period. End of Sentence.,” “War Paint,” “Egg,” “Magic Alps,” and “A Siege.”

– The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Rami Malek with the Breakthrough Performance Award at its annual Film Awards Gala for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The Film Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart and Entertainment Tonight, and presented by American Express, will be held on Thursday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 3-14.

“In the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Rami Malek fully brings to life and embodies musical legend Freddie Mercury, in what is truly an outstanding performance for this fine actor,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “For his portrayal that is garnering much critical acclaim, it is our honor to present the 2018 Breakthrough Performance Award to Rami Malek.”

Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”


Malek joins previously announced honoree Glenn Close, who will receive the Icon Award. Past recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Mahershala Ali, Mary J. Blige, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Hudson, Felicity Huffman, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, and Jeremy Renner. In the years they were honored, Ali, Cotillard, Hudson, Larson and Nyong’o went on to receive Academy Awards, while Blige, Huffman, Pike, and Renner received nominations.

– Greenwich Entertainment and rakontur announced today that Greenwich has acquired U.S. rights to “Screwball” directed by Billy Corben. The surreal documentary about the Alex Rodriguez/Biogenesis doping saga made its World Premiere to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and recently played at DocNYC. Corben and Alfred Spellman produced under their rakontur banner.

Penned by Corben and David Cypkin, the film “is a true-crime dramedy investigating Major League Baseball’s infamous doping scandal involving a nefarious clinician and his most famous client: the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.  Greenwich is planning a theatrical release in the spring of 2019 at the start of the new MLB season.”

November 15

Frameline, the San Francisco-based media arts nonprofit and presenter of the world’s largest, longest-running and most widely recognized LGBTQ+ film festival, announced today that Executive Director Frances Wallace will be leaving the organization after the conclusion of Frameline43, June 20-30, 2019.

“Leading Frameline for over five years and working with the organization for more than a decade has been the most rewarding experience of my professional career,” said Wallace. “I’ve been continually strengthened by Frameline’s Staff, Board of Directors, and constituents who support our work on so many fronts. Above all, I am inspired by the communities that we serve, and the filmmakers that astound us with invigorating, fresh queer content. I’m excited to continue building Frameline’s vital outreach programs and to produce Frameline43 in 2019.”

The Frameline Board of Directors will soon begin a search for a new Executive Director that will begin following Wallace’s post-Festival departure.

November 14

– New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), the largest member chapter within its worldwide network, has named Cynthia López, an Emmy, Peabody and duPont-Columbia Award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, as its new Executive Director. López will succeed Terry Lawler, who concludes a remarkable 21-year tenure, effective January 1. The announcement was made today by the organization’s President, Simone Pero, and its 18-person Board of Directors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Cynthia  López as NYWIFT’s newest Executive Director,” said NYWIFT Board President Simone Pero. “Cynthia’s proven talent at fostering community, building organizational and governmental partnerships, plus her outstanding fundraising abilities and a deep commitment to equality in all areas of entertainment align perfectly with NYWIFT’s storied forty-year history and our vision for the future of the organization. We are immensely grateful to Terry Lawler for her leadership these past two decades, and look forward to Cynthia guiding NYWIFT as we continue to serve and expand our membership, grow organizationally, and heighten the call for parity in the rapidly changing moving image industry.”

– Netflix has acquired global rights (excluding Japan, China and UK free TV rights) to “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind,” the directorial debut of Academy Award nominee and BAFTA Award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor. The British film is based on the bestselling book of the same name written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Ejiofor wrote the screenplay.  The film will launch in 2019 on Netflix and in select theaters in the US and UK.

November 13

– “Spheres,” a virtual reality series, directed and written by Eliza McNitt, executive produced by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel and produced by Jess Engel, Arnaud Colinart, and Dylan Golden is now available for purchase in Oculus stores and online for all Oculus Rift users. The three-part series, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Virtual Reality Immersive Story at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, can be purchased for $9.99. “Spheres” was created with support from Oculus and Intel.

The series made history earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival when it was acquired by CityLights, becoming the first ever VR experience to sell at a major film festival for seven figures. In September 2018 it became the first virtual reality experience to be programed and screened at the Telluride Film Festival.


“It’s been a dream to collaborate with this team to bring ‘Spheres’ to life,” said writer and director Eliza McNitt. “This experience makes the invisible Universe visible as you become the cosmos. I’m thrilled to release ‘Spheres’ on the Oculus Rift and transport you to worlds beyond our own.”

The series is a three-chapter virtual reality journey to uncover the hidden songs of the cosmos. ​The entire series world premiered at the Venice Film Festival with the debut of the first chapter, ​”Chorus of the Cosmos,” n​arrated by ​Millie Bobby Brown​​. The second chapter, ​”Songs of Spacetime​,” world premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and was narrated by ​Jessica Chastain​​. The third chapter, ​”Pale Blue Dot​,” premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and was narrated by ​Patti Smith​​.

November 12

– Sundance Institute and Adobe announced the class of 2019 Sundance Ignite Fellows today, chosen from a broad global pool of more than 1,200 applicants. The fifteen 18-to-24-year-old filmmakers selected for this one-year fellowship hail from three continents, with creative groundings spanning from personal documentaries to commercial content to narrative shorts.

“This year’s Sundance Ignite fellows are an immensely talented group of emerging artists, creating stories that are at the forefront of what’s next in our culture. We are thrilled to help them evolve their filmmaking and amplify their bold voices and fresh perspectives,” said ​Meredith Lavitt​​, Director of Sundance Ignite. “We are excited to welcome this new cohort into the broader Sundance creative community, and we look forward to connecting them to a wealth of opportunities for growth during their year with us.”

For the fourth year, fellows were selected based on their one- to eight-minute original films, submitted through Adobe Project 1324​, Adobe’s platform for young creators, along with their written applications. The finalists were selected based on their original voice, diverse storytelling and rigor in their filmmaking pursuits.

“This year’s Sundance Ignite challenge was the strongest yet, with record submissions,” said ​John Travis​​, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Adobe. “Supporting this generation of talented, up-and-coming filmmakers is part of Adobe’s commitment to young creators, and we can’t wait to see what the 2019 Sundance Ignite Fellows accomplish.”

In addition to their trip to the Festival, Sundance Ignite fellows are paired with a Sundance Institute alumni professional for a full year of guidance and development, gaining industry exposure and meaningful mentorship. This year’s new Sundance Ignite mentors include​ Heather Rae ​​(​Tallulah)​ , ​Dee Rees ​​(​Mudbound​) and ​Andrew Ahn ​​(​Spa Night)​ . In addition to a personalized Festival experience and mentorship track, Sundance Ignite fellows gain unique access to workshops, internships, and work opportunities at Sundance Institute’s renowned Labs and artists programs supported by Adobe Project 1324.

With Sundance Ignite as their launchpad, past fellows have springboarded into opportunities on the festival circuit, graduate film programs and beyond. Past Sundance Ignite Fellows include ​Sindha Agha​​, whose Sundance Ignite Short Film Challenge submission ​Birth Control Your Own Adventure​ was picked up by ​the New York Times’ Op-Docs and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; ​Charlotte Regan​​, who premiered her film ​Fry Up ​at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival; ​Emily Ann Hoffmann​​ who also premiered her film ​Nevada​ at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and ​Gerardo Coello​​ who participated in the Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Summit in 2018.

The 2019 Sundance Ignite Fellows are:

Daniel Antebi
Naëmi Buchtemann
Luna Carmoon
Maya Cueva
Kira Dane
Aaron Dunleavy
Emily Gularte
Yusuf Kapadia
Kerry LeVielle
Rachael Moton
Lance Oppenheim
Frida Perez
Eli Salameh
Cai Thomas
Aziz Zoromba

– Orion Pictures will release the contemporary version of the iconic horror classic “Child’s Play” on June 21, 2019. The film “follows a mother who gives her son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.” The updated horror stars Aubrey Plaza as Karen, Emmy and Tony nominee Brian Tyree Henry as Mike, and Gabriel Bateman  as Andy.

November 9

– Comedian Amanda Seales (HBO’s “Insecure”) will debut her first hour-long comedy special on HBO early next year, it was announced today by Nina Rosenstein, executive vice president, HBO Programming. Taping Sunday, Nov. 25 at the Edison Ballroom in New York, “Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin'”will be directed by Stan Lathan and produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment.

– Kino Lorber announces that it has acquired North American rights for Markus Imhoof’s new documentary “Eldorado” and his 1982 Academy Award-nominated drama “The Boat is Full,” both of which shine a light on the plight of refugees and migrants.

“Eldorado” “draws inspiration from Imhoof’s personal childhood relationship with a young Italian girl during the aftermath of World War II, whom his Swiss family took in as a refugee, but was ultimately sent back to Italy. He delves into this life-changing experience of personal loss, and highlights parallels with the current refugee crisis of today.”

Largely absent from American theaters for decades, Imhoof’s landmark 1981 film “The Boat is Full” was nominated for an Academy Award in 1982 for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 1981. This “powerful and devastating drama follows a group of Jewish refugees and a deserting German soldier trying to flee Nazi persecution and gain refuge with a Swiss couple, while secretly posing as a German family under watchful eyes.”

“The Boat is Full”

– Cranked Up Films, Good Deed Entertainment’s recently launched genre label, announced today from AFM that, in partnership with Shudder, AMC Network’s genre streaming platform, they have acquired North American distribution rights to Cinelou Films’ “Nightmare Cinema.”

The horror anthology “follows a series of five unlucky individuals who, after stumbling upon the dilapidated Rialto Theater, are trapped and tortured by the mysterious Projectionist as he plays each of their greatest fears on the theater’s silver screen.” The movie premiered at 2018’s Fantasia Film Festival, where it was the Opening Night film, earning strong positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It will have its US festival premiere at the NY Horror Film Festival on November 29. The film is set to be released in Theaters and On-Demand in 2019.

– Tribeca Film Institute announced today the addition of Monika Navarro as Senior Director of Programs to their expanding team. Monika comes to TFI from ITVS, where she  managed various content and funding initiatives, oversaw a development portfolio and acted as consulting producer on a variety of projects. As Senior Director of Programs at TFI, Monika will oversee all of TFI’s programming including its documentary, scripted, education, and interactive initiatives.

“We are very excited to have Monika join our TFI team. She exemplifies a new strategic direction for the Institute and will help us grow and strengthen our programs with greater intention and collaboration. We are confident in her expertise and her ability to lead our strong program team, as we raise the bar in outreach and impact,” said Amy Hobby, Executive Director of TFI.

“It’s an exciting moment to join TFI and build on their mission of supporting artists and filmmakers whose work acts as a catalyst for change. The role of the artist has never been more important and TFI is poised to be a leader in the industry in pushing form and being more inclusive, equitable and diverse. I’m honored to be a part of the talented and committed team at Tribeca Film Institute, working at the intersection of storytellers, activists and communities,” said Monika Navarro, Senior Director of Programs of TFI.

– Freestyle Digital Media, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, has acquired North American rights to the romantic comedy “You & Me,” which will debut on VOD and will be available to rent and own on digital HD across North American internet and satellite platforms through Freestyle Digital Media on December 4.

The film “is a funny and moving love story about a young deaf woman, Ella (Hillary Baack), who meets a recently blinded man (Paul Guyet). Ella has moved to California to research a book where she meets Tony, a former photographer and aspiring musician who has recently lost his sight. As friendship turns to possible romance, will these two overcome their expectations of each other, and of themselves?”

November 8

– SFFILM and the Dolby Institute have partnered to create a new fellowship, supporting films from development through post-production. The Dolby Fellowship provides an exciting opportunity rarely afforded to independent filmmakers — to thoughtfully elevate and deepen the role of sound and image in their finished films with advanced technology from Dolby Laboratories. SFFILM Makers — SFFILM’s artist development program — and the Dolby Institute will offer the selected fellows artistic and industry guidance, facilitate introductions, and provide a cash grant allowing them to begin work with a sound designer during the screenwriting stage. Fellows also gain post-production support, with comprehensive sound design, a Dolby Atmos mix, and Dolby Vision color correction and mastering support.

“This program is a perfect articulation of SFFILM and Dolby’s shared belief in the importance of being thoughtful about sound and image at every stage of the creative process, not just in post-production,” said Caroline von Kühn, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM. “Sound is too often left as an afterthought in post-production for independent filmmakers, with critical time and resources being exhausted earlier in the process — almost never does a filmmaker get to work with a sound designer while they are still developing their screenplay. And there is no better partner than Dolby to create such a thoughtful and inspired program designed to invest in the long-term success of innovative storytellers.”

SFFILM and the Dolby Institute have selected Michael Tyburski and Ben Nabors as the inaugural recipients of the Dolby Fellowship, to develop their narrative feature project “Palimpsest.” The film tells the story of a “house tuner” in New York City who calibrates the sounds in people’s apartments in order to adjust their moods. After years of collecting data, he believes he’s discovered naturally occurring harmonies that are influencing the way people behave.

‘The Wife”

– The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Glenn Close with the Icon Award at its annual Film Awards Gala for her performance in “The Wife.” The Film Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart and Entertainment Tonight and presented by American Express, will be held on Thursday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 3-14.

“Glenn Close is a rare and enduring talent who has consistently brought challenging characters to life on film, television and stage for over four decades,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “In her latest feature film, ‘The Wife,’ she gives a tour-de-force performance as the perfect spouse, who relinquishes her own ambitions to propel her husband’s career. It is our honor to present the 2019 Icon Award to Glenn Close.”

Past recipients of the Icon Award include Willem Dafoe, Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. In 2011, the Palm Springs International Film Festival gave Close the Career Achievement Award for her performance in “Albert Nobbs.”

– The International Documentary Association (IDA) has unveiled the nominees for the 2018 IDA Documentary Awards Best Audio Documentary. This is the first year for the category. Winners of the 34th edition will be announced at the ceremony on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles. The Audio Documentary category celebrates the best in nonfiction storytelling in Radio & Podcast. In its inaugural year, submissions of both stand-alone and documentary episodic series were eligible to qualify.

“We have all been transported to other worlds through the simple act of putting in our earbuds and hitting play. Audio documentaries, whether they be long-form podcast series or stand-alone radio documentaries, have become one of the most exciting forms of nonfiction storytelling. With this award we recognize the unique intimacy, inventiveness, and creativity of audio storytelling.” said Simon Kilmurry, executive director of IDA.  

At the heart of the event is the IDA’s commitment to documentary film and its unique power to drive us toward a more complex, human understanding of ourselves and each other. The IDA, provides year-round support, education, and advocacy for documentary makers. In particular, the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, with major support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has awarded over $1.9 million dollars to support in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories that integrate journalistic practice into the filmmaking process. Check out the full list of nominees right here.

November 7

– Bleecker Street has partnered with LD Entertainment for U.S. distribution rights to Max Minghella’s directorial debut “Teen Spirit” for a 2019 release. The film follows Violet (Elle Fanning), a shy teenager living in a small European town who dreams of pop stardom as an escape from her dismal surroundings and shattered family life. With the help of an unlikely mentor, Violet enters an international singing competition that will test her integrity, talent and ambition. The film also stars Rebecca Hall, Zlatko Buric, and Agnieszka Grochowska.

– Patricia Clarkson, Sam Elliott, Zach Galifianakis , Jennifer Garner, Ed Helms, Lady Gaga, Brian Klugman, Sienna Miller, Sean Penn, David O. Russell, and Vince Vaughn will appear in person to tribute four-time Academy Award-nominee Bradley Cooper at the Cinematheque’s annual benefit gala.

Culminating the evening, Sean Penn will present the 32nd American Cinematheque Award Sponsored by GRoW @ Annenberg, to Cooper, on stage at The Beverly Hilton on Thursday, November 29, 2018. The award presentation will be held in The Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom in Beverly Hills, CA. At the top of the award show, the American Cinematheque will honor Dolby Laboratories as the recipient of the 4th Annual Sid Grauman Award Presented to Doug Darrow.

November 6

– Film Independent announced today that Gemma Chan and Spirit Award Winner Molly Shannon will announce the nominees for the 34th edition of the Spirit Awards at the press conference on Friday, November 16, held at the W Hotel in Hollywood. The awards show will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2019 and will premiere exclusively on IFC.

The show, which will be held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, will be executive produced and directed by Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions for the fifth consecutive year. Shawn Davis returns as producer for his 17th year and Danielle Federico and Andrew Schaff also return as co-producers.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards include the following categories: Best Feature, Best First Feature, Best Screenplay, Best First Screenplay, Best Director, John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best International Film and Best Documentary.

This year marks the second year of the Bonnie Award, funded by American Airlines. American Airlines returns as the Official Airline and a Premier Sponsor for the fifth year. The Bonnie Award will once again recognize a talented, mid-career female director. Other grants for emerging filmmakers include the Truer Than Fiction Award, the Someone to Watch Award and the Producers Award.

Molly Shannon Spirit Awards

Molly Shannon showing off her Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female


November 1

– Kino Lorber announces has acquired North American rights to Lila Avilés’s debut feature, “The Chambermaid.”The film recently won Best Picture at the Morelia International Film Festival, along with the Warrior of the Press award, and world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall. It will have its U.S. premiere on Saturday, November 10 at AFI FEST in Los Angeles, before a national theatrical release in summer of 2019.

“The Chambermaid” follows “Eve, a young chambermaid working in one of the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City, an exclusive glass tower inhabited by guests so wealthy she can only imagine their lives through intimate fantasies of the belongings they’ve left behind. Long, laborious shifts prevent Eve from caring for her child while she helps guests with their own children, but she believes her situation will improve if she gets promoted to work at executive-level suites, for which she accepts a grueling schedule. In keeping with this goal, she also enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program. An incipient friendship with her coworker and an awkward, silent flirtation with an inaccessible window-washer prod her toward much needed bravery. When things don’t result as planned, Eve transforms her lonely explorations and newfound courage into the necessary strength to face a life outside the glimmering tower.”

– Screen Media has acquired North American rights to Frédéric Petitjean’s “Cold Blood Legacy,” an action thriller starring Jean Reno. The film follows Henry (Reno), “a legendary hitman who enjoys the isolation of his lakeside cabin, set deep within the vast wilderness. When the solitude of a well-earned retirement is shattered by the arrival of a young woman, the survivor of a massive snowmobile accident, Henry must decide whether to risk his own life to save hers.”

Written and directed by Frédéric Petitjean, “Cold Blood Legacy” was produced by Corinne Benichou and Florence Moos for Eight35, and co-produced by Laurent Tolleron for Seven52, and Olias Barco and Oleg German for Eastwest, with Thierry Arbogast as Director of Photography. Seth Needle, SVP of Worldwide Acquisitions at Screen Media negotiated the deal with sales agent Goldcrest Films International.  A day-and-date release is planned for the first half of 2019.

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