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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.

“The Chambermaid”

Kino Lorber

November 16

– 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.”

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 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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