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Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email bgil@questex.com. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (rrosado@questex.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.


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8 Nov, 2010

News From AFM 2010


Acquisitions have started as part of the 2010 American Film Market, running Nov. 3-10, at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Check back here for updates.

-AFM attendance was up 6% overall in 2010, climbing to 7,695, compared with 7,246 last year. The number of companies acquiring product rose 1% to 664 from 658 last year, while acquisitions executives remained relatively flat, at 1,417, compared with 1,419 in 2009.

“The positive feeling in the halls is a direct result of production levels that are now in balance with marketplace demand,” said AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf, who also is EVP of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA). “Buyers are pre-buying, assuring they will have a steady flow of films, which in turn assures producers that their films have been pre-accepted by the marketplace.”
Companies selling product, however, dropped 7% to 343.

AFM saw 427 films screen, 43 of those being world premieres and 306 being market premieres. Twenty-one films screened in 3D, and there were films from 36 countries, totaling more than 700 screenings in all.

-The International Trade Administration (ITA) of USDOC, through its market development cooperator program (MDCP), awarded IFTA $248,000 to enhance global competitiveness of U.S. film exports. The multiyear award will help establish new U.S. pavilions at film and television markets, including at Hong Kong FILMART 2011 March 21-24.

“We are proud that MDCP recognized IFTA’s ability to help U.S. independent film companies compete more effectively in the global marketplace,” said IFTA president-CEO Jean Prewitt.

-Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired domestic and select international rights to The River Sorrow. Directed by Rich Cowan, the film stars Ray Liotta, Ving Rhames and Christian Slater. The film just ended principle photography.

-Anchor Bay Films through AFM has finalized acquiring all rights for English speaking territories to The Howling: Reborn, a new chapter in “The Howling” horror series, written and directed by Joe Nimziki.

“Genre films have always been special at Anchor Bay,” said Kevin Kasha, EVP of acquisitions and co-productions. “Given our success with many of the classic franchises and their honored remakes, The Howling: Reborn is the perfect addition to our family.”

The film is currently in post-production.

Additionally, Anchor Bay acquired all distribution rights for the United States, United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand to dark high school comedy Daydream Nation. The film opened the Toronto International Film Festival’s Canada First! Daydream Nation is the full-length directorial debut of Michael Goldbach and stars Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Thor) as a girl who has an affair with her teacher. The film will be released theatrically in 2011.

“Daydream Nation is a great addition to the 2011 Anchor Bay slate,” said Anchor Bay Entertainment president Bill Clark. “Our team has the ability to really target the audience that will love this film.”

-Through the Toronto Film Festival, Film Movement has acquired Israel’s Academy Award submission, The Human Resources Manager. The film will see a theatrical release across North America in March and hits cable VOD in the summer 2011.

-The Weinstein Co. has acquired sci-fi thriller Apollo 18, based on a screenplay by Brian Miller, who won the first-ever Astana International Action Film Festival screenplay competition, which was founded by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov.  Trevor Cawood will direct. The documentary-style film follows lost footage from Apollo 18’s secret mission to the moon, revealing new life forms. It’s set to begin filming in December, with a March release date.

-Gay film distributor Wolfe Video has acquired distribution rights to A Marine Story, a drama about the U.S. Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and Kickoff, a comedy about a gay soccer team.

“We are proud to represent this powerful film and appreciate the powerful statement it makes about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Wolfe Releasing president Maria Lynn.

A Marine Story opened Oct. 22 theatrically in Los Angeles. Kickoff will hit film festivals throughout 2011 and come to DVD/VOD next fall.

-MTI Home Video has acquired 11 films so far at AFM, including thrillers Fatal Secrets, Krews and Accused at 17; action film Chicago Overcoat; horror films Closed for the Season, Savage and Legion: The Final Exorcism; sci-fi/fantasy film Gene-Fusion; family caper Boathouse Detectives; and horror/thrillers The Undying and Resurrection County.

“I am excited about the variety of product we were able to acquire at the market,” remarked Jay Grossman, VP, acquisitions and sales, MTI Home Video.  “The market was up-beat and more conducive to doing business and getting deals done this year.”

-Gay film distributor Ariztical Entertainment is buying and selling films at this year’s AFM, and has expanded its sales division to build a library of more than 50 films for sale to international markets. Thus far, the distributor has acquired Open, a Teddy Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010, which depicts an inner-city love story between characters that fall out of traditional realms of gender; and Stuck, from director Steve Balderson, an homage to women-in-prison films, starring Karen Black, Susan Traylor, Mink Stole and Jane Wiedlin.

“Every market has a different energy. This year seems to be affording a more relaxed process,” said Michael J. Shoel, president, Ariztical Entertainment.

- Moving Pictures Film & TV has acquired worldwide rights to the dark comedy Miss Nobody and the family film Mayor Cupcake leading into AFM. The company also has hired Stephanie Slack as SVP of worldwide sales & distribution, focusing on building the company’s worldwide television distribution business.

-A new online film distribution platform, IndiePlaya, was on hand at AFM. The service gives independent filmmakers and distributors the resource to sell directly to consumers with marketing tools such as bundling, upselling and offering additional special features. Find out more at IndiePlaya.com.

 

By: Billy Gil


29 Oct, 2010

Film Movement Names November VOD Lineup

Distributor Film Movement has announced its titles to release to video-on-demand providers for November. Film Movement VOD titles hit users of Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bresnan, RCN and Brighthouse services.

Titles incldue The Hebrew Hammer (comedy, starring Adam Goldberg), The Pope's Toilet (comedy, from Uruguay) and Choking Man (drama, from director Steve Barron, who directed awesome video clips from A-Ha's "Take on Me" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"). Other titles still available from Film Movement include All My Friends Are Wedding Singers, XXY, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, Wolves in the Snow, Hell on Wheels, Toward Zero and Pulling John. Not all titles are available to every provider; check your VOD listings to see which films are available.

 

By: Billy Gil


28 Oct, 2010

AFM, AFI Link

AFM (American Film Market) and the AFI Fest (presented by Audi) will once again team, this year representing 25 films at AFM.
 
Eight AFI  Fest films will screen at AFM, including 13 Assassins (Hanway); Barney’s Version (Essential); Bedevilled (Finecut Films); Cargo (Telepool); Chico & Rita (Hanway); I Saw The Devil (Finecut Films); Julia’s Eyes (DeAplaneta) and Rabbit Hole (Affinity).
 
The additional films represented at AFM include Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Co.); Boy (New Zealand Film Commission); Carancho (Finecut Films); Casino Jack (E1 Entertainment); The Company Men (The Weinstein Co.); HaHaHa (Finecut Films); The Housemaid (Mirovision); The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.); Norwegian Ninja (Celluloid Nightmares); Oki’s Movie (Finecut Films); Outrage (Magnolia Pictures); Precious Life (Bleiberg Entertainment); The Princess of Montpensier (Studio Canal); Removal (Archstone Distribution); Rubber (Magnolia Pictures); Shit Year (Match Factory GmbH) and Weather Station (Shoreline).

AFM takes place Nov. 3-10 at the Loew’s Santa Monica Beach Hotel and surrounding theaters, in Santa Monica, Calif.

By: Billy Gil


26 Oct, 2010

Patricia Clarkson’s Craft Shines in ‘Cairo Time’

Clarkson and Siddig in Cairo Time
Clarkson and Siddig in Cairo Time

Actress Patricia Clarkson has a knack for playing complicated and often-unsympathetic characters who are rendered so real you can’t help but feel there’s a reason to every one of their actions. Whether it’s been as a manipulative drug addict in a reoccurring role on “Six Feet Under” or as a mother whose caustic nature is mirrored by the cancer destroying her body in Pieces of April, for which she was nominated for the best supporting actress Academy Award, Clarkson has never shied away from difficult roles.

Her latest is as a woman waiting for her husband’s delayed arrival in Cairo who embarks upon an unexpected romance with an old friend of his (Alexander Siddig) acting as her guide, against a vibrant Egyptian background, in MPI/IFC’s Cairo Time, on DVD ($24.98) and Blu-ray ($29.98) Nov. 30. Clarkson took time out from acting as a judge for the London Film Festival to speak with me.

IndieFile:
What drew you to this project, and what generally draws you to specific films?

Clarkson: I'm drawn to the script first and foremost. I really think a script begins and ends with its content. With Cairo Time, it was the lack of words that drew me, oddly. There was the still simplicity of the script and a character I really haven't played before. I'm always looking for something that will take me in a new direction and truly challenge me. I'm looking for something that's going to transport me and wile me.

IndieFile: Your roles often encompass women who are quite difficult in an unflattering way, while other times you have played more angelic, wifely roles (The Green Mile). To what do you attribute that?

Clarkson: I don't know, I guess maybe the character for me comes first. We seek what we want. I want to play a complicated character, I am drawn to women that are complicated — whether they’re sympathetic or unsympathetic doesn't matter to me.

IndieFile: Your career seems to have been on an upward trajectory for the past 15 years or so. Do you think the rules of Hollywood have changed or are changing for women over the age of 40 and 50?

Clarkson: We keep hoping. I mean, look, I think Hollywood will always have a certain amount of ageism. In essence it will always be a youthful medium, but I do think independent film has helped radicalize and shaken the industry. With the rise of independent film — even though right now it's in a different place, with a lack of distribution — I do think with the rise of independent film, people realize, oh, there is an audience, and these films are incredibly exciting, and these films take people to a different place when you allow women of a certain age to carry them and when those characters are really truly a large part of the film and are integral to the film and are the most colorful part, and not secondary. That's what's shifting I think, hopefully. It's still somewhat difficult.

IndieFile: Even as you’ve starred in more mainstream Hollywood films, your career still seems at least in part devoted to independent film — I’m thinking of movies like this one and Blind Date. Is that something important for you to maintain?

Clarkson: I don't really care about the labels, independent or studio. I do love making independent films, obviously. It's given me a great career path. High Art really shifted everything for me, really placed me into the independent film world. But it was just serendipitous. I just walk into this audition and I didn't know it would really change my life in this single film. It can happen. That's what we always dream of happening, and I was one of the lucky ones that it did. But I didn't set out thinking, oh my goodness, I’m going to make independent films. But I did get swept into this independent film world that I am very much proud to be a part of. I have more opportunities in the independent film world, and I'm drawn to a lot of directors that work in that world. But I do like making studio films. Don't get me wrong.

IndieFile: What’s a film of yours on DVD that you think people who enjoy your work should check out?

Clarkson: I've done so many beautiful films. I want people to see Blind Date. It didn't have a wide release. I want people to see Elegy. I think there's a beauty and power in these films, and maybe not a lot of people saw them. And I loved working with these directors. Married Life, a beautiful film I did with Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan and Rachel McAdams. It's got a beautiful style and some people have really found it on DVD lately.

IndieFile: Regarding Cairo Time, how was it filming in Egypt? Had you been there before?

Clarkson: No, I'd never been to the Middle East, I'd never been to that part of the world, so it was sort of art imitating life, my character experiencing this city for the first time. So it was an awakening, a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I was there for seven, almost eight weeks, and I fell in love with the city. I think it's hard not to. I miss the Nile. I recently saw the American Ambassador to Egypt, I saw her in Cairo and in New York, and just we just talked about the power of the Nile and the power of Cairo. The Cairenes who worked on the film will always be a part of me in some ways because it was just a beautiful experience from beginning to end.

IndieFile: Did you do anything special for the Cairo Time DVD?

Clarkson:
I have mixed feeling about actors being on DVDs. I love commentaries, I love the extras that come with the DVD, but this movie is so quiet and reserved, I love the fact that Alexander and I aren't a part of it. It's [director] Ruba [Nadda] and the DP talking about this canvas and this completely different world we were a part of. It's such a delicate, quiet film.

(The Cairo Time DVD/Blu-ray also includes an alternate ending, making-of featurette, Toronto Film Festival Q&A and short films by Nadda.)
 

By: Billy Gil


20 Oct, 2010

TromaDance to Feature Jaime King

The TromaDance Press Conference, taking place Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel Press Room, in conjunction with the American Film Market (AFM) Nov. 3-10, will feature actress Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine 3D), director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV) and producer Richard Saperstein (Hancock). The event is hosted by Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma and creator of The Toxic Avenger. RSVP to Anne Koester at anne@troma.com to participate in the event.

By: Billy Gil


20 Oct, 2010

IFTA Announces 12th Annual Conference

The 12th annual IFTA Production Conference takes place Dec. 3 at InterContinental Hotel Ballroom in Century City, Calif. Industry experts will discuss monetizing independent film for a digital marketplace. IFTA members get in for $60, and its $90 for all others.

The morning event (8:30 a.m to noon) will be co-moderated by Pierre David, chairman and CEO of Imagination Worldwide LLC, and Bruce Eisen, VP of online content development and strategy at Dish Network.

The InterContinental is at 2151 Avenue of the Stars.

By: Billy Gil


29 Sep, 2010

Phase 4 Slates 3D VOD Release ‘Scar’


Jed Weintrob’s 3-D horror film Scar will be the first-ever stereoscopic 3D video-on-demand film released through major cable broadcasters Oct. 1, according to its distributor, Phase 4 Films.

Consumers who own 3D HDTVs and liquid crystal shutter glasses will be able to view the film in stereoscopic 3D, while Phase 4 also will release a 2D version of Scar through VOD the same day. The film tells the story of a young woman who escaped the clutches of sadistic mortician Ernie Bishop and killed him, only to years later face a copycat killer and allegations against her as the new killer. 
 
“If Freddie Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and Jigsaw had a party, they would have invited Ernie Bishop,” said Berry Meyerowitz, president and CEO of Phase 4 Films. “This film is a total crowd pleaser for those who love to be scared out of their minds, and we are really excited about taking it to audiences. With the popularity of 3D films and as more consumers increasingly recreate the theater experience by buying 3D televisions, Scar is a groundbreaking independent film positioned to tap into this growing market.”
 
Scar stars Angela Bettis, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Ben Cotton and Christopher Titus, and was written by Zack Ford. Phase 4 early next year will release the film as a dual format combo pack, with an anaglyph 3D version and a traditional 2D version.
 
“I grew up with the wave of 3D horror films in the 1980s, and I was at the theater for every one of those movies, so when I was offered the opportunity to make an homage to the classic slasher horror films in the new digital stereoscopic 3D, I jumped at it,” Weintrob said. “It's incredible how much more visceral the horror becomes in this new generation of 3D. We literally had someone in the audience pass out at our first test screening!”

By: Billy Gil


17 Sep, 2010

Tim Blake Nelson Lights Up ‘Leaves of Grass’

Nelson and Norton
Nelson and Norton

When it came time for venerable character actor Tim Blake Nelson to direct his latest feature, Leaves of Grass (coming to DVD at $28.98 Oct. 12 from First Look Studios), Nelson looked for one actor in particular to drive the feature: Edward Norton, who plays identical twins in the film, one a scholar (Bill) and the other a pot dealer (Brady).

“We sat down together and had a very productive conversation in which we quickly understood how seriously we take what we do, even if we’re working on something that’s comic,” Nelson said. “And, of course, this movie is somewhat of a hybrid in that it’s comic but it gets pretty serious as well. Armed with the script and what I intended to do with it as well as the enthusiasm of Edward Norton, it was pretty easy to get everyone else to sign on.”

That “everyone else” includes Keri Russell as a sexy local English teacher who helps pull Bill out of his stuck-up ways, Susan Sarandon as his formerly hippie mother and Richard Dreyfuss and Nelson himself in bit roles. In the film, college professor Bill is coaxed by his troublesome brother to come back to Oklahoma, a home he’d rather forget.

Nelson himself is from Tulsa, and he said some of his experiences informed the black comedy whose name is inspired both by Walt Whitman and marijuana. He said in particular Southeastern Oklahoma, where much of the film takes place, has its problems due some of its marijuana-growing residents.

“The dangerous nature of that place … [is that] down any back road you can encounter tattooed people wielding firearms who are more interested in protecting their illicit crops than in property rights,” Nelson said. “It reaches mythic proportions in the state of Oklahoma, and I always wanted to write about that.”

But neither the film, nor Nelson, is particularly judgmental of the Bradies of the world.

“The dichotomy of Bill and Brady is, I guess, born of my own schizophrenia, having grown up in the Southwest and very much continuing to feel very rooted in that place but also having gone out and studied classics on the East Coast and now living in New York,” Nelson said. “The journey Bill goes on and the version of himself he ends up facing when he goes home is just an amplified rendition of what I myself feel as a person.”

And, speaking of his Southern background, Nelson says that of his numerous roles, he gets recognized as Delmar in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? — especially when he’s in the South, or in Los Angeles or New York.

Nelson said the Leaves of Grass DVD and Blu-ray Disc are “chockblock” with bonus features, including a commentary with Nelson, Norton and producer Bill Migliore, as well as deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and crew.

By: Billy Gil


16 Sep, 2010

Time Warner, IFC Launch Short Film Contest


Ever wanted to go to the Sundance Film Festival? Now’s your chance.

Time Warner Cable in association with IFC (lots of IFC news this week!) has launched the Time Warner Cable Short Film Contest, which will award four grand prize winners a four-night trip for two to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Video submissions are accepted from Sept. 15-Oct. 31 through Time Warner’s YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/timewarnercable).

Entrants can submit two- to five-minute videos. Consumer voting takes place between Nov. 9-16, and winners will be chosen between the vote and a panel of expert judges, including filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs), Ti West (House of the Devil), IFC and Sundance Channel president Evan Shapiro, ad IFC News host Matt Singer.

The prize packages include hotel, air and ground transportation, two tickets to a film screening at the festival, an invitation to a VIP party, a one-year subscription to Time Warner Cable digital cable and Road Runner high-speed Internet service, and $500 in spending cash.

By: Billy Gil


16 Sep, 2010

IFC Gets Rights to ‘Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project’


IFC Films has acquired worldwide rights (excluding Canada) to Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project, Barry Avrich's documentary about the co-founder of Miramax Films. 

The film follows Weinstein from concert promoter to his first movie deal at the Cannes Film Festival to winning an Oscar, featuring insight into his relationship with his brother, family and Hollywood at large, with interviews with industry insiders.

“I believe that great stories must be told,” said Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films. “Harvey and Bob Weinstein, without a question, redefined so many rules of Hollywood marketing, distribution and filmmaking that you simply can't ignore their impact on history."

Unauthorized joins IFC Films’ other acquisitions at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, James Gunn’s Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, and Werner Herzog’s 3-D Cave of Forgotten Dreams. IFC Films distributes films simultaneously in theaters and through cable’s on-demand platform and through pay-per-view.

By: Billy Gil