Santa Monica-based production company Cineville will enter the distribution fray this fall with Cineville Releasing, Inc., which will release Cafe Society and French Exit. "It's a rapidly changing climate," notes Cineville president Carl Colpaert, "and there's room for a company like what Miramax was ten years ago. Miramax, Fine Line, and Fox Searchlight have moved to another level, so there's room for a good distributor of truly independent films." While Cineville's first two releases are in-house productions, the company is considering acquisitions.
Robert DeNiro waved to us the other day," says Frances, a NYU undergraduate film student, from behind the concession counter of The Screening Room, a newly opened cinema/ restaurant in Manhattan's Tribeca district. "We almost didn't recognize him; he was going by with everyone else on the sidewalk."
Perhaps the wave was a gesture of restauranteur solidarity; DeNiro's Tribeca Grill is only blocks from the Screening Room's menus and screens. Or perhaps it was meant as encouragement for a space which aims, in part, to insure the continued strength of Manhattan's art-house (and independent film) community.
Dylan, Frances' partner at the counter, takes me on a tour of the premises. He begins with the bathrooms - smartly decorated and featuring speakers which broadcast whatever is showing in the main theater. Next we hit that theater (which, as there's a film in progress, I can't closely examine) and the adjacent dining room/bar, which manages to be at once kind of elegant and kind of homey. There's an entrance for the theater and a separate one for the restaurant, so it's easy to visit one or the other or both. And speaking of both (and of homey), there are three private spaces where groups of four to 16 can eat, drink, watch films (of their own supply or from the Screening Room's library), listen to music, and/or do whatever else strikes them, in whatever combination they choose.
"This isn't Planet Hollywood," co-founder Henry Hershkowitz asserts. "It's Planet New York. We want a real New York feel, not touristy glitz." Thus they feature independent and foreign releases, like Tom Noonan's The Wife which began an open run in August, rather than studio blockbusters - and offer morning coffee in the lobby as well as late-night drinks at the bar to fuel a city that never sleeps. The screen is booked by Jeffrey Jacobs, who also books the Angelika. For more information, call (212) 334-2100.
IFP/South Executive Director Richard Seres announced the Miami-based film support organization's first annual "Indie No-Budget Short Film Competition." Filmmakers are charged with creating new film or video works which incorporate selected archival material provided by the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center. Archival material, which ranges from old newsreels to historical home movies, can be the central focus of the film or an inspiration to develop an original story or non-narrative work related to the images. Restricted to IFP/South members and filmmakers joining the organization upon entry, the works must incorporate a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of five-and-a-half minutes of historical images, and budgets may not exceed $250. Application forms and competition guidelines are available from the IFP/South: Tel. (305) 461-3544, Fax. 305-406-5168. Entry deadline is February 28, 1997.
Venice, California-based filmmaker Jeff Jackson has a very unusual way of financing his films - he buys and sells land in Taos, New Mexico, and uses the profits to fund his work. "Basically, I give investors an opportunity to be part of one of my films, but the security of the land serves as protection against the investment," he says. Jackson began with a square-mile lot in the Rio Grande Gorge which he divvied up into lots and sold. "I loved the Gorge and figured people would want to buy lots," he says, and they did. With the funds, Jackson made Death and Taxes, a feature-length documentary. Lest anyone think Jackson is an odious developer, it's important to note that he has a vision of making Taos a home for filmmakers. With this in mind, Jackson donated five acres as a prize to the Taos Talking Pictures Festival. The prize, which he plans to continue giving, recognizes innovation and was awarded at this year's festival to Gary Walkow for Notes From Underground. "I visualize planting the filmmaker in the soil of Taos," claims Jackson, who is currently raising funds for his next feature.
PlanetOut, a gay and lesbian online community, recently launched PopcornQ, a website billed as "the ultimate online home for queer moving images." Created and produced by Jenni Olson, who writes about, curates, collects, and archives queer movies and memorabilia, the site offers info on a long list of gay and lesbian films and videos, searchable databases, stills and posters, and regularly updated reviews (http://www.popcornq.com). Olson also recently finished editing The Ultimate Guide to Lesbian and Gay Film and Video, a dense directory of queer film and videos with essays, festival info, and more. Contact: Serpent's Tail, 180 Varick, Tenth Floor, NY, NY 10014.
Director Iara Lee's ultimate electronic presskit in the form of a mammoth website (http://www.syntheticpleasures.com) rivals her dense feature-length doc Synthetic Pleasures. The film, self-distributed by Lee's Caipirinha Productions, opens around the globe this October, and the site features a complete list of screening venues, festival playdates, and exhaustive pleasurable add-ons. Lee states that the "film has been a great opportunity for me to get involved with all these different things" and hopes to do an outdoor screening in Tucson at the Biosphere II project. Contact Caipirinha Productions at (212) 410-5117 for a verbal download.
In a new series, "Raw Footage," on the Independent Film Channel, actor Alec Baldwin hosts an examination of independent filmmaking as social commentary. The original series, executive produced by Baldwin and documentary filmmaker Mark Mori, will premier October 7th as Baldwin interviews R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor, whose doc A Perfect Candidate casts an open eye on the Senate race between Oliver North and Chuck Robb. Each segment of "Raw Footage" will focus not only on issue-oriented films but also on the difficult process by which they were made. Also on the October 7th program, Freida Lee Mock talks about her Oscar-winning doc, Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision, about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial creator, and Steve Cantor discusses his $3,000 documentary on photographer Sally Mann, Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. For more info check out http://www.ifctv.com.
After a decade of hosting the "American Independents and Features Abroad" (AIFA) at the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market, the New York Foundation for the Arts has announced that it is stepping down from its organizing role. Instrumental in promoting the U.S. independent film community, AIFA was known for its helpful staff, message services for filmmakers and companies, pre-fest orientation, and frenetic booth atmosphere. Simultaneously, the Independent Feature Project in New York announced its plans for supporting American filmmakers at the 1997 Berlinale. According to Executive Director Catherine Tait, "the 'American Independents at Berlin' program will incorporate many of the services developed by NYFA, with the most significant difference being the addition of the 'Showcase of American Independent Films.'" Tait adds, "We plan to select, with an Advisory Committee, a small slate of films (15-20) and assist the filmmakers in getting to Berlin." The IFP is currently raising sponsor support to underwrite the program. For additional info, contact Special Projects Manager Karen Schwartzman at (212) 465-8200, ext. 216, Fax. (212) 465-8525.
And returning to the Berlinale for its fourth year, and another option for filmmakers traveling to Berlin, is "The Independents Showcase in Berlin" organized by New York and South Florida-based International Media Resources. According to IMR President Sandy Mandelberger, "'The Independents Showcase' is a commercial collective with a group of filmmakers and companies sharing the costs for promotion and a booth area on the floor of the Market, complemented by IMR staffers doing aggressive marketing to international programmers and acquisition executives." "The Independents Showcase" promotes participating films on its website and publishes a glossy catalogue that's distributed to buyers and programmers in their hotels. Deadline for participation is December 15. For additional info, contact Sandy Mandelberger, at (212) 941-1464, Fax. (212) 431-0329.
New York City's Films Charas is a stunningly uncorrupted artistic endeavor; it gives heart to anyone who believes that vital connections still exist between artwork, community, and society at large.
Founded 15 years ago by filmmakers Doris Kornish and Matthew Seig and currently run by Kornish and filmmaker Kevin Duggan, Charas screens films every Tuesday night from May through September. Emphasis rests firmly on the shorts, features, and documentaries of independent filmmakers, some known and others whose work has never before been shown. Musicians, writers, and other artists often contribute to an evening's bill, and those involved with the films being screened are frequently on hand to speak. This season's program spans six languages and eight decades; it ranges from Dorothy Arzner's The Wild Party to Robert Mapplethorpe's Still Moving: Patti Smith (in fact, those two are on the same night's schedule). The program will wrap on September 24th with an advance screening of Andrew Clarke's engaging comedy Young Teamsters.
Also a restaurant owner and a mother of three, Kornish is one of the more dedicated and energetic individuals one might come across in this lifetime. Her latest film effort, a documentary on artist Rudy Burckhardt titled Not Nude Though, premiered at Charas this past June after ten years in the making. To contact Films Charas about having work considered for next season, send a query letter: Films Charas, Community Film Program, 605 E. 9th St., New York, NY 10009.