As celluloid gives way to the digital era, filmmakers Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) are some of the names lending their support to a new crowdfunding campaign to save and restore 35mm film prints. The campaign was launched today by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), a non-profit org whose mission it is to undertake high-resolution 2K digital transfers to preserve film prints too fragile for active circulation. Older and rare prints are an increasingly endangered treat on the repertory/art house exhibition scene and unless restored or digitally archived, frequently deteriorate too far to be screened and can be lost forever. AGFA specializes in horror, sleaze, action, independent regional film, and international genre cinema and has over 3,200 film prints in its archive. Organizers are looking to raise $15K by May 30 to fund AGFA’s first digital restoration, of Craig Denney’s 1975 sci-fi pic The Astrologer, which real life psychic Denney self-financed and stars in as a fortune teller who discovers psychic abilities and rises to fame by advising the President of the United States. Refn and Anderson have recently joined the AGFA advisory board which also includes Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League. “By any means necessary, we need to watch movies on film, because that’s why God created cinema,” said Refn. “The American Genre Film Archive has begun a mission to preserve what I consider …
Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn Back Crowdfunding Campaign To Digitally Save Endangered 35MM Prints
“Independent American films are largely considered anathema to foreign distributors these days,” says Jeff Lipsky. The distribution veteran, who’s also a John Cassavetes-mentored filmmaker, knows a thing or two about the indie business. He co-founded October Films with Bingham Ray in 1991, and is also a former executive at New Yorker Films, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Skouras Pictures. In 2011, he launched Adopt Films with Tim Grady, which recently handled Oscar nominee Omar. As a director, Lipsky has made five movies, and is shooting a sixth this fall. Some of his own films have been in official selections at Sundance and San Sebastian, and seen U.S. releases, but none has ever been distributed internationally. And that’s why he’s taking things into his own hands, making three of them available via Vimeo On Demand worldwide as of May 1: Flannel Pajamas (2006), Twelve Thirty (2010) and Molly’s Theory Of Relativity (2013). Among the stars of those movies are Justin Kirk, Julianne Nicholson, Mamie Gummer, Jonathan Groff and Cady Huffman. Two of them also have actor Reed Birney in common with In Your Eyes, the micro-budget Tribeca title that writer and exec producer Joss Whedon just announced is going out worldwide via Vimeo. The timing was pure coincidence, Lipsky says as he sings the service’s praises. “There is great potential for indie filmmakers. It doesn’t require legal contracts, you can geoblock and call your own shots… It’s not rocket science.” (Post continues below)
He says Vimeo’s quality is the same as “any of the big boys.” Although a fan of Netflix and Amazon, Lipsky contends the “problem” with those services is that they are “fantastic for consumers, but little to no money can be realized by filmmakers or distributors.” Vimeo allows for an “instantaneous” revenue stream, which is “as it should be in this world we live in.” The split with the site is 90% to the rights holder and 10% to the service, Lipsky tells me. The only risk, he says, is that it’s “not the 800-pound gorilla. You have to do a little more” to market, but it’s “whatever I want.” What he hopes is that when his next movie is completed in 2016, the Vimeo experience will create “an expectant audience clamoring to see the film in many countries.” Here’s a clip from Lipsky latest, Molly’s Theory Of Relativity, with Tony winner Huffman and God’s Pocket‘s Sophia Takal:
As a guy who has covered features my whole career, I find it distressing that the only time feature folks do risky things seems to be when they are making TV projects. Because theaters and studios can’t figure it out, films are frozen in an arcane system where you wait six months for a DVD and those who don’t want to wait, or see it in a theater, have no choice but to steal it. When they work in TV, these writer-directors play in a sandbox that gives viewers the ability to see that work, whenever and wherever they want to. Joss Whedon premiered a Brin Hill-directed micro-budget relationship film In Your Eyes at Tribeca, and announced right after that he’s making it available on Vimeo for five bucks. Obviously, Whedon makes a fortune on Marvel’s The Avengers movies, but he is onto something here, and other star filmmakers should take notice and empower new filmmakers by offering small-budget films directly to their audiences. Maybe it’s going to take mavericks like this guy to hasten the glacial pace of the evolution of the way consumers digest feature films. Here is his announcement:
Live With Kelly And Michael co-host Michael Strahan stopped by Good Morning America this morning to talk about his gig with the show, making sure to say “couple days a week” several times to calm Live! fans’ fears. Expect to see Strahan mostly in GMA’s first hour, so he can continue to co-host Live!, at 9 AM in many markets. In addition to the NFL Hall of Famer, GMA recently added ESPN’s Tony Reali to its Social Square; both hires were made in the wake of the departure of GMA’s Josh Elliott, who moved to NBC Sports. Watch here:
EXCLUSIVE: The French action star, who co-leads Relativity Media’s upcoming Brick Mansions with the late Paul Walker, has signed with Paradigm. David Belle is well known on the European action scene for founding the movement discipline known as parkour, which he showcased by leaping up, over and through all manner of Parisian urban landscape in 2004′s Luc Besson-produced actioner District B13 and its 2009 sequel. This month Belle makes his U.S. leading debut in English-language District B13 remake Brick Mansions, playing a version of his streetwise character from the original film opposite Walker as the undercover cop he partners with and RZA as the crime lord in their sights. The Normandy-raised actor and stunt choreographer, who owns the parkour brand, has also contributed parkour and fight choreography to studio films like Babylon A.D., Prince of Persia, and Colombiana but is now looking to strike out as an action star and actor stateside and in China, where he’s also got a strong following. Belle is managed by Beijing/LA/Paris-based ECI Global Entertainment, which is also developing international co-productions for Belle to star in to tap into his multi-region fanbase.
Check out Belle showcasing his moves in a memorable chase sequence from the original District B13 and the trailer for Brick Mansions:
Are there any questions left to ask the cast and creator of AMC‘s Mad Men? ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer gives it a whirl on her World News tomorrow night; additional portions of the interview will follow on Nightline and Friday’s Good Morning America. Part 1 of Mad Men’s final season kicks in Sunday, April 13. Here’s a preview of the interviews:
ABC‘s World News With Diane Sawyer posted a video touting the fact it hit 1 million Facebook “likes” and is the only broadcast network newscast that’s grown this season to date in the news demo. NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams is up 5% season to date among ages 18-49 while remaining flat in the older 25-54 news demo. Conversely, Sawyer’s newscast is up 4% in the news demo and flat among 18-49ers. CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley is up 7% in overall viewers but down 5 % in the news demo and 3% with the younger group. Williams newscast is up 8% in total viewers and Sawyer’s is up 3%. Yes, counterintuitively, more people are watching broadcasts evening news this TV season, including an average of 9.52 million watching Williams, 8.34 million watching Sawyer, and 7.27 million watching Pelley. In the news demo, Williams remains the front-runner, standing firm at 2.4 million 25- to 54-year-old viewers; Sawyer’s now up to 2.19 million and Pelley is clocking 1.81, season to date.
As a commemoration period begins today on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, here’s an inspiring story about a country whose film industry we don’t often hear about. U.S. filmmaker Leah Warshawski has helped to create a free online resource to streamline producing films in Rwanda. The outreach project, RwandaFilm.org, was built in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, nonprofit network Bpeace, and the Rwandan government to connect local filmmakers with one another and with job opportunities. Warshawski embarked on the project after making her documentary, Finding Hillywood (see trailer below). Focused on the pioneers of Rwanda’s film industry, it won the Documentary Feature Audience Award at the Napa Valley Film Festival last November. It previously premiered at the Seattle Film Festival. I caught up with Warshawski recently from Idaho, where Finding Hillywood was playing the Sun Valley Film Festival. She explained that she’d been in Rwanda in 2007 on another project and was told about the Rwandan Film Festival, which brings movies to large audiences around the country on inflatable screens, and how “thousands of people stand in a stadium” to watch them. Warshawski, who has done crew work on TV series including Lost and Survivor and features Along Came Polly and He’s Just Not That Into You, said it was “intriguing enough to make a movie about” and that led in to starting RwandaFilm.org.
Hillywood gets its name thanks to Rwanda’s moniker as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” and movies that have shot there include 1988’s Gorillas In The Mist; 100 Days, produced by Rwanda Film Fest founder Eric Kabera; 2004’s Hotel Rwanda; 2005’s Beyond The Gates; 2007’s Shake Hands With The Devil; 2012 award-winning documentary Rising From Ashes; and HBO Emmy nominee Sometimes In April. As for filmmaking by locals, Rwanda is unlikely to become Nollywood anytime soon, but is creating a boutique industry with more movies traveling to festivals. The first feature film written, directed and produced by a Rwandan, Grey Matter, won a Special Jury Mention in Tribeca in 2011.
Having accepted NBC’s offer, Josh Elliott is out at Good Morning America and, unlike Sam Champion, won’t be seen on the show again to say so long to colleagues on-air. But the GMA gang this morning sent Elliott off with a we’ll-miss-you clip job anyway, in keeping with the show’s one-big-happy-family image :
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UPDATE, 6:40 AM: GMA gang this morning told viewers that Josh Elliott is leaving the show to go to work for NBC Sports, marking the second successful poaching of a GMA cast member by NBCU, and that he would be replaced as news anchor by Amy Robach, who was on the scene – Elliott himself was on “vacation.” Meanwhile, over at NBC, Al Roker publicly congratulated Elliot, via Twitter, for his “conscious uncoupling” from GMA/ABC. Watch here:
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UPDATE, 6:30 AM: Josh Elliott‘s former Good Morning America colleague Sam Champion weighed in this morning on Elliott’s announced exit from the ABC morning infotainment show to go to work for NBC Sports. Champion, who was also poached by NBCU and now works at The Weather Channel, called it “a great opportunity for Josh’s heart,” adding, “I know that fans of GMA are not loving it.” Watch here:
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY PM: After an intense negotiation with ABC News, Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott is leaving the network for NBC Sports. ABC News wasted no time in announcing his replacement: Amy Robach, who has been part of the GMA team for some time, including filling in for Robin Roberts at various moments when she was out for medical reasons. Elliott, who had been making about $1.2 million salary at GMA, turned down an offer to stay with the show for $4-$5 million. After his fellow anchor Lara Spencer nailed down a lucrative multiyear contract Thursday, Elliott raised his ask to $10 million a year. With Elliott, NBC is getting a strong sports guy — a next generation Bob Costas — who previously worked at ESPN. Per the terms of Elliott’s exit, he cannot appear on NBC’s Today for six months according to people familiar with the situation. Elliott is the second member of the ensemble team that put GMA in first place in the morning show ratings race, and to depart for an NBCUniversal property. In December, NBCU successfully poached longtime GMA weatherman Sam Champion who is now a bigwig at their Weather Channel. In much the same way they did today, ABC announced Champion’s replacement, Ginger Zee, minutes after it was reported that he was leaving. In the wake of Champion’s departure, GMA has scored some of its highest ratings ever.
Things get mighty tense as three eco-saboteurs plot to take out a hydroelectric dam in Oregon. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard star in Night Moves, which Cinedigm picked up after it screened at Toronto, Venice and Deauville. Kelly Reichardt directed the thriller, which she wrote with Jon Raymond. Here’s the trailer for the pic, which arrives May 30:
Fred Schepisi’s adult romantic comedy Words And Pictures had its world premiere as a Gala Presentation in Toronto where Roadside Attractions acquired it for the U.S. Written by Gerald Di Pego, it stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, respectively as a writer whose talent has dried up, and an artist struggling to paint as her body betrays her (Binoche’s own artwork features). The two clash at the prep school where they teach, sparking a flamboyant courtship and a school-wide war over which is more powerful: the word or the picture. Binoche, who won an Oscar for The English Patient, hasn’t been in too many English-language pics of late, much less a comedy, so this looks like a charming departure. Speaking of departures, she’s up in Warner and Legendary’s Godzilla which opens May 16, ahead of Words And Pictures‘ bow on May 23.
TriStar Options Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s Memoir, Which Launches Company For Actors Ben McKenzie, Logan Marshall-Green
EXCLUSIVE: Actors Ben McKenzie and Logan Marshall-Green have joined forces to launch the shingle A Thing Or Two Productions. They come to the table in a big way. Tom Rothman’s TriStar Pictures has made a deal on a baseball memoir which the duo will produce with Michael De Luca. TriStar has optioned Wherever I Wind Up, the memoir by pitcher R.A. Dickey about his unusual life journey. Buzz Bissinger has been set to write the script. It becomes another eclectic project for Rothman’s upstart division.
McKenzie first starred on Fox’s The O.C. and now is playing the lead role of Detective Jim Gordon in the Bat-prequel series Gotham, while Marshall-Green played his brother on O.C. and has co-starred in Brooklyn’s Finest, Prometheus and As I Lay Dying. He just shot the pilot Quarry. They have been friends since doing theater together at Williamstown in 2001 and talked about partnering in a production company. It all crystallized when both sparked to Dickey’s memoir. Neither is looking to play the pitcher in the feature.
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has acquired original sci-fi feature pitch Invisible from VFX pro Dan Blank (Avatar, Watchmen), in a story described as following in the vein of superhero sci-fi thriller Chronicle. Blank utilized his VFX chops when he directed Monster Roll, an action comedy short about sushi chefs who fight back against a giant sea monster that went viral in 2012. (Watch it below.) Invisible will be written by Doug Simon, who co-wrote SXSW Audience Award-winner Brotherhood and made the 2013 Black List with his Burn Site script. Project will be produced by Fox-based Hutch Parker Entertainment, whose Dan Wilson and Tom Vance will head the film’s development alongside R&G Productions’ Steve Tzirlin and Fox’s Steve Asbell. Hutch Parker is finishing Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and soon begins production on the Josh Trank-helmed Fantastic Four reboot. Blank is repped by Verve and attorney Ryan Nord and Simon is repped by Verve, Generate and attorneys PJ Shapiro and Wendy Kirk. Since details are under wraps on Invisible, check out Blank’s Monster Roll:
Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson star as buddies who pretend to be officers of the law — then find themselves in over their head with mobsters and dirty detectives — in 20th Century Fox’s Let’s Be Cops. Luke Greenfield co-wrote the script with Nicholas Thomas and directs the summer comedy, which hits theaters August 13. Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy and Andy Garcia also star. Check out the redband trailer:
Here’s a new trailer for Relativity’s April actioner Brick Mansions, the parkour-centric remake of French pic District B13 which stars the late Paul Walker alongside freerunning expert David Belle and RZA. In this version the setting’s been updated to dystopian Detroit, where undercover cop Brian O’Conner – er, Damien Collier – joins forces with an ex-con to save the city and get justice for the ones they love. Brick Mansions opens wide April 25:
Continuing to urge Americans to sign up for Affordable Care Act coverage before the March 31 deadline, President Obama today turned to the woman who’d broken his re-tweet record, Ellen DeGeneres. Obama appears on her syndicated The Ellen DeGeneres Show via live shot from the White House – his first appearance on the show since being elected to the White House. “I thought it was a pretty cheap stunt myself,” the president says of Ellen’s Oscar selfie, “Getting a bunch of celebrities in the background…you feeding them pizza.”
It’s been about a week since Obama appeared on the Funny or Die web series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis to tout the benefits of Obamacare; some members of the media had a field day with that one, but they’re pretty busy now with the missing Malaysia Airlines plane story so you may not see so much hair-tearing about today’s appearance, in which POTUS discusses his having eaten carrot sticks with potato chips while FLOTUS Michelle Obama is in China with their daughters; his Practically Perfect Tattoo Deterrent for his two teenagers; and how life at the White House is not nearly so sexy as it’s played in House Of Cards and Scandal. (Check out the video below.)
Around 11:30 PM ET last night word that new satellite images had pinpointed two large objects in the ocean a couple thousand miles off the coast of Australia electrified TV news teams covering missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Fox New Channel‘s Shepard Smith jumped back on the air at midnight to report on the new development, but anchored from the newsroom studio because it takes a big team to fire up The Deck. CNN broke into its AC360 repeat at 11:26 PM with CNNI anchor John Vause, with Don Lemon and Richard Quest jumping in at 11:55 PM and Anderson Cooper added at 12:07 AM. MSNBC‘s Betty Nguyen anchored for that network, handing off to Chris Jansing around 2 AM.
ABC‘s lucky David Wright was flying on a U.S. Navy surveillance plane in the Indian Ocean when it was directed to the sightings, and told Nightline “We’ll be the first on the site.” But when ABC’s Good Morning America clocked in this morning, Wright, now back in Perth, reported the surveillance plane had turned up only a freighter and some dolphins. Watch Wright’s GMA report here:
Watch Shep’s midnight report here:
Loud noises on both coasts — hosannas in New York, wails of despair in Los Angeles — are coming from basketball fans today after Phil Jackson was hired as president of the New York Knicks. But the move isn’t just about games. Investors wonder whether the Zen master, coach of 11 NBA champions, star player on two others, will help not just the Knicks but also its parent the Madison Square Garden Company?
Executive Chairman Jim Dolan, whose family controls MSG as well as Cablevision and AMC Networks, introduced his new team president at a news conference this morning at the Garden. He says his pal Irving Azoff — the longtime personal manager (Eagles, Steely Dan, Christina Aguilera) and CEO of recently launched partnership Azoff MSG Entertainment – introduced him to Jackson in December at a party at his house.