WGAW Honors Alex Gibney For Docu ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks’

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 10:52am PST

wgaawards15Los Angeles – Three-time Writers Guild Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has been named the WGAW’s 2014 Paul Selvin Award honoree for his screenplay for the documentary film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, the first time in Writers Guild Awards history that a documentary has received the Selvin Award.

Gibney and his work will be recognized, along with other honorees, at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony to be held on Saturday, February 1, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Named after the late Paul Selvin, who served as counsel to the WGAW, the award is given to a WGA member whose script best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties, which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere – and to whose defense Selvin committed his professional life.

Read More »

Comments (1)

Sundance: Universal Funding WikiLeaker Julian Assange Docu By Alex Gibney And Ex-Uni Chairman Marc Shmuger

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney has found his next hot-button film subject. Universal Pictures has just acquired a documentary that Gibney will direct about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The film will be the first project involving Marc Shmuger since he left the chairman post at Universal. Shmuger and Gibney are producing.

Whether it’s Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, or the Jack Abramoff  documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Gibney usually tells his stories with input from his subjects. Will Assange cooperate? I’m told it’s inconclusive. Universal  confirmed the deal but wouldn’t elaborate. The WikiLeaks docu follows a deal announced yesterday by feature producers who optioned an upcoming book about Assange. There are plenty of those in the works, including a memoir Assange is writing to defray his massive legal fees. The Gibney/Shmuger documentary is the first film to involve a major studio. The studio component came through Shmuger, who is expected to reemerge as a producer at Universal.

Since launching his whistle-blower website in 2006, Assange has revealed some of the most serious secret government documents since The New York Times published The Pentagon Papers. They range from footage of an Apache helicopter’s firing fatally on journalists and civilians in Baghdad to last November’s deluge of diplomatic cables that left the U.S. government red-faced and outraged. Assange … Read More »

Comments 29

OSCAR: Vets Spotlight Strong Best Actor Field

Pete Hammond

After a 3-part series highlighting the 2010 Best Picture hopefuls and their realistic Oscar chances, I now turn to the acting races beginning with the men in contention for their lead performances. Of course there is always debate over what constitutes a leading vs supporting role and indeed  the line does get blurred in some instances for competitive reasons. For instance, in 1991, Anthony Hopkins probably could have gone either way for his Hannibal Lecter in Silence Of The Lambs but went for lead and won. Conversely, after toying with a push for lead in 2005’s Syriana, George Clooney made the strategic switch to the less competitive supporting category and won. Interestingly, he faced off against Brokeback Mountain’s co-lead Jake Gyllenhaal who dropped down to supporting category in order to avoid facing off against his co-star Heath Ledger who was eventually nominated for lead actor. Over the course of this young awards season, there has been some buzz here and there about the category status of leading men like Wall Street: Money Never Sleep’s Michael Douglas, The Fighter’s Christian Bale, The Kings Speech’s Geoffrey Rush, Fair Game’s Sean Penn, and Another Year’s Jim Broadbent. All of them have now comfortably settled into supporting mode – at least in the eyes of the studios campaigning them. As far as the Academy is concerned, the ultimate decision will be up to the actors’ peer group and that branch is always capable of surprise. Here is the rundown of those who remain … Read More »

Comments 32

R.I.P. George Hickenlooper

Mike Fleming

2ND UPDATE: I’m still trying to discover how George Hickenlooper passed away, but I’m told he had been in Colorado campaigning last night for his cousin, John, who is in the final stretch run of the Governor’s race in Colorado. John, the mayor of Denver, is the Democratic Party candidate. Hickenlooper went early to Denver to help his cousin, and had to be there later this week, when Casino Jack will be shown Thursday at the Starz Film Festival. I’m told that George didn’t wake up this morning, but I’m still not sure why.

UPDATE: George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack star Kevin Spacey has sent me a statement on the shocking passing of his director. “It is with great sadness that I have to even think about writing about George in this way, when I was looking forward to seeing him next week in Los Angeles,” Spacey said. “We have been due to take our film on the road toward its release in December. I can’t believe he’s gone because George was so alive, bubbling with energy, drive, commitment, an open heart and a brilliant sense of humor. He was one of a kind.

“My experience working with him was nothing short of fantastic: from our prison visit with Jack Abramoff, to script meetings, pre-production discussions and finally our first day of shooting. From that day until … Read More »

Comments 47

Hot Trailer: ‘Casino Jack’

Mike Fleming

Here’s a new and longer trailer for Casino Jack, the George Hickenlooper-directed drama about the rise and fall of lobbyist Jack Abramoff that’s being released December 29 by ATO Pictures to take advantage of a strong performance by Kevin Spacey. Nice to see Jon Lovitz back in a movie.

Comments 24

Golden Globe: Cold Category Is Hot Again

Pete Hammond

Here’s news: awards consultants tell me that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is relaxing its rules slightly this year in order to  encourage distributors to choose the category they feel their movies belong in. But, of course, the HFPA still reserves the ultimate right to make the final decision as they always have. (In other words, don’t inappropriately enter the comedy/musical race just because you might have a better shot there.) Although most movie jockeying now is for Oscar contention, there’s an intense race forming already in the Golden Globe’s Comedy or Musical categories for Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress.

More than ever, studio awards consultants I talk to seem to be specifically targeting these categories once considered also-rans. But now they’re stepping stones toward gaining Oscar traction. Say what you will about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (and many do), it is still one of the few awards-giving organizations to make a distinct split between Drama and Comedy. And Hollywood loves that. Because the Globe pickers have opened up opportunities for campaigns to make a dent in the season and draw significant notice to movies that might not necessarily be on the top of the Best Picture Academy list.

Last year, the ultimate winners in these categories — The Hangover for Best Picture Comedy or Musical, Robert Downey Jr  in Sherlock Holmes for Best Actor Comedy/Musical, and Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia for Best Actress — did not repeat their feats at … Read More »

Comments (10)

TORONTO: Deal Flurry Mean Biz Is Back?

Mike Fleming

ANALYSIS: Buyers and sellers of acquisition titles walked away from the Toronto International Film Festival exhausted from the all-night haggling sessions, but fully energized and cautiously optimistic. (See my take on the buyers below.) They feel the prolific deal making is a sign the specialty film biz has corrected a course of drunken dealmaking by studios that raised stakes to unreasonable levels before retreating. The Toronto fest’s primary role will always be as an awards season platform, and as a cost-efficient way to fly in junket journalists and Golden Globe voters for screenings and marathon press conferences. But this year, Toronto re-established itself alongside Sundance as the two most important festivals to secure distribution for finished films. Does all this mean specialty film is back?

After discussions with buyers and sellers all weekend, the answer is a qualified yes. At least it’s back to before studios set up divisions, overspent and elevated the economics to ridiculous levels. The game has been returned to the grinders happy to scratch for domestic grosses that don’t often pass $10 million. The flood of hedge funded movies that never should have been made has been flushed. This year’s crop reflected the course correction: I didn’t see a bad movie out of the dozen or so I watched, and most were shrewdly made and reflective of the economic reality. I counted two deals with north of $3 million minimum guarantees, Dirty Girl and Everything Must Go. There were a bunch more that just crossed 7 figures. While dealmakers said they couldn’t recall a Toronto festival with as many closed deals as this one, the money was a far cry from the years when, say, Thank You For Smoking, Trust the Man and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party all sold for north of $6 million. Or other fests where $10 million was spent for Hamlet 2, and $10.5 million for Little Miss Sunshine. Those are cautionary tales in this marketplace. This time, nobody made a deal where they will lose their shirts.

Rabbit Hole was originally a $10 million proposition, but that was cut in half, the perfect price for a movie with a career performance from Nicole Kidman. Everything Must Go was around the same price, despite starring Will Ferrell. Twilight producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey wrote that check, but it was a reasonable risk. The $3 million supplied by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, plus foreign sales, will make them whole. Movies like the Robert Redford-directed The Conspirator, rumored to have a budget a bit over $20 million, and the Terrence Malick-directed Tree of Life, are under greater pressure to perform domestically.

Agents packaging these pictures said that the days when foreign presales underwrote budgets is gone, but the new economic models can work. Films can still be built for profit if budgets are modest, and if soft money opportunities are maximized. Rebates as high as 60% are possible if you shoot in certain European locations. So are smart domestic, foreign and ancillary distribution deals that include a VOD component which can now mean high six-figures to a film. Oh yeah, and you have to make a deal with a distributor that doesn’t flake, as happened to fest films I Love You Phillip Morris, Casino Jack, and Happythankyoumoreplease.

“This sector never died, the audience for these films never stopped turning out for them,” said one acquisitions exec who made several major Toronto deals. “What crashed and burned were these studios that chased a mirage, hired 80 people with $10 million in overhead to staff divisions, spent too much acquiring and making movies and then blew $30 million on marketing. The implosion of DVD brought them all down. The remaining players are realistic about what these films can do, and we are excited by factors like VOD, or Netflix taking on the pay channels and paying real money for pay TV windows when Showtime and HBO weren’t. We’re all taking our shots conservatively, based on a lot of different models.”

I was pessimistic going in. It was my second fest and, last year, besides writing about Harvey Weinstein’s deal for A Single Man, I sat in the hotel mostly writing about Battleship, Real Steel, and other big studio deals because nothing happened. This time, buyers came to Toronto feeling there was no movie they had to have, and the festival got off to a slow start. But, suddenly, pics were selling competitively in the wake of premiere screenings. IFC responded to the raucous crowd reaction at the midnight premiere of James Gunn’s Super and outbid rivals, paying 7 figures. Then Harvey Weinstein paid north of $3 million to win Dirty Girl hours after its premiere. Buyers accustomed to waiting for sellers to take low offers were losing properties. The floodgates really opened on Wednesday when Sony bought James Wan’s Insidious, Weinstein bought Submarine, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions teamed for the Robert Redford-directed The Conspirator, Anchor Bay Films bought Beautiful Boy, and IFC bought Werner Herzog’s 3D docu Caves of Forgotten Dreams. All but the docu brought 7-figure minimum guarantees, I’m told. Read More »

Comments (6)

Big Fall Fest: Who’s Up Or Down For Oscar?

Pete Hammond

The movies have been unveiled, the reviews are in, the bloggers have blogged, so what’s the verdict? Who’s in, who’s out, who’s hoping for a recount? With a surprisingly active Toronto Film Festival winding down to a halt, and Venice and Telluride becoming distant memories, let’s see where those movies that came in with Oscar ambition and hit one, two, or all three award contender-centric fests now stand at this key early juncture.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Sony) - Ironically, the one movie that perhaps generated the biggest buzz this week wasn’t at any of the Big Three. The Social Network stole the thunder from Toronto by beginning screenings for onliners in New York and Los Angeles before it opens the New York Film Festival on September 24th. Oscar Chance: It instantly became anointed a frontrunner for Best Picture.

BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight) – It took Venice by storm with one of the most enthusiastic opening night ovations in years. But at award time on the Lido it was virtually overlooked (except for a breakthrough honor for Mila Kunis). Top reviews and lots of awards talk followed at Telluride and Toronto, especially for Natalie Portman. Oscar Chance: Very much alive in key races including newfound frontrunner status for Portman in Best Actress. Big question is how will older voters react to film’s kinkier aspects?

SOMEWHERE (Focus Features) – Sofia Coppola’s quiet character study won the top prize in Venice despite mixed reviews and some cries that jury president and Coppola intimate Quentin Tarantino played favorites. (Tarantino vehemently dismissed the criticism.) The film sat out Telluride and Toronto by design and will likely be held back from screenings until closer to its late December release. Oscar Chance: Still a bit of a mystery but may be too soft to make a dent. Coppola though is well-liked by her fellow writers and directors and Stephen Dorff is said to be quite good in it.

127 HOURS (Fox Searchlight) – Danny Boyle’s first effort since sweeping the Oscars with Slumdog Millionaire two years ago was generally met with favorable reviews and good buzz in Telluride followed by at least one standing ovation in Toronto. Oscar Chance: Strongest bet in Best Actor for James Franco. A longer shot in Best Picture as “Farewell to Arm” scene may be too much for some at the Academy.

CONVICTION (Fox Searchlight) - Middling reviews and lack of strong buzz in Toronto make this true story a long shot. Oscar Chance: Hillary Swank has a shot in Best Actress but she’s down the list in an exceptionally tough field. Sam Rockwell has film’s best shot in Supporting Actor. Juliette Lewis is also possible but role may be too small.

THE KING’S SPEECH (Weinstein Co) - Strong outstanding period piece puts Harvey Weinstein back in the Oscar game big-time. Triumphed over all comers in Telluride with subsequent buzz seeing hundreds turned away in Toronto. Great reviews and a real crowd pleaser. Oscar Chance: A slam dunk for major nominations across the board and an instant frontrunner that should play right into Academy’s lap.

MADE IN DAGENHAM (Sony Pictures Classics) – Another British period piece that debuted in Toronto to good results and sweet reviews. Story about a group of female factory workers fighting for equal pay is very accessible entertainment. Oscar Chance: This may be Sony Classics’ best shot to get into Best Picture, very Academy friendly film with acting noms possible for star Sally Hawkins and supporters Miranda Richardson and Bob Hoskins.

ANOTHER YEAR (Sony Pictures Classics) – Mike Leigh’s best film since Secrets And Lies didn’t win anything in Cannes in May and seemed to get mixed to excellent reactions in North American premieres in Telluride and Toronto. Those who like it love it. Oscar Chance: Leigh films usually go over well with the Academy but surest thing is the acclaimed performance of Lesley Manville. She should go for supporting where she’d have a better chance than in the overcrowded lead actress category.

THE TOWN (Warner Bros) – Ben Affleck drew pretty good reviews as an actor and especially director out of Venice and Toronto. Depending on how it does at the box office starting this weekend, it could follow a similar trajectory as its producer Graham King’s Oscar winning The Departed. Or not. Oscar Chance: Pedigree is fine but may be too much in the violent action genre. Strong performances could crack one of the acting categories, with Jeremy Renner the most likely possibility in support.

HEREAFTER (Warner Bros) – Clint Eastwood ‘s latest got mixed reviews out of Toronto. Read More »

Comments 50

TORONTO: ATO Rolls Dice On ‘Casino Jack’

By | Thursday September 9, 2010 @ 7:36am PDT
Mike Fleming

Casino Jack, the drama that stars Kevin Spacey as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has a new home. ATO Pictures has acquired US theatrical rights to a film which was orphaned when its original distributor, Metropolitan, failed to meet its commitments and the picture was pulled back for breach of contract. ATO is best known for having singer Dave Matthews and music exec Coran Capshaw as its co-founders.

ATO Pictures will distribute the George Hickenlooper-directed drama in December. The George Hickenlooper-directed film will be platformed at the Toronto International Film Festival, and gets its chance at awards season, with Spacey’s performance in particular garnering raves at early private showings. The film makes its festival premiere at Toronto on September 16, with filmmaker and cast in tow.

“It is not only one of the most refreshing and entertaining films we’ve seen in a long time, but, it also fits in perfectly with a strategy of releasing high quality, engaging stories that appeal to mainstream audiences,” ATO co-founders Johnathan Dorfman and Temple Fennell said in a statement. ATO releases theatrically though Independent Distribution Partners, its partnership with Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Jack Abramoff Pic ‘Casino Jack’ Being Shown To Distributors; Metropolitan Denies It’s Out

Comments (18)

Jim Carrey Film ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ Finds Buyer And Gets December 3 Release

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment have acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to I Love You Phillip Morris. Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the fact based film stars Jim Carrey as a married conman who falls in love with his cellmate—Ewan McGregor—and commits all kinds of crazy misdeeds like breaking out of Texas prisons four times, to be with his lover. Roadside Attractions has set a December 3 release date.

The deal closely follows an announcement by Roadside Attractions and Liddell that they completed an acquisition of the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed Biutiful, which confirmed a story Deadline broke on August 10. Biutiful will also be released in December.

The deal ends a prolonged odyssey for I Love You Phillip Morris to find its way to movie screens here. Financed by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, the film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and opened on schedule internationally, grossing around $17 million. Besson’s hopes to see the film get a simultaneous domestic release turned into a nightmare. The film’s original distributor, Consolidated Pictures Group, missed the original February 12 release date, and two other slots–March 26 and April 30–were also scratched.

While the upstart company made a Canadian distribution deal with Alliance and floated in the press a plan to platform the film July 30 and release it wide on August 6, Besson and producers Andrew Lazar and Far Shariat … Read More »

Comments 27

Toronto Sets First Batch Of Films In Festival Slate, Kicking Off Oscar Season With High Profile Premieres

Mike Fleming

The 35th anniversary edition of the Toronto Film Festival has set the first part of its film program. So far, the fest has announced 15 Gala premieres and 35 Special Presentations, and 25 World Premieres. Toronto has secured many of the highest profile films, including many that figure to factor in the Oscar race. Here’s the film rundown for the fest, which runs from September 9-19:
Read More »

Comments (13)

Jack Abramoff Pic ‘Casino Jack’ Being Shown To Distributors; Metropolitan Denies It Is Out

Mike Fleming

100106_CasinoJackMainEXCLUSIVE: Is Casino Jack ever going to see the light of day? The feature drama about the rise and fall of D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff certainly seems to have a lot going for it. Kevin Spacey in the starring role, cooperation from Abramoff — who allowed Spacey and director George Hickenlooper to visit him in jail– and an 8-figure distribution deal by upstart independent distributor Metropolitan.

What a turn of events for the film, and Abramoff! The ex-lobbyist has been sprung and works for a kosher Baltimore pizzeria. He might be up to his eyeballs in dough, but a lack of money due from Metropolitan has prompted the makers of Casino Jack to reclaim the film. They say Metropolitan has defaulted, and CAA is showing it to distributors again. They hope to make a new deal that will keep plans intact for an October opening to exploit what the filmmakers believe is an awards-caliber performance by Spacey.

The Casino Jack development parallels the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor film I Love You Phillip Morris. In April, Deadline revealed that Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp reclaimed that film from upstart distribution company Consolidated Pictures Group, after CPG was late with funds and canceled three release dates on a movie that has already been released around the world. While CPG denied it was let go, I’m told EuropaCorp—which sued CPG—will close a new deal shortly.

Metropolitan owner, Romar Entertainment’s James Schramm, vehemently denied he has defaulted, or that … Read More »

Comments 34

Cannes Buyers To Get Crack At Kevin Spacey/Zachary Quinto’s ‘Margin Call’

By | Monday May 10, 2010 @ 10:25am PDT
Mike Fleming

quintoget-attachment.aspxEXCLUSIVE: It’s the start of the Cannes Film Festival, when film packages that percolated quietly surface to be shopped for distribution around the world. Here’s the first good one I’ve come across, with a topical premise: Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto have committed to star in Margin Call, a corporate thriller  that marks the feature directing debut of J.C. Chandor, who wrote the script.

The film tracks eight people at a prominent investment bank in a tumultuous 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis. The characters struggle to position themselves ahead of the coming storm. Myriad Pictures will rep the film at Cannes, while Qunito’s reps at Untitled Entertainment and UTA will broker a domestic deal. The film will shoot in Manhattan this summer.

Quinto and his Before The Door partners Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa are producing with Joe Jenckes. Myriad’s Kirk D’Amico will be executive producer with Laura Rister, Randy Manis and Washington Square Films’ Joshua Blum.

Spacey, who’s six seasons into his term as Artistic Director of The Old Vic Theatre in London, most recently played disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Casino Jack and stars in the Chinese production Inseparable. Both films are upcoming and were produced by his Trigger Street banner. CAA and manager Joanne Horowitz made his deal. Quinto, who played Sylar in Heroes and Spock in Star Trek and the sequel that JJ Abrams will … Read More »

Comments 25

Movie Starring Kevin Spacey As Disgraced Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Finds Distributor

By | Monday March 29, 2010 @ 12:17am PDT

abramoff1EXCLUSIVE: Metropolitan Inc, led by film industry veteran James Schramm, is about to announce it has acquired the U.S. theatrical distribution rights from rights holder Rollercoaster Entertainment to Casino Jack. I’ve heard the company committed 8 figures to acquire and support the planned nationwide release of Casino Jack this fall, including $9M P&A and an aggressive Oscar campaign.

The feature film produced by George Vitetzakis directed by George Hickenlooper (Factory Girl) from an original screenplay by Norman Snider, stars 2-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff, the high-powered Washington D.C. lobbyist convicted in 2006 of defrauding American Indian casinos and now behind bars. Spacey and Hickenlopper visited Abramoff in prison during the pic’s development. Casino Jack marks Metropolitan’s first foray into film distribution. This newly launched arm of the motion picture media company will service approximately 20 releases per year.

CAA together with Cassian Elwes brokered the deal on behalf of Rollercoaster Entertainment which also provided production financing as well as Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), HSBC (Canada) and Media Capital Group. Hannibal Pictures is handling international sales.

Comments 25

Hollywood Signings & Hirings & Firings

By | Thursday January 28, 2010 @ 2:38pm PST

Paradigm has signed well known actresses Heather Graham and Liv Tyler.

WME Entertainment has signed that ‘it’ guy from Gossip Girl Ed Westwick who’s also in the films Children of Men, Breaking and Entering, Son of Rambow.

WME also signed Jared & Jerusha Hess, the directors of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre.

UTA has signed Law & Order co-star Anthony Anderson from CAA. He’s in upcoming The Back-Up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez.

UTA also has signed Catalina Sandino Moreno from CAA. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Maria Full Of Grace and will next be seen in the Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
UTA has also signed Last Station director Michael Hoffman who was previously repped by William Morris.

Gersh has signed 5 new clients — Amy Smart from WME (Crank and Crank 2, The Butterfly Effect), 4-time Emmy-nominated Damon Wayans from Paradigm (Major Payne), Rhona Mitra from CAA where she spent 10 years (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), Marissa Jaret Winokur from UTA (American Beauty), and Jessalyn Gilsig (Glee).

CAA didn’t think it had any important enough signings to give to me for this roundup. (Hey, new clients, how do you feel about that?) Nevertheless, CAA has signed Factory Girl director George Hickenlooper whose feature biopic Casino Jack about scandalous Washington DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff stars Kevin Spacey.

Geordie Frey of his management company GEF Entertainment has signed Ugly Betty‘s Vanessa Williams, who is working on Sondheim on Sondheim, the new Broadway show conceived and directed by James Lapine and opening April … Read More »

Comments (7)

Thumbs Up For 2 Sundance Documentaries

By | Saturday January 23, 2010 @ 6:50pm PST
Mike Fleming

UPDATES Bids Coming In For Hot Sundance Pics
UPDATES So What Are The Hot Films At Sundance?

sundance 2010While Sundance buyers try to hook Catfish, two other docus that came with distributors unveil today and tomorrow, and I found them great viewing. Alex Gibney has a 6 PM premiere today for the competition entry Casino Jack And The United States Of Money, about disgraced Washington DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Tomorrow, PR mogul-turned-filmmaker Dan Klores unveils Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks, which like Catfish is part of the Documentary Spotlight program.

Gibney — the Oscar-winning director of Taxi To The Darkside and Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room –gave me an early peek at his docu, which makes a compelling case for campaign finance reform. The film, which will be released by Magnolia Pictures in April, bares outrageous abuses and moral corrosion that transformed Abramoff from GOP true believer to fatcat lobbyist who got rich protecting the interests of Asian slave labor-sweat shop owners, murderous third world “freedom fighters,” Russian gangsters, Indian casino operators, and drug companies. Through Abramoff, pols fed at the money trough until they, too, were brought down by the ensuing scandal.

Abramoff comes across as a colorful but deluded movie-loving rogue who patterned himself as a Jason Bourne-type character but ended up cast as a villain who is serving four … Read More »

Comments (6)

So What Are The Hot Films At Sundance?

By | Friday January 22, 2010 @ 8:30pm PST
Mike Fleming

After his Haiti appeal, sundance 2010Robert Redford made it clear from his mission statement that the new Sundance programmed by John Cooper was going to bring the film festival back to its indie roots. Sure, blah, blah. What everybody really wants to know is: who has a film that is going to tempt more than one distributor and create a skirmish — or at least an entertaining custody battle like last year’s tug of war between The Weinstein Co and Lionsgate over Precious or The Weinstein Co and Focus Features or Summit Entertainment over A Single Man.

Most buyers and agents expect some action, at least more than Toronto’s, where everybody died of boredom. The fun of Sundance, as one buyer admitted, is “none of us knows anything”. Much of the reports handicapping which films will send buyers into a frenzy are meaningless hype based on star casts or past track records of filmmakers. After all, the pre-fest vibe on Precious (then called Push) wasn’t good. And Paranormal Activity, one of the most lucrative films to ever come out of Park City, was a Slamdance title that originally got bought for remake and not even theatrical release.

Buyers, who are seemingly in no hurry, will likely try to make deals with low minimum guarantees and P&A commitments. Beyond the usual suspects, there are new buyers on the scene promising VOD and other schemes. And rumors have Blockbuster despite its financial troubles forming … Read More »

Comments 20

2010 Sundance Film Festival Lineup

By | Wednesday December 2, 2009 @ 1:13pm PST

Here’s the Sundance announcement with lots of accompanying ballyhoo about how this is the festival’s return to “risky” business. The big question is whether this year there’ll be any business. There wasn’t much last year, and I hear there could be even less this year. Poor indie film:

sundance_film_festival_2008_logo_imagePARK CITY, UT – Sundance Institute announced today the lineup of films selected to screen in the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competitions for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In addition to the four Competition Categories, the Festival presents films in five out-of-competition sections to be announced on December 3. The 2010 Sundance Film Festival runs January 21-31 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

As previously announced, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival features several changes including a new section devoted to low- and no-budget filmmaking and Sundance Film Festival U.S.A.- a one-night only event when eight filmmakers from the Festival will visit eight cities nationwide. In addition, the Festival will break tradition by foregoing the conventions of one opening night film and instead focus on launching the total program: one narrative film, one documentary and one shorts program will play the first Thursday (January 21), beginning the roll out of the competitions.

“Being a seasoned programming team and having the support of a healthy organization afforded us the ability to take risks and re-think all programs this year so we chose to do some things a little bit differently,” said

Read More »

Comments (11)

1st Photo: Kevin Spacey As Jack Abramoff

By | Wednesday July 1, 2009 @ 11:24am PDT

cj_1787.jpg

EXCLUSIVE: This is the first image of Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff (with Barry Pepper as Michael Scanlon) in the independent film Casino Jack based on jailed Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, responsible for one of the biggest political scandals to hit Washington DC since Watergate. Spacey just wrapped principal photography in the pic directed by George Hickenlooper and written by Norm Snider. (See my previous, Kevin Spacey Starring As Casino Jack.)

Comments 20
More Deadline | Hollywood »