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OSCARS: The Fest Circuit A Must For Majors Chasing Award Season Gold

By | Saturday November 16, 2013 @ 9:00am PST
Pete Hammond

The major studios have finally caught on to what the indies have known for years: There’s a definite trend brewing between success on the film-festival circuit and winning at the Oscars. In fact, the past seven Best Picture victories were born somewhere on the fest circuit — a place where buzz, particularly online, is becoming too loud to ignore. Since No Country For Old Men, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007, every Best Picture winner has debuted at fests: Slumdog Millionaire (Telluride Film Festival, 2008), The Hurt Locker (Venice Film Festival, 2008), The King’s Speech (Telluride, 2010), The Artist (Cannes, 2011) and Argo (Toronto International Film Festival, 2012).

Related: Deadline Awards Watch 50: The Early Oscar Frenzy Edition

What really stands out is that the only film on that list that came from a major studio is Warner Bros’ Argo. That’s because early in this century, Hollywood was playing by the old rules, opening movies in the fall or Christmas, ignoring film festivals and still winning Best Picture statuettes at the Academy Awards. Between 2000 and 2006, only one Best Picture winner— 2005’s Toronto pickup Crash — had even played a festival. Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby and The Departed all used a different path to gold.

But things changed last year with Argo, whose festival debut created buzz that carried the story about the rescue of six diplomats amid the Iran hostage crisis all the way to an Oscar. Prior to that, Warner Bros had achieved its most recent Oscar success with off-the-circuit Best Picture winners like The Departed and Million Dollar Baby. The Argo strategy allowed the studio — which was dying to stop Harvey Weinstein from grabbing a third Best Picture trophy in a row — to grow the buzz from two important fall fests and build Argo as a legitimate contender.

Related: Oscar Contenders Flock To Telluride As Festival Season Arrives

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Cirque Du Soleil And UCLA Film School Partner On Student Fellowship Program

By | Thursday March 28, 2013 @ 3:47pm PDT

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) is teaming up with Cirque du Soleil on a multi-year fellowship program for TFT graduate students, it was announced today. Dean Teri Schwartz says the collaboration offers students the opportunity to work across multiple platforms that integrate visual storytelling with live performance, multimedia, 3D, CGI and other forms for digital content creation. Four graduate students will be chosen from candidates from the Film/TV/Digital Media Department and Theater Department. They will participate in the creative, technical, production and management process of Cirque du Soleil’s resident shows in Las Vegas and will be involved in the process from development through production. Aspiring candidates must write a narrative on why he/she wants to participate in the program. It’s set to get underway this summer.

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OSCARS: Early-Year Festivals Even More Important To Awards Campaigns

By | Saturday November 3, 2012 @ 8:00pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Awards season is turning into a year-’round affair when it comes to the festival circuit. Though film festivals haven’t always had a strong impact on the Oscar race, this year in particular demonstrates that awards positioning is starting much earlier—so early, in fact, that some of the jockeying for the 2013 Academy Awards started even before the red carpet unfurled for the 2012 ceremony.
While the fall-fest triumvirate of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto has long been considered the true start of the six-month season, campaigners have started using fests like January’s Sundance, May’s Cannes, and even June’s frothier Los Angeles Film Festival as places to spotlight a potential awards player. Though studios and distributors still closely concentrate their awards contenders in the fall timeframe, this year saw more early hints at which films have Oscar hopes. Read More »

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‘Source Code’ To Open SXSW Film Festival

Mike Fleming

The Duncan Jones-directed Source Code will be the opening night film of the South by Southwest Film Festival. The fest runs March 11-19 in Austin, Texas. Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. The film will be released by Summit on April 1. Mark Gordon and Vendome’s Philippe Rousselet are producing.

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Long Island Starts Gold Coast Film Festival

By | Thursday December 9, 2010 @ 11:06am PST
Mike Fleming

Hey, New York, ready for another film festival? The Gold Coast International Film Festival will launch in June through the Great Neck Arts Center. The festival’s executive director will be  GNAC founder Regina Gil. Senior programmer will be Sean McPhillips, the former Miramax acquisitions executive who most recently programmed the 10th installment of the Great Neck Arts Center’s Furman Film Series. Former Miramax communications head Matthew Hiltzik will handle media strategy.

New York certainly has no shortage of festivals, though not in Nassau County. There is Tribeca in the spring, and the New York Film and Hamptons Film festivals in the fall. The timing of the Gold Coast Festival creates an opportunity to draw films on the rebound from the Cannes Film Festival. The organizers hope to play up the rich history of the mansions of the Gold Coast, which is poised for a re-think as Baz Luhrmann preps a new version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The challenge for the Gold Coast International Film Festival will be to figure out a way to become a destination important enough to have a shot at a film like Gatsby by the time Luhrmann and Sony Pictures Entertainment are ready to launch it. Organizers said that Town of North Hempstead supervisor Jon Kaiman is supporting the festival, as are local businesses in the area. Putting together an advisory board is the next step.

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Sundance Institute: Film Forward 1st Slate

By | Monday November 29, 2010 @ 1:46pm PST

LOS ANGELES, CA – Following up on last month’s announcement of the Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue initiative, Sundance Institute announced today the ten films selected to participate in the inaugural year of this cultural exchange program. The first Film Forward slate includes five American and five international films which will be presented in collaboration with public and private partners. These films and their filmmakers will kick off the ambitious project in New York and Tunisia in December.

The five American films that will tour throughout the United States and abroad as part of the initiative are: A Small Act directed by Jennifer Arnold; Amreeka directed by Cherien Dabis; Freedom Riders directed by Stanley Nelson; La Mission directed by Peter Bratt, and the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Winner, Winter’s Bone, directed by Debra Granik. The five international films chosen to complete the line up of independent films are: Afghan Star directed by Havana Marking; Boy directed by Taika Waititi; Last Train Home directed by Luxin Fan; Son of Babylon by Mohamed Al-Daradji, and Udaan directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

“This exciting and diverse slate of independent films presents the common humanity we share across all boundaries,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director, Sundance Institute. “Film Forward deeply reflects Sundance Institute’s core mission by presenting films to new audiences around the world to inspire cross-cultural dialogue.”

“We could not be more excited about this program and these films,” said Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the

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Robert Redford Talks About UK Sundance

By | Friday October 8, 2010 @ 5:41am PDT

O2, the London concert venue, is in discussions with Sundance founder Robert Redford about staging a film festival. All O2 will say publicly is it would love to host a UK version of the Utah event. Negotiations are still at a very early stage, I’m informed. Redford told TV trade C21 website at Mipcom that a London festival would include documentaries, short films, indie features, and music. The O2 is a vast indoor arena in south-east London that used to be called the Millennium Dome. It includes a cinema, bars and restaurants and two concert halls, as well as the O2 Arena, where Michael Jackson was planning to stage his This Is It concerts.

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Latest UK On-Demand Movie Service Elbows Its Way Into Crowded Market

By | Tuesday June 15, 2010 @ 8:45am PDT

PD*, the newest internet movie service, is in talks with local distribs Icon and Artificial Eye. It has already licensed 43 films from Metrodome for its video-on-demand business. The service aims to have 20,000 registered users within two to three years, each buying two to three films each month. London-based Projector also claims to be the first internet VOD service to be screening films during a major film festival.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has signed a deal with Projector to show 10 features unspooling during the fest. Viewers at home will be able to pay £6.99 ($10.49) to watch fest entries during the June 16-27 event. The titles though are pretty obscure, including Chinese film Fog and docus Girl With Black Balloons and Superhero Me. “From the festival’s point of view, it means that more people can see competition films mostly by first-time filmmakers,” says Projector’s Kobi Prempeh.

Rival internet VOD operator Lovefilm streamed London Film Festival feature Vinyan live at the same time as its fest screening last September.

Projector tells me that it is in talks with other British and US film festivals about streaming their entries.

It has already licensed 2,500 films, of which around 500 are currently available to watch.

Lovefilm, the UK equivalent of Netflix, is the dominant internet movie service over here. It has 1.4 million subscribers – all of whom have access to streamed movies as part of their membership — making it the third-largest subscription movie service … Read More »

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Weinstein Takes U.S.+ Rights To Woo Pic

By | Friday June 11, 2010 @ 10:32am PDT

weinsteinlogoShanghai, June 11, 2010: On the eve of the Shanghai Film Festival, Fortissimo Films Chairman Michael J. Werner and The Weinstein Company’s Bob and Harvey Weinstein jointly announced that The Weinstein Company has pre-bought North American and South African rights to Fortissimo’s REIGN OF ASSASSINS (JIANYU JIANGHU). The film was produced by John Woo (FACE/OFF, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II) and Terence Chang (FACE/OFF, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II) through their Lion Rock Production banner along with Galloping Horse and Media Asia. Su Chao-Pin (SILK, BETTER THAN SEX) and Woo directed the martial arts epic which is a fast-paced action thriller set in the Ming Dynasty and stars Michelle Yeoh (CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, SUNSHINE), as a skilled assassin who falls in love with the son of a man who was killed by her gang. Unaware that he also is a trained martial artist, their love blossoms and then tensions rise as the past comes back to haunt them.

REIGN OF ASSASSINS is expected to hit theaters in China later this year and The Weinstein Company is currently considering coinciding release dates in North American and South Africa.

Fortissimo secured the rights to REIGN OF ASSASSINS outside China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South East Asia in October 2009.

This month, Woo will head the jury at the 13th Shanghai International Film Festival and in September, he will receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival.

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CANNES: ‘Uncle Boonmee’ Wins Palme D’Or

By | Sunday May 23, 2010 @ 11:06am PDT


CANNES Film Festival 2010: Full List Of Winners

cannes3Palme d’Or (Top Prize)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Grand Prix (Runner-Up)
Des Hommes Et Des Dieux, directed by Xavier Beauvois

Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director)
Mathieu Amalric for Tournée

Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay)
Poetry by Lee Chang-dong

Camera d’Or (Best First Feature)
Año Bisiesto, directed by Michael Rowe

Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)
A Screaming Man, directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

cannes1Prix d’interpretation feminine (Best Actress)
Juliette Binoche for Certified Copy

Prix d’interpretation masculine (Best Actor)
(tied) Javier Bardem for Biutiful
(tied) Elio Germano for La Nostra Vita

Palme d’Or (Short Film)
Chienne d’Histoire, directed by Serge Avedikian

(Previously Announced)

Un Certain Regard
Prize of Un Certain Regard to Ha Ha Ha, directed by Hong Sangsoo
Jury Prize to Octubre, directed by Daniel Vega & Diego Vega
Special Prize to Adela Sanzhez, Eva BiancoVictoria Rapos in Los Labios

Directors Fortnight
Art Cinema Award to Pieds nus sur les limaces, directed by Fabienne Berthaud (France)
Prix SACD/SACD Prize to Illégal, directed Olivier Masset-Depasse (Belgium, Luxembourg, France).
Label Europa Cinemas to Le Quattro Volte, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino (Italy)
PRIX SFR to Cautare, directed Ionut Piturescu (Romania) and Mary Last Seen, directed by Sean Durkin (USA)
Palm Dog Award to Vuk in Le Quattro Volte

International Critics Week
Grand Prix Semaine de … Read More »

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CANNES: ‘Hahaha’ Wins Un Certain Regard

By | Saturday May 22, 2010 @ 11:56am PDT

South Korean director Hong Sangsoo’s film recounts differing memories that an aspiring film director and a young film critic have of their separate visits to seaside town Tong-yeong. Daniel and Diego Vega’s film Octubre won the Jury Prize, while the Best Performance award was tied between three actresses in Argentinian film Los Labios (The Lips). French director Claire Denis presided over the Un Certain Regard sidebar jury, which judged 19 films from 21 directors.

Meanwhile, Fabienne Berthaud’s Lily Sometimes (Pieds nus sur les limaces) has won the Art Cinema Award for the Directors Fortnight sidebar. Diane Kruger and Ludivine Sagnier star as sisters whose relationship is strained after their mother’s death.

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CANNES: Ken Loach Swipes ‘Hurt Locker’

By | Saturday May 22, 2010 @ 2:33am PDT

Ken Loach CannesThe director has blasted Hollywood for glorifying the sacrifices which American soldiers have made in Iraq war films, while ignoring civilian casualties. Loach, whose latest film Route Irish is competing here, said at this afternoon’s press conference that over 1 million Iraqis have died in the war and another 4 million have been exiled. “I find it disturbing that movies about the war are always about the American military,” he said.

Route Irish follows a British ex-soldier investigating the death of one of his friends in Iraq. The friend was working as a private security consultant in Baghdad. Route Irish is the name of the road that connects the airport to the Green Zone.

One key point in the film is a water-boarding sequence. Screenwriter Paul Laverty called for U.S. politicians who sanctioned water-boarding — including Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Dick Cheney — to be put on trial for breaking the Geneva Convention. “Obama has a legal obligation to investigate,” said Laverty. “Future leaders must not be allowed to undermine international law.”

Loach called the Iraq war “a monstrous crime against the Iraqi people fought for massive corporate greed”. The filmmaker said that outsourcing Iraqi security has proved incredibly costly: David Lesar, CEO of Haliburton – which services the American military — earns $12 million a year, while charging each US soldier $100 to wash one laundry bag. “We’ve had privatization of health-care, schools and the railways, so why … Read More »

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CANNES: Equity Becoming Increasingly Important, Say Financiers

By | Saturday May 22, 2010 @ 2:32am PDT

The pre-sale market has dried up and is never coming back, financiers at this year’s Cannes tell me. That, combined with fewer banks lending to producers, means equity investment is more important than ever. Even those private lenders still left in the game, say they want to fully finance their own movies with equity. label_MdF_en

The trend at this year’s market has been for sales agents to make one or two key pre-sales, encouraging financiers in. But distributors have been folding their arms, waiting for completed product. Buyers used to jump in throughout a movie’s production, locking distribution rights for themselves. No more.

“We’ve converted into a completed film market, unless it’s a bigger project being sold by a handful of sales companies,” one financier tells me. “It’s changed forever and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.”

Financiers say they are now only interested in genre films. After all, if distributors are not prepared to take a risk, then why should they?

Not that there was much to pre-buy anyway. Distributors have complained about the lack of attractive projects at this year’s market. Inferno generated heat on its Brad Pitt adventure The Lost City of Z, while Summit’s The Three Musketeers 3D sold well. IM Global sold out on its Jason Statham thriller – Statham being the nearest the indie market has to a sure thing.

As for all those hot projects being talked up before the market, there’s been silence. Nothing about Tony Scott’s … Read More »

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CANNES: Sony Pictures Classics Acquires ‘Of Gods And Men’

By | Friday May 21, 2010 @ 1:50pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired U.S. and Australia/New Zealand rights to Of Gods and Men, the Xavier Beauvois-directed drama that unspooled in competition at Cannes. Deal was made by sales agent Wild Bunch. Drama is the story of eight French Christian monks who live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery high in the mountains of Meghreb. That peace is tested by growing violence in the region, and the refusal by the monks to leave their home.

Earlier today, IFC Films acquired U.S. rights to the Gregg Araki-directed Kaboom, which screened out of competition and the Director’s Fortnight film We Are What We Are, which was directed by Jorge Michel Grau.

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CANNES: ‘Fair Game’ Gets Mixed Reaction

By | Friday May 21, 2010 @ 3:10am PDT

Naomi Watts Fair Game CannesAfter some initial good press, there were boos as well as applause for the only American movie In Competition at its first screening at Cannes. Critics here feel it’s too conventional to be a Palme d’Or winner. One reviewer expressed surprise it was even included. That said, there is no clear frontrunner so far for the top award. The two favourites are Mike Leigh’s Another Year and Xavier Beauvois’ Of Men and Gods.

The London Daily Telegraph says that Sean Penn and Naomi Watts turn in characteristically agonized performances as Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, the CIA spy who was outed by the Bush administration. The Evening Standard says that director Doug Liman never seems to have a firm grip on the drama – or on Penn, who gives what the paper calls a “desk-bangingly” enthusiastic performance. The Irish Times says that the story fizzles out somewhat in the last reel: “Still, we can hardly chastise the writers of a film about the WMD deceit for refusing to sex-up their own dossier.”

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CANNES: Market Deals Round-Up

By | Friday May 21, 2010 @ 12:56am PDT

– Optimum UK has taken Reliance Big Pictures’ Kites from IM Global. Brett Ratner has done a “remix” of the original Hindi film. Kites has also been sold to other major territories, including France, Germany Australia/New Zealand.

– High Point Media has sold $290,000 UK feature The Be All And End All to Italy and Scandinavia. The film follows a terminally-ill 15-year-old boy who wants to have sex before he dies.

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CANNES: News In Brief Round-Up

By | Friday May 21, 2010 @ 12:38am PDT

– Andy Serkis, the actor who will play Gollum again in Guillermo Del Toro’s Hobbit, plans to direct his first feature next year. Serkis has formed a production company, Caveman Films, with Bridget Jones producer Jonathan Cavendish. Serkis tells me it’s a psychological thriller. Caveman’s first co-production, Alicia Duffy’s All the Good Children, is playing in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar.

– Imagenation Abu Dhabi, the Emirati film fund which announced its first local production Sea Shadow, will shortly announce its next three projects: a horror movie, a thriller and a comedy. Stefan Brunner, COO of Imagenation, hopes these genre movies will change the way Arab movies are perceived internationally.

– Chad St John is to direct Four Kings of Ruin. The in-demand scriptwriter, who’s penning a Spy Hunter movie based on the 80s arcade game for Warner Bros., is planning to go behind the camera. He is set to write and direct The Four Kings of Ruin for indie Lleju Productions. Houston-based Lleju hopes to start filming in Louisiana spring 2011. St John is also penning Sgt Rock for producer Joel Silver and Warner. “The Four Kings of Ruin is a straight-ahead revenge thriller,” Lleju CEO Bill Perkins tells me. “It’s Payback without the comedy.”

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CANNES: ‘Fair Game’ Not A Political Film?

By | Thursday May 20, 2010 @ 12:46pm PDT

Doug Liman Fair GameFair Game director Doug Liman’s film was well received at Cannes as a political exposé of the Bush administration’s White House press leak regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts. But  Liman told this morning’s press conference that he just wanted to make a movie about people under pressure. “This is not an advocacy film,” Liman said. “Fair Game is just trying to tell a story about something that happened. I didn’t have an agenda apart from just showing what the Wilsons went through.” But Liman also repeated Justice Brandeis’ famous words that sunlight is the best disinfectant. “Even better than punishing some of the players, is to expose them,” he said.

Liman said that Fair Game is the kind of film he’s been trying to make for years — not always with success. He said that his Bourne Identity was mean to be a political parable. And he noted that even when he worked on The OC he tried inserting socially conscious ideas into the TV series – that is, until producer Fox intervened. Even Liman’s lineage is political — his father Arthur served as chief counsel for the U.S. Senate investigation into the Reagan White House’s Iran-Contra scandal. But at least Fair Game producer Jerry Zucker is upfront about what attracted him to the film’s story: that Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was somebody who always told the truth, and “a democracy can’t survive unless there’s truth.”

Naomi Watts says the film to … Read More »

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CANNES: Marketplace Treads On Tedious

By | Thursday May 20, 2010 @ 9:09am PDT
Mike Fleming

1-Cover_rubberHow tough has the Cannes Film Festival marketplace been for domestic acquisitions? The deal of the day so far is Magnet Releasing’s U.S. rights acquisition of Rubber, the Cannes Critic’s Week offering about a psychopathic car tire with telepathic powers named Robert. It would be tempting to call the market flat or tired. Too easy. Here’s the teaser trailer:

RUBBER TEASER 1 ! from oizo mr on Vimeo.

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