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Jeremy Renner, Eva Mendes To Unveil Spirit Award Nominees November 30

Mike Fleming

Jeremy Renner and Eva Mendes will announce nominees for the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards November 30 at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. The awards return to the beach in Santa Monica on Saturday afternoon, February 26.

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2011 Indie Spirits Return To Santa Monica

Mike Fleming

Sanity prevails! The 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards are returning to their familiar Saturday afternoon perch on the beach in Santa Monica. The awards show will be held February 26, starting at 2 PM. It has always been one of the most enjoyable Oscar weekend events, but last year, the organization brought the show to downtown Los Angeles on the Friday before the Oscars. It was an awful idea. Everything  that could go wrong did, including problems with the live TV feed. Just as important, Hollywood players were caught between driving all the way downtown or making the must-attend Oscar parties held by WME’s Ari Emanuel and CAA’s Bryan Lourd. The move back to Saturdays was announced September 1, and hopes ran high that it foreshadowed a return to the beach.

LOS ANGELES (October 26, 2010) – Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, announced today that the 2011 Spirit Awards will return to its traditional Saturday afternoon on February 26 at the beach in Santa Monica. Red carpet arrivals will begin at 11:30 a.m., with the ceremony scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. The awards ceremony will air on IFC in primetime on February 26 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. The nominations press conference will take place on Tuesday, November 30, and all past Spirit Award winners and nominees will be eligible to vote for this year’s winners.

Over the past 25 years, the event has been held at various locations

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Gotham Indie Awards Fete Actor Foursome

Mike Fleming



New York, NY (September 30, 2010) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, announced today that director Darren Aronofsky, actors Hilary Swank and Robert Duvall, and Focus Features CEO, James Schamus, will each be presented with a career Tribute at the 20th Anniversary Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday, November 29th at Cipriani Wall Street, New York, New York.

This year’s Tribute selection represents a range of individuals – all veterans well-versed in the journey between lower-budget independent films and large-scale studio releases.  In addition, the honorees represent some of the most critically acclaimed and highly anticipated films including: Get Low from Sony Pictures Classics (directed by Aaron Schneider and featuring Robert Duvall); the upcoming Fox Searchlight release Conviction (directed by Tony Goldwyn and featuring Hilary Swank); Black Swan from Fox Searchlight (directed by Darren Aronofsky); and Focus Features’ The Kids are All Right (James Schamus, CEO).

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Indie Alliance Sets New Board & Exec Panel

By | Thursday September 23, 2010 @ 4:00pm PDT

Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 23, 2010 – The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), the trade association representing independent producers and distributors worldwide, today announced its new Executive Committee and Board of Directors. The elections were held as part of the IFTA’s annual members meeting, which took place today at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City.

The Alliance’s seven-member Executive Committee is headed by IFTA Chairman Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment), who was re-elected last September and is serving the second year in his term. Newly elected Executive Committee members are Richard Guardian (Lightning Entertainment), Vice Chairperson; Avi Lerner (Nu Image), Vice Chairperson/Finance; Mark Lindsay (Arclight Films), Vice Chairperson; and Elisabeth Costa de Beauregard Rose (Lakeshore Entertainment), Chairperson/IFTA Export Alliance.

Continuing in the second year of their two-year terms are Pierre David (Imagination Worldwide) as Vice Chairperson and Brad Kembel (Summit Entertainment) as Vice Chairperson/ Secretary.

Elected to new terms on the Board of Directors are Steve Bickel (Orpheum Communications); Nicolas Chartier (Voltage Pictures); Mark Damon (Foresight Unlimited); Clay Epstein (The Little Film Company); Kim Fox (Inferno Entertainment); Tatyana Joffe (IM Global); Tony Kandah (Hollywood Wizard); Brian O’Shea (Affinity International); Wendy Reeds (Lionsgate); Mimi Steinbauer (Hyde Park International); and Lisa Wilson (GK Films).

Continuing in their Board positions are: Paul Hertzberg (Cinetel Films); Jay Joyce (Artist View Entertainment); Nicole Mackey (Fortissimo Films UK); Almira Malyshev (Screen Media Ventures); Bobby Meyers (Meyers Film Entertainment); Charlotte Mickie (Entertainment One); Barbara Mudge (Worldwide Film Entertainment); Michael

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Click To Help ‘Twelve’s Standing In Popularity Clique

Mike Fleming

If indie distributor Hannover House’s CEO Eric Parkinson has his way, the Joel Schumacher-directed Twelve will not only stir box office when it opens Friday, it will also be popular on the website. And since entry to that popularity clique can be manipulated by hyperactive clicking, he’s asking everyone he knows to log on and click away.

Parkinson sent out this Facebook post asking for help: “Twelve opens at theaters next Friday, and this is my last shot at driving up the film’s ranking and score on the Internet Movie Database site. Just by CLICKING on the link below, you will help drive up the film’s popularity ranking. And if…you’re registered, you can even VOTE for the film (up to TEN stars!) You can only vote once, but you can click repeatedly. The reason this is important is that many media and broadcasters refer to the film’s ranking on IMDB to decide whether or not to do coverage!”

Who knew that being popular online was such hard work? Reached by e-mail, Parkinson freely admitted he was trying to rig the rankings, but said everybody does it. “Every studio and PR firm knows it and engages in stealth searching to elevate rank of films and stars,” Parkinson wrote me. “The only difference is that Hannover House is completely honest and upfront about it. If all the other studios are stuffing the ballot box (so-to-speak), anyone who doesn’t do the same will … Read More »

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Jeremy Irons Answers The ‘Margin Call’

Mike Fleming

jeremy-irons-20080715-436952Jeremy Irons is the final piece of an impressive cast for Margin Call, the indie film by director JC Chandor that is shooting in New York City. Irons is the chief executive of a financial firm in a 24-hour period during the first signs of the near collapse on Wall Street. Irons joins Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci and Mary McDonnell. Chandor wrote the script, and Quinto is producing with his Before The Door Pictures partners Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa, and Benaroya Pictures’ Michael Benaroya and Robert Ogden Barnum and Joe Jenckes. Myriad Pictures is selling international territories on the film, with Myriad CEO Kirk D’Amico exec producing. The film is three weeks into its shoot.

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Colin Farrell, Eric Bana Circling Sheldon Turner-Directed ‘By Virtue Fall’

Mike Fleming


eric_bana1EXCLUSIVE: Colin Farrell and Eric Bana are in early talks to team on By Virtue Fall, an independent drama that will mark the directorial debut of Sheldon Turner, who shared an Oscar scripting nomination with Jason Reitman for Up in the Air. Nicolas Chartier’s Voltage Pictures is setting up the financing and producing with Jennifer Klein and Turner.

While both Farrell and Bana sparked to Turner’s script and want to do the film, the fragile nature of mounting a two-handed character indie drama makes this one no slamdunk. I’ve monitored the progress of the talks for the past week, and basically, reps for the actors remain underwhelmed by the money offered so far by Chartier. The feisty Frenchman will have to up the ante if he wants these two. Bana is further along than Farrell.

The drama charts a professional and personal relationship between two characters that evolves from friendship to betrayal and retribution. The Irish and Australian actors make an interesting match for a blood feud.

Chartier hasn’t yet made a domestic distribution deal. The producer, famous for winning the Best Picture Oscar for The Hurt Locker and being locked out of the ceremony, has been raising funds to put the picture into production this fall. The CAA-repped Farrell is next booked to play the vampire in the DreamWorks’ 3D remake Fright Night, and the New Line comedy Horrible Bosses. WME-repped Bana just wrapped … Read More »

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Lovely Day Hires BBC Script Producer

By | Monday June 28, 2010 @ 4:45am PDT

Shine Group logo LargeThe Kudos/Shine-based indie has poached Dominic Treadwell-Collins from the Beeb as head of development. Treadwell-Collins is currently series story producer of long-running soap EastEnders. No surprise there. Lovely Day’s managing director Diederick Santer was the soap’s executive producer. He oversaw EastEnders’ live 25th anniversary episode in February, which achieved 16.4 million viewers.

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Demi Moore Tapped For ‘Margin Call’

By | Friday June 18, 2010 @ 8:53am PDT
Mike Fleming

demi-moore-20061202-184839Demi Moore just joined the cast of Margin Call, an indie drama that begins filming Monday. She’ll  play the chief risk management officer at a firm. The film tracks the desperate maneuverings of eight people in a 24-hour period during the early stages of the Wall Street financial crisis. Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, and Stanley Tucci also star, with J.C. Chandor directing his script. It’s the first feature  Quinto is producing with his Before The Door Pictures partners Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa. Michael Benaroya and Rob Barnum of Benaroya Pictures also produce with Joe Jenckes. Myriad Pictures has been selling foreign territories since Cannes.

Cannes: Kevin Spacey/Zachary Quinto’s ‘Margin Call’

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UK Producers Scrap Open Letter to Times

By | Friday June 18, 2010 @ 6:51am PDT

Independent producers have cancelled writing an open letter highlighting their plight for fear of upsetting UK broadcasters. Indie producers were about to publish a letter in the Times newspaper this Monday. A minority has intervened, killing the letter for fear of upsetting the BBC and Channel 4.

Pact, the producers’ association, recently called for state film funding to be reformed. Indie producers were about to take the argument to the government and wider general public.

I’ve been told that a handful of top-flight producers thought the letter was too provocative. Pact has spent weeks drafting the wording. Its signatories included pretty much every British film producer of note.

“They didn’t want to rock the boat,” one signatory tells me. “It was absolutely pathetic. They behaved as if their invitations to Chequers [prime minister’s country house] were about to be cancelled or something.”

Anyway, here is an earlier draft of the unsent letter:

Dear Sir

As the recent Palme d’Or success at the Cannes Film Festival show, the UK is home to a wealth of creative film making talent. However, as a group of some of the UK’s most established and successful independent film producers, we are concerned that, despite such creative success, sustainability of our businesses remains an elusive goal.

Over £100m is invested by public bodies into UK film each year, yet, thanks to the current business model where even for very successful films, producers are unable to retain a fair share of the income that the film generates, leaving them dependent on public subsidy with

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How Would Bob Berney Fit Into GK Films?

By | Monday June 14, 2010 @ 7:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

berneysbioIs former Apparition head Bob Berney going to start a new distribution company at Graham King’s GK Films? My sources describe the move as 75% likely. Berney, who abruptly ditched his Apparition partner Bill Pohlad just before boarding a flight to Cannes, is in talks to join King and establish a bonafide distribution company, a story first reported by the LA Times. This comes days after Peter Schlessel agreed to become GK Films president, but the Berney talks have been going on longer. It is evidence that King and partner Tim Headington are intent on building a powerhouse company. While it was Schlessel who brought GK Films into the Sony fold, that only covers two big movies per year. Those first pictures are the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie drama The Tourist, and the Martin Scorsese-directed The Invention of Hugh Cabret. Berney could jump right in by handling the distribution of the William Monahan-directed London Boulevard with Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley, and the Depp-starrer The Rum Diary, based on the Hunter S. Thompson tale. Schlessel already has a strong relationship with Berney after working on deals because Apparition had its DVD output deal through Sony. Most likely, Sony would remain involved on the DVD side of the GK Films/Berney venture. Between the films that King makes, and the indies that Schlessel and Berney acquire, this could be a strong fit and a much needed new powerhouse player in the indie film distribution … Read More »

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Vertigo Confirms Streetdance 3D Sequel

By | Friday June 11, 2010 @ 6:19am PDT

Streetdance 3DThe London-based production company is reuniting directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini and writer Jane English. The UK’s first independent 3D film has done remarkably well, grossing $23 million worldwide so far after 3 weeks on release. CAA is screening the film to US buyers this week in Los Angeles. Indeed, the US and Japan are the only major territories still unsold. The film opens in Sweden, Greece, the Middle East and Russia this weekend. Vertigo was clever in tying up the film’s stars, dance troupes Diversity and Flawless, before they’d been on Britain’s Got Talent. It also snagged another Simon Cowell discovery, hip-hop dancer George Sampson. Vertigo’s coy as to whether any of them will be back for Streetdance 2 though.

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PAY UP OR PUT UP? UK Financiers Accuse Indie Film Watchdog Of Being “Toothless”

By | Thursday June 10, 2010 @ 1:16am PDT

Angry JudgeUK investors tell me that film distributors not paying sales agents money owed is putting the whole indieprod business at risk. The problem has gotten worse over the last couple of years as the movie market has tightened. All financiers can do is pursue debtors expensively through the courts, with no certainty they will get paid at the end. “It’s putting us in funding jeopardy,” one gap financier tells me.

British film bigThe job of overseeing indie arbitration falls to the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), an organization which financiers I’ve spoken to accuse of being “toothless”. Investors say that IFTA’s arbitration process between indie sellers and buyers needs to be toughened up.

IFTA says it is well aware of financiers’ complaints. But there’s not a lot it or anybody else can do if somebody is determined not to pay up. Most arbitration cases, it stresses, are settled satisfactorily.

The problem is that distributors are increasingly putting down 20% of a distribution licence to hold a film. The sales agent or producer then finance the movie based on what distributors say they will pay on delivery. But distributors – especially those in smaller or more far-flung territories – are shrugging their shoulders and saying they’ll pay what they want. Often this means 50% of the previously agreed price. Sales agents, mindful of not upsetting future relationships with buyers, urge financiers … Read More »

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Shine Creates Overseas Expansion Division

By | Friday June 4, 2010 @ 5:33am PDT

Shine Group logo LargeBritain’s biggest indie producer has established a new four-person unit identifying new business opportunities and acquisitions overseas. It has hired two executives from Discovery and Channel 4 respectively for the global business development division. Alden Mitchell, who will head the unit, has been hired from Discovery Networks International. Lucinda Hicks joins from Channel 4, where she’s currently strategy manager. Mitchell and Hicks will begin at Shine Group this summer. Kate Ward, vice-president of Shine Network, and Paul Rootham, Shine’s group business development manager, will move across to the new division.

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Stop Buying New US Series, Say Indies

By | Wednesday May 26, 2010 @ 8:56am PDT

bbc-logo-21217808British indie TV producers say that the BBC should pull out of the market for new US television shows. Buying new US shows such as the first season of Heroes drives up prices, they say. Indie producers’ association Pact has criticised Auntie for outbidding Channel 4 for US series Harper’s Island. Airing seasons of Mad Men or The Wire after they’ve already finished in the States would be okay though.

The BBC is already planning to cut its £100 million ($144 million) imports budget by 20%. Pact says it must go further. And the producers’ association is listened to. It was only due to its lobbying that the government forced the BBC to let producers keep ancillary rights to programmes Auntie paid for. Pact paved the way for the late 90s boom in indie TV producers. Indies currently raise £190 million a year because of changes Pact argued for.

The producers’ association is responding to the Beeb’s own content review. The BBC says that from now on 90% of its income should be spent on content. Pact wants to see this widened to include all the money the BBC earns, especially from its commercial arm BBC Worldwide. The Beeb’s commercial arm earned record profits of £140 million this year.

BBC Films’ annual budget should be doubled to around £20 million, say producers. The broadcaster should also slash its exclusive 15-year licence to 5 years, with “use or lose” conditions, enabling producers to release films … Read More »

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Sky Increasing Stake in Shine to 20%

By | Tuesday May 25, 2010 @ 9:35am PDT

Elizabeth MurdochBSkyB is lifting its stake in the UK’s biggest indie TV producer from 13%, according to the Sunday Times. It is buying another 7% of Shine from Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is selling its 21% stake in the TV programme maker. Sony is divesting the shareholding because its international TV arm is increasingly in competition with Shine, the UK’s biggest indie. Elizabeth Murdoch, CEO of Shine, is going to be adding to the 60% of the company she already owns, with Shine borrowing money to pay for the rest. Managers of TV companies that Shine has acquired own the balance of shares.

Sony’s 21% stake is expected to be worth $100 million in total, valuing Shine at close to $500 million. Negotiations are ongoing.

BSkyB cannot buy any more of Sony’s shares because that would then see it owning 25% of Shine, forfeiting Shine’s valuable status as an indie producer. By law at least 25% of the BBC’s programmes have to be made by indies.

Neither BSkyB nor Shine would comment. The Sunday Times newspaper is owned by News Corp, which also owns 39% of BSkyB.

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Bill Pohlad Reassures Apparition Staff

By | Wednesday May 12, 2010 @ 7:14pm PDT
Mike Fleming

KSWTTR2Apparition owner Bill Pohlad went to the distribution company’s Los Angeles offices to meet with staffers today, his first face-to-face meeting since Bob Berney’s stunning and abrupt resignation. Though he had already communicated to some of the staff through teleconference, I understand Pohlad’s purpose was to look them in the eye, tell them their jobs were safe, and assure them he has not wavered on his commitment to the distribution venture. Apparition is currently being steered by business affairs senior veep Valerie Bruce, who’s interim COO. Right now it has The Square in limited release, and its Welcome to the Rileys, which Berney acquired after its Sundance premiere, is slated to screen during the Los Angeles Film Festival.

bob berney bill pohladPohlad isn’t expected to rush into replacing Berney, and likely won’t make the hire until well after the May 20th Fair Game premiere at Cannes. I hear that Pohlad has already met with or scheduled meetings with prospective candidates to take Berney’s reins. Names on that list include Tom Ortenberg and Gerry Rich, but all the “usual suspects” will take meetings. Pohlad will have his pick: the cratering of studio-owned specialty film distribution companies in the past few years has left a wealth of capable executives looking for this plum position. After all, Pohlad has money and a production arm making prestige pics.

Neither Pohlad nor Berney are talking publicly yet about what happened. I’ve … Read More »

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Dave Matthews’ ATO Tries To Fill The Space Between As Independent Film Distributor

By | Wednesday May 12, 2010 @ 7:50am PDT
Mike Fleming

The fate of Apparition as a prestige picture distributor is uncertain following the exit of Bob Berney, and once again, indie filmmakers wait for somebody to step up with some good news for a change. How about singer Dave Matthews, who is tuning up his Art Takes Over Pictures banner to step it up as a financier/distributor of indie films? DaveCEO Temple Fennell announced that the New York-based company will get into the funding game on its own pictures, and provide finishing funds for others, to round out a slate of four to six films per year. The films will be released theatrically through Independent Distribution Partners, a distribution company started by Samuel Goldwyn Films. ATO became a partner in IDP last January.  ATO has also pacted with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to service ancillary distribution on DVD, VOD and digital downloads. There is no pay TV deal, though Goldwyn has one with EPIX.

Matthews cofounded ATO in 2002 with Coran Capshaw, whose Red Lights Management reps The Dave Matthews Band. ATO has so far produced such films as the Sam Rockwell-starrer Choke, which got distributed by Fox Searchlight, and Savage Grace. The first ATO film to go through the new Goldwyn arrangement will be Mao’s Last Dancer. The company has staffed up with four vets—Fennell, Johnathan Dorfman, Peter Newman and Greg Johnson. The latter two have been producers on such indie films as Smoke and The Squid and the Whale, … Read More »

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Bob Berney Flies To Cannes Amid Rumors; More Insight Into Why He Exited Apparition

By | Tuesday May 11, 2010 @ 9:31am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The rumors keep flying about where Bob Berney will land. Deadline has already posted Team Harvey’s denial that the ex-Apparitions chief is headed to the Weinsteins. At least not yet. (Berney Exit Blindsides Apparition) Now the latest chatter is that Berney will rejoin Newmarket to reassemble the glory team behind The Passion Of The Christ and Monster. On the surface, this would make sense because the distribution company has been quietly buying up films. But I just spoke to Newmarket’s Chris Ball who said, “I have great admiration for Bob. But this rumor is unfounded.”

bob berney bill pohladThough Bill Pohlad canceled this week’s film festival travel plans of the Apparition team, I hear Bob Berney is Cannes-bound anyway. And, so far at least, he’s not commenting on the reason for his abrupt exit from the company. So speculation is rampant on why this partnership hit the rocks. After talking with seasoned indie watchers, I’ll venture it has a lot to do with the fact that the distribution company never got the capital necessary to realize the aspirations of Pohlad and Berney. The original intention was to line up 3 principal investors to put up $25 million each and run their specialty films through Apparition. Berney would make other acquisitions and build a slate. After all, Bob embodied the spirit of specialty filmmakers who were excited to see a new distributor on the horizon run by a seasoned … Read More »

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