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Democratizing Distribution

Among the pioneering companies that have created a company presence on Slated in recent weeks is VHX, the online digital distribution platform represented here by co-founder Casey Pugh, CEO Jamie Wilkinson and head of business Adam KlaffThey, along with the likes of theatrical innovator Tugg, whose founder Pablo Gonzalez and content acquisition executive Elizabeth Lodge are also on Slated, are all helping to reshape the distribution landscape in the US by using social technology tools to connect filmmakers more efficiently with potential fan-groups.

Not surprisingly, efforts to reinvent distribution are being closely followed by the independent film world. The general hope is that the same forces now starting to level the playing field in film financing will also help broaden the paying audience. Film finance and distribution are inherently co-dependent. Which is why it was so fascinating to read in IndieWire this week a summary of the latest research being done into grassroots audience outreach for films. Michael Gottwald and Josh Penn, the producing duo behind Beasts of the Southern Wild, are in the midst of a year-long fellowship from NYU’s Cinema Research Institute (CRI) to explore the efficacy of particular models based in political campaign structures and tactics. Having worked on Obama’s presidential election campaign, Michael and Josh have a keen interest in seeing what film can learn from the grassroots political machinery. Here are five of their main conclusions so far:

  • Offline outreach can be preferable to social media presence if the filmmakers are not well known.
  • The act of going to a theater will always be the most democratic way to see a film.
  • “Issue” films should reach out to advocacy organizations that already exist for furthering their cause, rather than building an audience from scratch.
  • Focusing on bringing film to small rural communities will build an infrastructure of grassroots supporters for future personal projects.
  • It can pay to distribute your film for free.

Incidentally, the director of the Cinema Research Institute, John Tintori, who is also chair of the Graduate Film Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, is among those who have recently joined Slated. Running updates on all the latest research findings coming out of CRI are being blogged here.

ARGO ACTOR CAST IN AUSSIE DRAMA
Noah Haeussner sent us news that Scoot McNairy – whose credits include Argo, Killing Them Softly and the upcoming Australian drama The Rover being produced by David Linde – has joined the cast of ASTHMA. Both Noah and executive producer Michael Raimondi are also attached to another Slated-listed film, THE SHALLOWS.

SUNDANCE PRODUCING LAB PICKS SATHE PROJECT
Solitaire King, a film that teams producer Shrihari Sathe with writer/director Bassam Jarbawi, is among the eleven projects chosen for Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Labs. The Labs are one of several initiatives that the Institute is hosting at its Utah resort from July 29-Aug 4, including a three-day Creative Producing Summit that involves Mary Jane SkalskiRena Ronson, Anthony Bregman, Josh Braun and Jess Search.

SLATED FILM TRIO WRAP SHOOTING
At least three Slated features are in post-production having just finished principal photography. They are: SUNRISE (in which Shrihari Sathe invested as a result of a Slated introduction), SUN BELT EXPRESS and CRAZY BITCHES.

NOUJAIM SHOOTS NEW ENDING FOR THE SQUARE
Meanwhile, director Jehane Noujaim has been back filming in Cairo in order to update her award-winning documentary THE SQUARE in light of the ongoing turbulence that ousted Mohamed Morsi from power last month. The film, in its original form, won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

BIKE MESSENGER THRILLER HITCHES SALES RIDE
MOTO ANJOS
 has secured Double Dutch International as its foreign sales company. The Canadian outfit will represent the project at upcoming markets including Toronto, AFM, Berlin and Cannes. D Street Releasing is handling North American distribution.

HEATHER GRAHAM AND NIA VARDALOS JOIN SLATED
Heather Graham the memorable co-star of such films as Boogie NightsHangover and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, has just joined us, as has Nia Vardalos, the actress who broke through with My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Also new to Slated is Guneet Monga, the prolific Indian new wave film producer who saw two of her productions selected for the Cannes festival this year, The Lunchbox and Monsoon Shooutout. 

COLLEGE REUNION DRAWS IFC INTEREST
Karl Shefelman says he has just received a letter of interest from IFC Entertainment for distribution of his film LOOKING FOR THE JACKALOPE. Under president Jonathan Sehring, IFC is the umbrella for three 3 film distribution labels (Sundance Selects, IFC Films and IFC Midnight), the IFC Center movie theater in New York and the online streaming portal SundanceNOW.

TORONTO SHOWCASES MACKENZIE, BLACKLIST DISCOVERY
Among the dozens of world premieres announced this week for September’s Toronto International Film Festival is Starred Up, directed by David McKenzie. David is also an executive producer of GREENLAND TIME. Also picked for the festival is the intriguing romantic drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. The directorial debut of Black List screenwriter Ned Benson, it comprises two feature length films that will be shown in sequence. They star James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in two different versions of the same story.

HBO DOCS SHINE AT EMMY NODS
Ethel a documentary portrait of Ethel Kennedy directed by her daughter Rory Kennedy, received five Emmy nominations last week. Written by Mark Bailey, the film was produced by Rory and Nancy Abraham for HBO Documentary Films, the division that received a total of 19 nods. That haul included two nominations for Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden, produced by John Battsek and Julie Goldman, and another five for Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God, produced by Alexandra Johnes. Gibney’s film has just been sold to a raft of international broadcasters by Content Media. Gibney is executive producer of GRAVITY. 

TV PREMIERES FOR TWO FESTIVAL FAVES
Unveiled at last year’s Toronto and New York film festivals to popular acclaim, CASTING BY will get its US premiere on HBO next week. Another Slated-listed film, HIGH TECH/LOW LIFE, also had its national broadcast premiere this week on PBC as past of its POV strand. The film premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and also played at New York’s IFC Center.

SCREENWRITER ON THE FAST TRACK
Jeremy Teicher (along with writing partner Alexi Pappas) is among eight teams shortlisted for the $15,000 award to be given out by the San Francisco Film Society to support the work of a mid-career US-based screenwriter. Their project, Stick and Chub, is set in a small American town obsessed with competitive running.

WME GOES GANGNAM STYLE
Talent agency WME has signed Korean popstar Psy to represent in all areas. The creator of the first YouTube video to surpass one billion views, Psy is also the star of 80s romantic teen comedy SEOUL SEARCHING. 

PAPANDREA, WITHERSPOON HIT FOX DOUBLE
Reese Witherspoon has just got the greenlight for two new starring vehicles that the actress will produce with Bruna Papandrea through their Fox-based production company Pacific Standard. Depth of Field, based on a sportswriter’s memoir, has been set up at Fox 2000. Fox Searchlight has acquired worldwide distribution rights to Wild, which Nick Hornby will adapt from another best-seller. Bruna is attached as a producer, along with Caroline Kaplan, on THE OTHER SIDE.

DISNEY PREVIEWS WALT DISNEY STORY
Disney has released the first trailer for Saving Mr Banks, executive produced by Paul Trijbits. Starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself, the film chronicles the Hollywood mogul’s 14-year effort to persuade an Australian author (played by Emma Thompson) to sell him the film rights to her book Mary Poppins. Paul is also the executive producer of the BBC’s upcoming adaptation of the JK Rowling novel The Casual Vacancy.

Duncan Cork on Google+

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