Friday, May 19, 2006

Paramount unveils new specialty film unit

Paramount unveils new specialty film unit

Friday May 19 9:26 AM ET

Film studio Paramount Pictures on Friday unveiled a new division called Paramount Vantage aimed at releasing low-budget films with broad appeal to capture audiences in the expanding independent film arena.

The unit's formation is the first major move for John Lesher, who recently took the reins at Paramount's specialty film unit, Paramount Classics. It also comes as studio chairman Brad Gray continues to revamp Paramount Pictures.

Paramount Vantage aims to release eight to 10 films a year, ranging from low-budget comedies and horror films to sophisticated art house fare such as "Babel," starring Brad Pitt, which premieres this week at the Cannes film festival.

"Investing in a specialty division so that we can become competitive in this area has been a part of Brad Grey's overall vision for turning around the studio," Lesher said in a statement.

The low-budget, or "specialty" divisions of major studios have become increasingly important in recent years because the movies they produce and release are made for relatively small amounts of money, but can reap huge profits if successful.

Last year's award-winning gay romance "Brokeback Mountain," for instance, was produced for about $14 million by Universal Pictures' Focus Features specialty unit and took in $178 million at box offices worldwide.

When Gray took the reins of Paramount Pictures in 2005, one of his main goals was revamping and expanding the studio's specialty unit, Paramount Classics. Gray hired Lesher to come in and remake the division.

As part of Friday's announcement, the company said Paramount Classics would continue to exist, but now focus on films with a more narrow appeal such as foreign-language movies and documentaries like the upcoming global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth," which also is screening at Cannes.

Both Paramount Classics and Paramount Vantage will be overseen by Lesher.

Other films to be released by the new Paramount Vantage label in 2007 include Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men," and Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood."

Paramount Pictures and the two specialty divisions are part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc..

Link to article on Yahoo

Slomo Video Festival

SLOMO VIDEO is 100 one minute slow motion videos by 85 filmmakers and video artists from around the world. The video festival will swerve into cinemas around the world, transubstantiate time into taffy, and turn the usual expectations of a video show on its side and inside out. This unique compilation of cinematic slowness will pull the audience through a molasses-tinged warp of catastrophic visual and audio beauty.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

TV writers want to be involved with product placement talks

Here's an interesting article from Media Daily News about TV writers' desire to be involved in talks about product placement out of concerns about content. From a WGA press conference yesterday.

Remanded Entertainment: TV Writers Ask To Be Part Of Product Placement Talks

by Wayne Friedman, Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:45 AM EST

IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY, TV writers say, in their concerns over newfangled brand integration and product placement deals: They just want to be part of the discussions.

This was the message from the Writers Guild of America press conference yesterday in New York City, in the midst of the broadcast networks' week of upfront program presentations.

"We just want to be part of the dialogue," said John Wells, executive producer of "The West Wing" and "ER." "We want to be part of the conversation."

But the network and studios may not be hearing this call. When asked how management responded to the writers' request for meetings about product placement, WGA West President Patric Verrone said there was "a roaring silence. The sense we get from reading the trades is that it's a problem solvable by bargaining. But we haven't been given a time and a place."

"It's not about compensation," said David Young, interim executive director of WGA West. Writers say it's the creative rights issues. "The problem for us is the quality of the content."

Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU," said: "There's a huge difference with being presented with a list of product and how many times it needs to be run--and being given the opportunity to have real creative input in how it's being done. Our concerns are about the well-being of the product."

What is a good product placement? A couple of years ago, "Days of Our Lives" had an episode about the death of a child, said one panelist. Kleenex sponsored the episode--but with no product placement in the episode itself. Kleenex didn't force its brand name inside the episode--say, when the mother needed a tissue when she began crying.

Still, there are payment issues over product placement--and questions, say the WGA. Do the actors get a piece of the product placement? What about the network? The production company? A lot of paid product placement still varies greatly. Should there be specific rules?

"Desperate Housewives" creator and Executive Producer Marc Cherry said some companies can have certain demands. For instance, one car company didn't want one character on the show driving its specific sexy car. This deal was turned down.

"We have to make sure we are still driving the train," said Cherry. "We are very respectful of the writers on our show. We [also] don't want to promote something that may be at cross-purposes with our advertisers."

Link to article

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Dear Dawn" Screenplay Advice #3

In this installment of "Dear Dawn," screenplay competition director Dawn Wiercinski answers reader questions about maintaining "the scary" through a horror screenplay, getting started on that first-ever script, and Conference Badge discounts for screenplay contestants.

Read Dear Dawn #3 now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

John August on the AFF Podcast

John August, writer of Charlie's Angel's, Big Fish, and Corpse Bride (just to name a few), joins us on the AFF podcast to talk about his career and the life of a screenwriter.

Listen to AFF Podcast Episode 6 now.

Native New Yorker Wins

Congratulations to Austin filmmaker Steve Bilich for taking home Best Documentary Short for his film "Native New Yorker" at the recent Tribeca Film Festival.

A shorter version of "Native New Yorker" screened at the 2004 Austin Film Festival.

From the Tribeca Film Festival program notes...

Native New Yorker is a kind of Manhattan travelogue seen through the eyes of Native American Terry "Coyote" Murphy. Starting from Inwood Park, Coyote makes his way down Broadway and winds up at ground zero. Along the way, locations are stripped of their conventional meaning and imbued with their significance to local Native American history. Filmmaker Steve Bilich shot the film with a 1924 hand-cranked Cine-Kodak camera over a period of several years, ultimately mating it to an original score composed by William Susman.

Shandling interviewed by Gervais

Following a successful interview special with Larry David, Ricky Gervais will next be interviewing Garry Shandling (2004 AFF Outstanding Television Writer Award recipient) according to Gervais' website.

Gervais said: "Garry is one of the most influential comedians of the past 25 years. He has granted me a very rare interview. So why the f*** did I tell him that he looks like Bingo from The Banana Splits?"

The Garry Shandling interview is set to air on Channel 4 Thursday, June 1st. Here's hoping it makes it to the U.S.

aGLIFF’s Local Filmmaker Series Continues...

aGLIFF’s Filmmaker Series & Not a Tough Guy Productions Present

“All That Gender Will Allow: The Films of Mocha Jean Herrup”

parody... performance... failure...

When: Thursday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Arbor Cinema - 9828 Great Hills Trail, Austin, TX.

Admission: $10 General / $8 Student, Senior & aGLIFF Members

For more info:

AUSTIN, Texas—On May 25, 2006, the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) presents another edition of its Filmmaker Series with award-winning talent Mocha Jean Herrup. Mocha Jean is an Austin-based filmmaker whose works have been screened in international festivals, on the Sundance channel, at the Walker Arts Center and other esteemed venues. The Filmmaker Series supports aspiring gay and lesbian talent through special screenings of the artists’ works, regardless of content. Funds generated through the program are designated to assist future film projects.

The evening includes short works by Mocha Jean, followed by an intimate reception at Manuel’s Great Hills. The film series begins at 7:30 p.m., running time is approximately 90 minutes, at the Regal Arbor Cinema. Admission is $10 general; $8 for students, seniors and aGLIFF members; and includes a gift card for chips and queso at Magnolia Café. DVDs of Mocha Jean’s films are available for sale at the screening. May’s Filmmaker Series showcase features a collection of Mocha Jean’s work, including:


“What if… Austin(2006). Inspired by Austin’s burgeoning film industry, Mocha Jean shows audiences how three famous films would look if shot on-location in Austin. This three-part
series was originally produced for the Austin Movie Show.

Part I. Would “The Graduate” still be a cult classic if it were filmed at a local BBQ joint?

Part II. Would anyone care for a “Full Metal Jacket” in Wheatsville Coop?

Part III. “Norma Rae” in a South Austin Café? When did our cafés become unionized?

“The Lancebian” (2003). With screenings throughout North America, “The Lancebian” features Mocha Jean as an Austin drag king who channels the energy of ‘N Sync group member Lance Bass.

“LesbianFilm” (2002). Members of the lesbianfilm collective set out to make a feature-length project that is sure to sell. The result debunks identity politics and secures mass donations from unsuspecting patrons of the arts.

“Pom” (1997). A whisky-guzzling, chain-smoking dyke tries out for the University of Texas pom-pom squad. Go Longhorns!

“Under the Bed” (1995). One woman’s strange obsession with living under her bed becomes a media sensation. Starring Maile Flanagan, the voice of Jakers! on PBS, and including a cameo by Mary Jo Pehl of Mystery Science Theater 3000.


“Few Good Dykes” (2004). This 8-minute on-air segment for A&E’s SexTV profiles Herrup and her feature-length work, an unconventional documentary about the Dyke Uniform Corps.


Beer Commercial (1999). Produced for Austin-based Celis Brewery, this innovative TV commercial earned Herrup the Austin Ad Federation Award (ADDY®).


"Mocha's work is sexy, smart, and scandalous! If you're not crying with laughter, you're squirming uncomfortably in your seat, and those are the best kinds of films!"

-Leila Hernandez & Jegar Erickson, Austin Movie Show

"Mocha Jean redefines genre-bending gender cinema by approaching her subject with an un-jaded eye and a refreshing honesty."
               --Jake Vaughan, Producer, DEAR PILLOW, Director, THE CASSIDY KIDS
 “...playful, hilarious, and intellectually stimulating...”
               --Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle


Mocha Jean Herrup has nurtured a life-long interest in the relationships between gender, performance and representation. Her early publications in the anthology “To Be Real” and the journal “Women & Performance” examine the performative nature of gender and sexuality in the context of emerging communication technologies.

Mocha Jean Herrup’s award-winning films have screened in festivals around the world, on the Sundance channel, Northwest Airlines and at the Walker Art Center. Using performative strategies identified in her doctoral dissertation on “parodic premise and the subjectification of the insider-outsider,” Mocha Jean’s films employ humor and theoretical inquiry to explore outsider gender roles from an insider’s perspective. Maintaining this approach in the commercial world, Mocha Jean’s unconventional television spot for Celis Brewery won a gold ADDY® award from the Austin Ad Federation. Often described as provocative and highly entertaining, Mocha Jean’s work is, in the words of one critic, “never boring.”

Mocha Jean co-founded the gender-based performance troupe, Kings N Things, in 2002. She is an Associate Professor in the Radio-TV-Film Department at Austin Community College. For more on Herrup, visit To schedule an interview, contact


aGLIFF is the oldest and largest gay and lesbian film festival in the Southwest. Established in 1987, aGLIFF continues its mission to cultivate high-quality gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender filmmaking that enlightens, educates and entertains. For more about aGLIFF, visit or call (512) 302-9889.

Durwood's Video Pick of the Week

Durwood Wilkes is a professional bingo caller from Henshitt, Texas currently making his home base in Chicago. He recently celebrated his 25th year of criss-crossing the country spreading the gospel of bingory. The video pick of the week is taken from The Weekly Hopper, a newsletter for fans of Honky Tonk Bingo, a Sunday night tradition at the Pontiac Cafe' in Chicago. To subscribe to the Hopper, drop him a line at


The Killers, 1946 dir. Robert Siodmak

My dark mood prompts me to recommend one of the best film noirs ever
made in my humble opinion. Burt Lancaster plays an ex-prizefighter on
the lam in a small town. Ol' Burt's doomed to get his as his sordid
past is revealed. Based on a classic short story by Ernest
Hemmingway. the Criterion Collection gives this film the deluxe
treatment it deserves.

'Two Harbors' making Canadian premiere

Jame Vculek's feature film, TWO HARBORS, will be screening this June at the Winnipeg International Film Festival. The film screened at the Austin Film Festival in October '05 in the Narrative Feature Film Competition where it received a special jury mention for lead actor Alex Cole.

James will be attending the screening, so, if you are in the Winnipeg area, do yourself a favor and check out TWO HARBORS.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tom Lazarus interviews Scott Frank

Check out this cool interview with Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Get Shorty), written in the format of a screenplay. Interviewer Tom Lazarus is no slouch either, having written two books on screenwriting (Secrets of Film Writing and Rewriting Secrets for Film Writers) and dozens of movie and TV shows himself.

[via Cinematical]