One Of My Fave Cinema Moments Of 2011

It was at the only projected WorkInProgress screening we had for Martha Marcy May Marlene. The film was submitted to Sundance on a 6 week cut and Sean Durkin had to lock at 8 weeks to get in done in time for the festival. There was no money but Technicolor helped us out with a weekday screening. The only people generally who could come were screenwriters as virtually everyone else we knew were working.

Screenwriters can be a bit focused on structure, some on discipline. The point was raised that this song was not like any other moment in the film. People started to suggest it be cut. My wife --one of the few women in the room -- stood up and said it was the crucial moment when Marcy May feels loved. She was right. It needed to be there. Sean knew it too.

Even if it had been cut, I think it would have made my list of favorite MUSIC moments of 2011

Video: TIFF 2001 Moguls Talk With Ted Hope (aka Me)

At the Toronto International Film Festival this year I had the privilege of being asked to partake in their "Moguls" talk. Anthony Kaufman interviewed me. I think I set a record taking up the first sixteen minutes or so with my first answer. Granted it was about how MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and DARK HORSE came together, and neither one was a simple story -- but then never are, are they? Well, it does boil down in each instance to making the movie for less than what the apparent value is, but that's the film business today, isn't it?

Just in case you are wondering, the class that I mention isn't happening when I said it was. It's happening soon though, and we will announce it sooner.

I talk about SUPER around the 35 minute mark. 41 Min: budget agnostic, genre agnostic, medium agnostic, platform agnostic. First and foremost, I want.... 42 Min: What makes a good film? 43 Min: When I was falling in love with my wife Vanessa... 44 Min: That list is this one. 45:50 Reverse engineering of Film 46:45 How can film mirror free will? 47:30 The End Of The Auteur Era Of Film 54:30 "Making Independent Films is a crime." 57:20 "There's never been a better time to shoot celluloid than there is today." 58:10 "Independent Film is a luxury good."

If you want to help me index this further, I would appreciate it.

The Next Step Towards Your Personalized Pleasure Planet

Suggestion engines tell you what might appeal to you: i.e. you loved "REPULSION" and "CACHE", so you will also like "MARTHA MARCEY MAY MARLENE". But if you are at all like me, you've already found enough movies to get you well past your life expectancy rate. It's now more you crave, but less! Now that we mastered the "find", is it time, to start the "ditch"? How do we get rid of that which has no applicability to our lives? Should we remove that which might not be to our liking forever from our discovery threshold?

Luckily we live in a world where we can say with an entirely straight face "Yup, there's an app for that!". Okay, maybe not so luckily, but I am serious about this. Serious that there is an app for that, and serious that maybe more attention should be paid at getting rid of what we already know what we don't want.

LibraryThing has an UnSuggester engine, and I am sure it is only a matter of short time before some clever nut with a bit of the 'ol cognitive surplus builds one for the viddy world. I know I would be far happier if I didn't know billions of dollars were being squandered on the type of movies I didn't want to see. Can't I just erase them from my life?

Unsuggester let's you know that if you liked a particular book there's probably a 100 other books that you WON'T like. If my Queue not only gave me recommendations for things I might like, but also let me remove 100 other items at a time, that I just don't want be bothered with, I would be progressing that much faster to the realization of my own Personalized Pleasure Planet. Sure we want to share what we want with our social graph (remember when they were simply friends!), but what about if we could share what we thought might suck? And what if they could import it (not the actual goods, but the suspected distaste, the simple removal list)? We are well on our way of getting rid of the interaction with anyone and anything that we have the smallest indication might be inappropriate for current level of appreciation.

The Unsuggester is a fun idea, but it also helps us focus on what is one of the wonderful things about art and culture in general. Some of the greatest pleasures we have are not just when we discover something new, but when that artwork helps to demonstrate how expansive we -- and people in general -- truly are. It goes far beyond the experience that young children often have with food that they have always refused to try and that look of semi-astonishment when they finally try it and find they have liked it all along.

The best art shows us that we are far more complex and diverse than any demographic can capture. One of the great pleasures of cinema is that in some circumstances it helps us empathize with characters that we never would have purely of our own volition. Cinema helps us embrace stories and styles that in other presentations we might have said "no, thank you, I prefer not" (or something far more ruder) in day to day life.

We are getting to the point that those discoveries and delights, and even the opportunities therefor, feel rarer and rarer. Film festivals offer a cornucopia of them. As many independent exhibitors morph more into community centers they were always destined to be, they to offer such transcendence of our daily limits. Mass consumer directed society may well be on its way to becoming a stealth version of the Universal Unseggester, and as sweet and shiny that may be for some, my Personal Pleasure Planet is a world of unknown cookies of true discovery, items and experiences I would have thought I would never have liked, but surprise me and remind me of what it truly means to share this planet with the rest of you.

Wake Up Early & Join Me Tomorrow...and maybe I will give you a free gift (seriously)...

I know told you before, but why say something once when you can say it two or three or more times? I am here to help. I am here to share what I have learned. I am here to offer some hope. At least for the moment... So tomorrow I am participating in two public events. One is free. The other you have to pay, but the money goes to support a great organization (IFP). And to someone who knows the secret word and meets me at either of the events, I have a gift to give you. So if you come to either....

x

And by either I mean:

tomorrow's IFP ScriptToScreen conference where I will be moderating a case study of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE with Borderline films, including writer/director Sean Durkin, and producers Antonio Campos and Josh Mond.

DIY DAYS NYC where I will be conducting a conversation with indie film producing legend Christine Vachon.

Come find me and stand on one foot while you tell me the actual name of the Lou tune that Mike Connel in the movie I did with Greg Mottola butchers the title of, and I will give you a couple of DVDs and other swag, and of course thank you for coming. I might as well as start clearing out those closets, right?

Sometimes I feel like I am an infomercial, so why not give out the indie equivalent of a knife set?

The Triumphant Return of Good Machine

Yes, it is true.  Good Machine is back.  But in a new and improved form.  Perhaps we should have done a press release, but I thought I should do it here instead.  Press releases are so yesterday.

If you went to Sundance, perhaps you noticed the secret stealth return of our so-called 90's powerhouse.  Or if you were at the Golden Globes, it must have caught your eye.  Hell, even if you just watched the Golden Globes.  If you missed all that, certainly by perusing the Oscar noms, something should have caused a bit of stir.  I've been waiting for some sharp newshound to break with the story, but nope.  So here's the real buzz...

The Good Machinists seem to have now taken over indie film.  The only difference between back then and now is that like any good thing, Good Machine the company achieved its own obsolescence.  The Good Machinists each have their own shop.  Call it, the decentralized approach. But look at what Good Machine achieved just this month.

My former assistant and partner, former head of production, Anthony Bregman, nabbed the biggest sale (I think) at Sundance for his production MY IDIOT BROTHER.  I haven't checked, but also think he's giving Mr. Rudin chase for the title of Most Prolific Producer (when I asked Ant his secret, he replied "Have four children, and you don't have a choice: you have to produce!").  His credit list also includes recent collaborations with many former Good Machine directors, including Nicole Holofcener and Bob Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman.

Good Machine's 2nd initial hire, and the first employee to enter the producer ranks, Mary Jane Skalski, had one of the best received films of the Sundance fest in her 3rd collaboration with Tom McCarthy, WIN WIN.  But why stop there?  She was also in the elite club of Sundance twofers, with the fest opener and competition stand out PARIAH, which Mary Jane Executive Produced -- and Focus just announced that they picked up.  No rest for the weary, eh?

The whole time Anthony was a partner at This is that, and even some of the time he was at Good Machine, he had one assistant, and a remarkable one at that.  With Bregman's new company, Likely Story, Stefanie Azpiazu has taken on Executive Producer duties (what are those exactly, btw?).  She holds that credit on Jesse Peretz's MY IDIOT BROTHER, as well as several others, including last year's Sundance opener, PLEASE GIVE (and this year's WGA nominee).

Another former assistant of mine, now the head of hottest international sales company in the entire universe (aka FilmNation), Glen Basner, recently decided to expand his company's portfolio into the specialized arena.  Awhile back he told me he had found something that should spark.  But I think 12 Oscar nominations for THE KING'S SPEECH is an outright bonfire.

Of course, my fellow Good Machine founder, the legendary erudite Mr. James Schamus, is always expected to do well, and last year -- back before Sundance returned as a sales market -- , he picked up a nice little title in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, and now has four Oscar noms for his label.

The founder of Good Machine International, David Linde, could well have decided to take some time off after running a studio, but as long as there's great movies to make, I don't think David will be taking a break.  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu may be the most gifted filmmaker out there, but his films are challenges, thankfully.  But that means they will never be easy to get made, but luckily he has a Lava Bear on his side.  David EP'd this year's entry to my top ten list, BIUTIFUL and yes, as a result has some more Oscar noms to his credit.

Anne Carey, my partner at This is that, did not go to Sundance this year.  But that did not stop The Hollywood Reporter from naming her on their Indie Hit List the hottest producer there:

THE PRODUCER

Then: Lawrence Bender
On team Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs, he has also handled Oscar-winning pics like Good Will Hunting and An Inconvenient Truth.

Now: Anne Carey
The former WMA agent toiled at Good Machine before partnering with Ted Hope on pics including Adventureland and The American.

And why not, her tenacity and genius, did yield the "coolest" film of the year in THE AMERICAN, which happened to enjoy the distinction of being the only This is that production to grace the top of the box office charts.  (PS.  Hey Anne: that wiki needs some updating!  And: Hey HRptr: she wasn't an agent, she just worked there!)

Unfortunately, Good Machine can't take credit for WINTER'S BONE, but that won't stop me from trying.  After all, Ang Lee's fantastic RIDE WITH THE DEVIL might have been Good Machine's biggest financial flop (despite being a great movie), but it was the first film to be adapted by WINTER BONE's novelist Daniel Woddrell.  Okay, it's a stretch but certainly it speaks a tad of our mutual fine taste for the man's prose and stories (even if Ms. Granik has turned down our efforts to work with her!).

Okay, so this does leaves some Good Machinists still unaccounted for, but after winning some Globes last year, Ross Katz is entitled to some time off.   Interestingly enough, Ross should take the reigns on a film Bregman is producing and Basner is arranging the financing on; the film, by title only is a mash up of several of our former projects, THE AMATEUR AMERICAN.  One of Mr. Schamus' former assistants, Jawal Nga, has been active on the producing front, with last year's Sundance hit HOWL and prior Grand Jury Winner FORTY SHADES OF BLUE to his credit.  And of course there's a squad of GMers doing great things behind the scenes too, some that will no doubt start some bonfires of benevolence in short order.

Me?  Well I already told you how I spent my Sundance non-vaction a few days ago (I've put a few updates into it if you want to check back) and how inspiring it was for me this year.

All in all, though, I must admit it is pretty swell to see the trees those seeds have sprouted.

How I Spent My Sundance Non-Vacation

To think I once got to see movies when I went to film festivals...

I had one film to share with folks this time around, Sean Durkin's MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, which I had the pleasure and good fortune to Executive Produce -- even still I did not plan to see any others.  I knew I was going to be too busy with the work that festivals have become for me.

The reception for the film was great -- which has generated a lot of meetings (and which has yielded some nice announcements ).  I forgot to read the latest Exec Prod job description though and did not realize it now means moderating press conferences.  Check out the video here, and let me know how you feel I did.

When I wasn't dealing and celebrating Sean's movie, I was doing my part to aid in the promotion of indie film.

Christine Vachon and I have been doing this talk show on and off now for several years, now dubbed KILLER / HOPE.  Hulu's got it up on their Sundance page. Please check it out while you still can (at least in all its glory). New episodes will be added daily throughout the festival.  Additionally, we were invited to talk to Eugene Hernandez for the local NPR station.  Gotta get the word out, but man does all that yapping, make for some seriously dry mouth.

But man, what a test of will power it is.  I admit I am an addict for great film, and even noble failures.  To be in Park City and to have booked myself into back to back meetings to extent that I am unable to watch movies, leaves me quaking and shaking.  I want to see some movies!

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