Category Archives: Film

“Ball in the House” – A Lost Film Worth Rediscovery

In my Business of Film class at Columbia, I’ve talked for many years about how unforeseeable events can affect the success or failure of a film in the marketplace. I’ve seen and worked on many films that would be examples of this, but no film I’ve ever been involved with had such a dramatic date with fate as Tanya Wexler’s second feature, “Ball in the House.” 

My first collaboration with Tanya, an alum of the Columbia MFA Film Program, was as Producer’s Rep on her first feature, “Finding North.” The film was modest in scope, but beautifully acted and directed, and packed an emotional wallop at the end. It premiered to much acclaim at SXSW,  ending up with a theatrical release through Cowboy Booking. I was eager to work with Tanya again.

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“A Woman Under The Influence” and the Beginnings of a Career

John Cassavetes is commonly referred to as the Godfather of Independent Film. While independent filmmakers existed from the moment the medium was invented, Cassavetes pioneered the inside/outside model that became more common in later years—that model being, he made money by working within the Hollywood system and then used his own money to make films that experimented with form and catered to a more discerning audience.

By the time he had made “A Woman Under the Influence,” Cassavetes decided that he would go one step further and distribute his own films. He created a company called Faces International, and hired a small team of young, ambitious cinephiles to get the film out to audiences. (more…)

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The State of Theatrical Exhibition

I can’t quite remember when I did this interview that Sarah Sinwell just posted, but miraculously I still agree with what I said.

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My Keynote at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Last week, I tweeted out that I had been asked to give a keynote speech at the Cannes Film Festival. In an attempt at humor, I made it sound as if it had been a last minute thing, when in fact I’ve known about it for months. The truth is that I had been approached to help set the stage for a full day event–one in which the MEDIA Program of the European Union would take stock of trends in the film business, with the goal of setting priorities for the future of the program. In any case, here it is. Thanks are due to Tara Roy, one of my Columbia students, who taped it for me. 

Ira Deutchman Keynote at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival from Ira Deutchman on Vimeo.

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Remembering Jonathan Demme

I heard the devastating news today that Jonathan Demme is no longer with us. I knew he had been ill, but the last time I saw him he looked like he was back to his normal self and seemed to be in quite good spirits. But then again, Jonathan always gave off the vibe of being in good spirits. I had the pleasure of working with him on two of his films, and then peripherally on two others, and in all that time he never treated me with anything but the utmost respect. 

Jonathan Demme (bottom) and me (top) at Sundance in the ’80s. I have no recollection who the other folks are.

I first met Jonathan shortly after the Cinecom team screened “Stop Making Sense” and we immediately decided we wanted to distribute it. The film had been financed by Warner Brother Records; from their perspective, it was merely a promotional film intended to broaden the appeal of Talking Heads. We saw the film differently, as Demme was already on our radar as someone we would love to work with. Yes, it was a great concert film, but the simplicity with which it captured a live performance and made it feel as immediate and exciting as if you were in the room–this was something new. This was pure cinema.

Jonathan was coming off of a few films that, while well received critically, had not exactly set the world on fire. Worse yet, he had just finished “Swing Shift,” a fairly big budget Hollywood movie he wasn’t all that pleased with, that tanked at the box office. The experience of “Stop Making Sense” seemed to him like a breath of fresh air at a time when his Hollywood stock was not exactly rising. Perhaps it was his publicity background kicking in, but he was unusually respectful of the work being done to market and distribute the film, and showered us with public praise when the film outperformed expectations.  (more…)

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Produced By Podcast

Here is a podcast I did with Kevyn Fairchild from the Producers Guild. The topic was “Roles and Future of Independent Film Producers”

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University of Michigan Screen Mavericks & Makers Announcement

Last month, an event was held at Lincoln Center in New York at which it was announced that my personal archive has been acquired by the University of Michigan for their Screen Mavericks and Makers Collection. I’m incredibly flattered to be part of this incredible archive which includes Orson Welles, Robert Altman, John Sayles and Alan Rudolph to date. The announcement included the fact that there will be a symposium and retrospective held at Cinetopia in Michigan and at Columbia University in New York in June of 2017. Below is the video of my speech at the event, explaining among other things, what my archive consists of and what I hope will become of it.

Here is the entire text of the press release:

Film producer, marketer Ira Deutchman donates archive to U-M Library Mavericks & Makers Collection

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Library will welcome the papers of another film maverick to their growing collection of material that highlights visionaries in the genre of independent film.

Ira Deutchman announced Dec. 2 at the Lincoln Center in New York that he will donate his entire archive to U-M’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection.

Deutchman will be in good company—the popular U-M collection comprises the papers of indie greats including Orson Welles, Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph and John Sayles.

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TCFF Panel on the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville”

Here is a panel that was hosted at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival on the career of Robert Altman in honor of the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville.” Panelists include Kathryn Altman, Ron Mann, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Murphy & yours truly. It was moderated by Phil Hallman of the University of Michigan. Enjoy!


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Equality Now Panel at TCFF

Among the many panels and Q&As that I participated in at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival was one entitled, “Equality Now.” It was meant to be both a celebration of the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage and a discussion among the filmmakers who were involved with films that touched on LGBT issues. I was the moderator and the panel turned out to be quite illuminating (if I must say so myself) and even included some fireworks. Fortunately the panels were recorded for posterity, so here it is. I’ll post some others in the next few days…

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Onward…

Columbia FilmToday is my last day as Chair of the Film Program at Columbia University.

It’s been a great four years and I’m very proud of our accomplishments over that time.

The end of my chairmanship should not be much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The position is a rotating one among faculty, and Columbia has very strict term limits. I’ve also mentioned it numerous times (albeit off-handedly) in recent writings and speeches. I’m pleased that my colleague Maureen Ryan will be the next Chair. She is more than capable of taking up the mantle and bringing the program to the next level.

Meanwhile, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back to concentrating on teaching rather than administrating, back to producing and consulting on marketing and distribution of indie films, and perhaps paying more attention to this blog.

Stepping back has already given me the opportunity to think about things with a clearer head, and I share with you now some words that were part of my speech at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival in both New York and Los Angeles.

In the last few years, we’ve seen enormous shifts in the technology of what we do, in the ways in which audiences consume what we create and in the general perception of the value of our work. Some people, given what they read in various publications, might draw the conclusion that we’re heading toward a day when 12-year-olds with iPhones will be born with all the necessary skills to create works of art. Other reports would indicate that theatrical movie-going is dead and that TV has supplanted the movies as the main art form of the 21st century.

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