Category Archives: Independent 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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2017 TCFF Panel: One great movie lover can change the world

The following is a panel I moderated at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival about the impact that social issue documentaries can have on society, as well as the responsibilities that come with it. The panelists were Pamela Yates, Paco de Onis, Pau Faus, and Zaradasht Ahmed. The panel was recorded on July 26th and broadcast on the local NPR station in Northern Michigan.

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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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The “Daily Buzz” at Sundance

The following is a podcast I took part in at Sundance as part of a program called “The Daily Buzz.” The other participamnts were:

Emily Best/SEED AND SPARK
Holly Herrick/AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY
Jim Brunzell/HAMMER TO NAIL
Ula Sniegowska/AFF POLAND
Tomris Laffly/FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL

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Art House Convergence Acceptance Speech

This past Tuesday night, I was honored by the Art House Convergence with the first annual Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award. Since then, I’ve been asked by many people who were there if I could post my acceptance speech. Thanks to the good folks at 4th Row Films, who were there to capture it, here it is. They even were so kind to insert the video that was made by Spotlight Cinema Network. Thanks to one and all.

Ira Deutchman speech – Lifetime Achievement Award from Ira Deutchman on Vimeo.

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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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NPR Interview re: Michigan Archives

You might enjoy listening to this Michigan NPR Broadcast where Russ Collins from Art House Convergence and yours truly talk about my donation of my archives to the University of Michigan Screen Arts Mavericks and Makers Collection.

 

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Amazon and the “Vegetable Story”

vegetablesIn the last few days, the folks at Amazon have been a lot more open about their plans to invest in and distribute traditional theatrical films, as well as continuing their successful forays into episodic television. The various interviews and the accompanying analyses underline that fact that for Amazon, the goal is to get consumers hooked on its ecosystem, which bundles content with everything from baby formula and toilet paper deliveries. It reminds me of a story I tell every year in my Business of Film class at Columbia, which goes as follows:

About 20 years ago, at the Cannes Film Festival, I visited the hotel suite of a major sales agent to see what their upcoming product lineup looked like. As I entered the suite, I was greeted by the CEO of the company, who had a grin on his face. He sat me down and told me the source of his bemusement. (more…)

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