sex lies and a volunteer driver

It was 1989. I had recently set up shop as a marketing and distribution consultant, having parted ways with Cinecom and was heading to Sundance. In those days, the festival paid for film execs to attend; in return I would appear on a panel or two, ski a few days and go to some movies.

On my way from the airport, the volunteer driver mentioned he’d heard great buzz about a film called “sex and lies,” or “something like that.” I looked it up in the catalog that he had conveniently placed in the back of the van, and noticed there was a screening I could make if the driver brought me directly to the theater. I got to the Prospector Square just as the lights were going down and sat on the floor in the back of a packed house.. The crowd reaction was amazing; clearly, even before even checking in to my hotel room, I had seen one of the hits of the festival.

Later that evening, I was invited to a party thrown by RCA Columbia Home Video, the company that had financed “sex, lies and videotape.” Larry Estes, who ran the indie production financing unit of RCA Columbia, was a long-time friend dating back to when he ran the Atlanta office of Films Incorporated and I was at Cinema 5. I congratulated him on the film and told him I would be pleased to work on it in any capacity.

That’s how I ended up as Producers Rep and marketing consultant on the film. I never got a chance to thank that volunteer driver for the tip.

At the time, no one knew how influential the film would end up being. Its overwhelming success was the catalyst that made Sundance into one of the most important film festivals in the world, and established Miramax, it’s ultimate theatrical distributor, as a player in the indie film world.

I ended up consulting for Miramax on several other films over the next year or so before I was offered the opportunity to start my own company as a new division of New Line Cinema, but that’s a story for another day.

As part of the screening series at Columbia’s Lenfest Center for the Arts, “sex, lies and videotape,” will be shown in a newly restored version. The screening will be introduced by Columbia’s own Richard Peña. Tickets for the entire series are available at nyindieguy.com. Come and join us.

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