Tag Archives: Cinecom

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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Keynote from the Sundance Art House Convergence

Below is the video of the keynote speech I gave this past January at the Art House Convergence, an annual event that brings together many of the independent art houses from all over the U.S. and with some representation from the rest of the world. I used the opportunity to give a kind of personal history lesson about the distribution and marketing of indie films, and to draw some lessons for the world we currently live in. A big thank you to Russ Collins of the Michigan Theater for giving me the opportunity to speak, and to Doug Tirola and his team at 4th Row Films for recording it.

These video originally appeared on Thompson on Hollywood, part of the Indiewire network.

PART 1: Don Rugoff and Unplanned Beginnings

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Altman Remembered

When word reached me this morning that Bob was gone, I was shocked. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been. His health has been an issue (and a topic of discussion) for a very long time. Back when I was at Fine Line and we were working on the release of “Short Cuts,” Bob would come to office looking so thin, so gaunt; everyone commented on the fact that he looked liked he was on his deathbed. Bob laughed and said he’d been told by his doctor to go on a diet, and he was proud of how much weight he had lost. We all took him at his word, only to find out more than a decade later that he had had a heart transplant. Bob somehow seemed indestructible.

Bob at Ira's 40th birthday partyI have so many memories…so many feelings. I can’t set them all out here… but I feel the need to spill some of it while the feelings are fresh.

I first met Bob when I was just out of college. I took a trip to Los Angeles to try and find work, and someone recommended that I look up a guy named Mike Kaplan, who was the marketing person at Altman’s production company. The company was called Lion’s Gate, but was not related to the current company of that name. I got an appointment, and while waiting in the reception area, could see and hear Bob talking on the phone in his office. He was describing a film he’d just finished shooting in Canada…a film called “Quintet.” I couldn’t have been more thrilled as Altman was already one of my idols, and this was my first close encounter with someone of his stature. (more…)

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