Upon hearing of the death of Irwin Young at the age of 94, I wrote a heartfelt remembrance of the man who played such an enormous role in the lives of so many independent filmmakers. It was originally published in Indiewire. I am reprinting it here it its entirety.
When prominent people die, obituaries often declare the end of an era. In the case of Irwin Young, who died this past Thursday at the age of 94, there’s an added poignancy to seeing his death through that lens, as we are living through a time when everything he stood for is under threat. Anyone who lived through the modern history of independent film can tell you: much of that history could not have happened without him. Continue reading “Irwin Young – Godfather of Independent Film”
In 1992, Fine Line had five films at Sundance, but by complete accident, two of those films put us in the middle of the conversation about what had just been dubbed “New Queer Cinema” by film historian and critic Ruby Rich.
Ruby moderated a panel on the subject at Sundance that year. The two Fine Line Films, which were Tom Kalin’s “Swoon” and Derek Jarman’s “Edward II,” were both considered difficult films, and the fact that both of them were being distributed by Fine Line garnered us a lot of public praise.
I had already handled a number of gay-themed films earlier in my distribution career, so I was aware that gay audiences were a loyal part of the art film audience. That didn’t mean that anything with gay subject matter would get an audience…but the right films—the ones that didn’t pander, that didn’t reduce gay culture to stereotypes, and especially the ones in which gay life was treated as a given—these films stood out and the audience would be there.
My first professional encounter with a gay-themed film was with the movie “Outrageous!,” a Canadian film that was released in 1977 by Cinema 5. My job was a combination of co-op advertising, media buying and promotion. My boss, Don Rugoff, had taught us how to zoom in on niche audiences, mainly by use of radio. One of the biggest radio formats at that time was disco, which definitely had a huge chunk of the gay audience as regular listeners, so we set up promotions and word-of-mouth screenings through these stations all over the country. The ad campaign was simply the word “Outrageous!” in bold type, with no graphic image whatsoever. The entire campaign was built on the fact that audiences just loved this film, and all we had to do was tease them into the theater. Word-of-mouth was incredible and the film was a genuine art house hit. Continue reading “Classics of “New Queer Cinema””
Last week, I moderated a master class on Independent Film Financing at the IFP’s Independent Film Conference. The panelists were Nekisa Cooper, producer of “Pariah,” Philipp Engelhorn, founder of Cinereach, Pat Kaufman, the Executive Director of the New York State Film Office, Richard Sheehan from HSBC Bank and Jonathan Gray, Senior Partner at Gray Krauss Des Rochers. It turned out to be an interesting overview of how to piece together financing in the current environment. I only wish it had lasted longer. You can read more about it at indieWIRE.
In September of 2008, I moderated a panel discussion about the current state of “indie” distribution. On the panel were Tom Bernard of Sony Classics and filmmaker Lance Weiler. It was a pretty lively debate, and an interesting contrast between the traditional distribution methodology and the new DIY model. Here it is– in its entirety– courtesy of IFP.
After a great response in Toronto, we had the New York Premiere of “Honeydripper” as the Opening Night of Independent Film Week. Lots of great coverage, but here’s one of the more comprehensive pieces…