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New York, New Years, Jews in the News, Part II

Photo of Sydney Levine By Sydney Levine | Sydneys Buzz September 27, 2012 at 7:30AM

Being at IFP Filmweek in NYC where my partner Peter Belsito was on a speed dating table, we appreciated its new venue at Lincoln Center. At the same time as our event, NYFF was having its press screenings. Our own L.A. Times gave its Los Angeles stars some ink today. We hugged Rose Kuo, chatted with Eugene Hernandez, Eric Kohn and Peter Kneght, all hanging around together just like in the old Indiewire days.
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IFP Filmweek 2012
Jesse Epstein IFP Filmweek 2012

Back to New York, post New Years.  The Rabbi at the closing of the New Year said we still have until the next holiday (Sukkot) to ask forgiveness and to be written up in the Book of Life, and so I continue the blog I was writing regarding not only our recent New York trip but the unfinished topics that I did not get to complete in the past year, mostly about Cannes. As in Part I, this is a rambling account, so get ready for a long read.

We went to NYC after TIFF 12.  Being at  IFP Filmweek in NYC where my partner Peter Belsito was on a speed dating table, we appreciated its new venue at Lincoln Center.  At the same time as our event, NYFF was having its press screenings.  Our own L.A. Times gave its Los Angeles stars some ink today.  We hugged Rose Kuo, chatted with Eugene Hernandez, Eric Kohn and Peter Kneght, all hanging around together just like in the old Indiewire days.  The layout of IFP and NYFF at the  newly designed Lincoln Center and the convergence between the two events is a great development.  Joana Vicente has infused IFP with new energy.

Rose (Kuo) is also so smart!  I had wanted to discuss her unique views on distribution, festivals and exhibition in a blog.  We talked about it at length during our 2 hour drive home from Monte Carlo during Cannes.  Another conversation I had wanted to blog about was one held over lunch at the Plage des Palmes in Cannes with French producer, Sylvain Burnsztejn and John Kochman of Unifrance about the futility of factoring in U.S. revenues when writing up budgets and projections for French films.  U.S. has to be ignored as a market because the chances of foreign language films making any money are so negligible, even when they are French which have proven to be the most popular of all foreign language films in the U.S.  U.S. box office and video numbers are so small that the U.S. is excluded from important participation in the film activities among European countries unless, like the French, they offer incentives even for English language films.  This is something new which is proving lucrative for mid-range U.S. productions.  I spoke more about it over dinner at Antonia Dauphin and Peter Newman's 5th Avenue apartment. (Another New York great spots!)

Antonia has been casting American name actors in European funded films with great success.  I told her I wanted to introduce her to my friend in Berlin, Geno Lechner of Volume57,  a unique collective of international performers - actors, dancers, musicians and vagabonds - dedicated to the promotion of outstanding, independent performing artists.  Geno, an actress in European art films is also the owner of an extraordinary house in Berlin which she is considering using for artist retreats.  If you are lucky you could rent a unit that was recently rented by one of my favorite actresses, Tilda Swinton.  You can read more about Antonia and casting in Backstage.

Casting By (Marion Dougherty) by Tom Donahue
Casting By (Marion Dougherty) by Tom Donahue

As Antonia and I talked, I told her about TIFF 12's Casting By, a  new documentary paying tribute to the legacy of the late, legendary casting director Marion Dougherty.  It shines a light on one of the most overlooked and least understood crafts in filmmaking. Packed with interviews with a "who's who" of top stars and filmmakers (she discovered James Dean and told Warren Beatty to lose his Brando accent), this world premiere screening was followed by a live, onstage discussion with people who were deeply affected by Dougherty, including some of the participants in the film. Dougherty surely would have won an Academy Award for Casting had there been any.  I had never thought about this before, but the film seemed like a call to action about this issue.  I am for adding an Oscar for Best Casting.  The craft of casting seems like a predominately female craft.  It also reminded me that I had wanted to write a blog about casting and my friend Ronnie Yeskel and her new British casting director partner.  Another issue casting directors face every day is that when they submit a script to a talent agent for a client, by law the agent is supposed to send the script to the client.  However, this often does not happen.  This was not brought up in the film because Marion, her director clients and the actors she chose to push (Richard Dreyfus for The Graduate, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, etc.) did not work that way.  She brought new Broadway and off-Broadway talent to the directors.  Anyway see the movie; it’s a great piece of New York and Hollywood history.  HBO picked up No. American rights, but Submarine is still repping the film for the world.

That was quite a day;  earlier the same day, my Peter (Belsito) and I had presented our ideas on the world market at Peter Newman’s 3rd year graduate class at NYU’s Tisch School of Film.  At our dinner with Peter and Antonia, we also talked with their 14 year old daughter recently returned from a year in Paris with her mother where Brodlie had studied at Gordon Bleu.  She is already an accomplished food writer, and is being presented to the King and Queen of Sweden for her talent. 

Radio Unnameable
Radio Unnameable
Another great dinner with a couple of friends, Richard Lorber, his wife Dovie Wingarsd, was at Back 40 West at Prince and Crosby in SoHo, formerly Savoy, a restaurant our friend Larry Bognanow designed and had taken us to before.  We ate and rushed to the screening of his film Radio Unnamable.  Speak of being SO NEW YORK.  This film got great coverage that very day in the N.Y. Times, not only with A.O. Scott’s review but with a separate article about “The Cuban Boys”.  It was held at Karen Cooper’s Film Forum.  The audience had film people in it I had not seen since my heady New York days in the early 80s like Jill Godmilow.  I knew the audience was made of other New York intelligentsia though I did not know them, and consequently I did not go to the after party, a mistake I frequently make due to my innate shyness.  Oh well, try as I might, I cannot entirely rid myself of this...Maybe during the New Year I'll be better. 

The story of WBAI’s Bob Fass, an icon of free speech radio, his legacy and his archives, are, to quote Variety, “as epic as the medium gets”.  Indiewire itself says that it “superbly recreates a time when radio mattered”.  I loved this doc about the people who never sleep in the city that never sleeps.  I knew WBAI’s call letters but did not know Bob Fass.  He evokes a NYC that equals that New York of Weegee.  The warm testimonies and radio appearances by such friends of  his such as Larry Krassner, Arlo Guthrie, Kinky Freidman, Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylan,  Joni Collins, Carly Simon evoke an entire era.  He created the community network in the days of be-ins and fly-ins, flash mobs via radio.  I loved this movie, the venue, the audience.  A totally New York experience.  Thank you Richard and Dovie!  See the film’s website www.radiounnameablemovie.com or on Facebook or via www.kinolorber.com.

We called on Susan Krim, Donald’s recent widow but didn’t connect.  She welcomed in the New Year with her two children in a country house she and Don had bought not so long ago.

We went to Rosh Hashanah at B’nai Jeshurin, the Upper Westside Reconstructionist Synagogue whose music Shlomo Carlbach created and which is now under the leadership of Argentinean clergy and cantor.  The next day, we were invited by an old friend from Peter’s childhood in Bayside, Queens to Temple Emanu-el, the High Reform Synagogue of the Upper Eastside.  Their rabbi retires next year and this year’s sermon was by the woman rabbi there.  This brave woman spoke of church and state, faith-based politics, the kashruth of what makes a fetus a human with a soul and what control a woman has over her own body, and when must we speak out for what we believe to be true. (And if now now, when?)

A press screening of Bianconieves (ISA: 6 Sales) which some after-TIFF buzz was held in N.Y.and  L.A.  but I missed it!  Pity! I do hope I will see it soon as Snow White ranks with my favorite Sleeping Beauty among childhood fairy tales I loved.

Hilary Davis of Bankside, here for IFP No Borders, her husband, Peter and I had an outstanding dinner at Robert with a view from the 9th floor of 2 Columbus Circle at the Museum of Arts and Design.  So New York!  I later returned for lunch with my cousin and afterward visited the Museum whose elevator dropped me on the 3rd floor where there was a native arts’ exhibiton for modern and traditional art from the Americas.

Trisha Robinson who was in acquisitions with me at Lorimar in the late 80s and went on to head Academy Home Video when video was going through its changes, has moved to New York’s Upper East Side for the next year or two.  Our dinner at Table d’hote, a small intimate and quiet restaurant with 6 tables on East 92ndStreet at Madison had wonderful waiters and great Italian food.  The next day Trisha and I had lunch at the Vienneses café in Neue Galerie and then went to the Guggenheim to see the photograpy retrospective of contemporary Dutch woman, Rineke Dijkstra.

Peter, Ben and Me
Peter, Ben and Me

Dinner with Ben Barenholz at an old favorite of his in Chelsea from before he had moved to the Eastside brought up film history in yet another New York light.  His first midnight screening (El Topo), his box office all time winner Cousin, Cousine and his experiment with dubbing, his opinions of film today, of the people we know, his remembering having hired John Tilley as soon as he graduated college in North Carolina, and of hiring Eamonn Bowles for his first job outside of college again made me want to write a book!  I plan to look up his history on the internet in the coming year.  Ben had wanted to go to Gotham Pizza which has the best pizza in N.Y., but it was too crowded, so we went down 9th St. to another old, small and intimate Italian restaurant.

Some of my readers might remember Joy Pereths.  She was the first U.S. rep for U.K.’s Channel Four / Film Four and licensed My Beautiful Laundrette to me when I was buying for Lorimar and Orion Classics, in the days when it was run by Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Donna Giogliotti.   Lorimar paid $75,000 for U.S. rights.  That went toward P&A as it opened in N.Y. and L.A. and from there the film went on to make an astonishing $7 million at the box office and sold 75,000 video cassettes at wholesale, $59.95 a unit.  The first film I acquired on my return to L.A. for Lorimar (and their first acquisition as well), the first film produced by Tim Bevan and Sarah Radcliffe, the first produced film written by Hanif Kureishi, starring Daniel Day Lewis, sold to U.S. by a British company, gay and with a Pakistani protagonist – what a record of firsts!  I recall that when I made the deal, N.Y. was in hurricane-warning mode and Joy and I had to hold on to each other as we crossed the street from Lincoln Center.  She is now raising money for marketing a documentary film.

Cinedigm New Video Office NYC
Cinedigm New Video Office NYC

Finally, my friend who dates back to before those Lorimar days, to the days she worked for Fox-Lorber and I was looking for my next job in New York after heading a special social issue documentyr branch of Films Inc, started by Charles’ wife Marge Benton. Susan Margolin of New Video had lots of news and ideas to share now that the company has been acquired by Cinedigm.  She’s bringing together a new staff.  Jeff Reichert from Magnolia heads theatrical marketing and former New Video executive Stephanie Bruder is VP of marketing; Vincent (Vinni) Scordino  – who started with Sara Rose at Picurehouse -- is VP of acquisitions, and Bob Fiorella is Executive VP and Chief Strategy Officer of Entertainment.  Also, Ellen Trost is their Business Affairs Manager is a great asset.  We knew each other when she was in London working for a blue chip company, BFI if I remember correctly.  I bumped into her on the streets in New York quite by accident.

Finally, we had lunch with Juan Caceras and Vanessa Erazo of the New York Latino Film Festival at Spice, a Thai restaurant on 9th Avenue in Chelsea.  My readers know them as the originators ad writers of Latino Buzz which appears on SydneysBuzz every Wednesday (except today!).   It was the first time we met face to faces.  We discussed their wish to bring light to the Latino filmmakers in the U.S. in their blog and how pleased they are to be receiving news for others requesting blog space.  I love having them use SydneysBuzz as their platform.  Juan’s film was picked up for North American distribution by TLA and is winding down its festival run of about 20 film festivals.  We discussed the Latin Film Festivals in the U.S.  Vanessa’s ideas about the feasibility of a sort of Latino Film Festival co-ordinating umbrella and our discussion of the upcoming Film Festival Academy (FFA) which will hold its first edition with the New York Film Festival this year spurred us on to creating  a workable plan. 

As I write this the High Holidays have come to a close.  Completed are the processes of Atonement, Reconciliation and a Turning Back to what is important with my fellow humankind.  Thursday I will take off on my next trip, this time a four- day trip to trinidad + tobago film festival.  You’ll hear more from me then.

Until then, Le Shana Tova!  A Sweet New Year!  May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.  Forgive me if my rambling has bored you, though if you got this far, it is a compliment for which I thank you!

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