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EXCLUSIVE: Oscilloscope Proceeds Full Steam Ahead, Says Owner Dechen Yauch

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 11, 2012 at 4:36PM

Reports of indie distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories' imminent demise are premature. Oscilloscope ("Wendy and Lucy," "The Messenger,") has a team of eight people on the ground at the Toronto Film Festival this week, led by O-Scope veterans Dan Berger and David Laub, who acquired Matteo Garrone's Italian Cannes competition entry "Reality" in May,
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Dechen Wangdu and Adam Yauch
Dechen Wangdu and Adam Yauch

Reports of change at indie distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories' are premature.

Oscilloscope ("Wendy and Lucy," "The Messenger,") has a team of eight people on the ground at the Toronto Film Festival this week, led by O-Scope veterans Dan Berger and David Laub, who acquired Matteo Garrone's Italian Cannes competition entry "Reality" in May, which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize and makes its North American debut in Toronto.

In the last year, as O-Scope founder/owner, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, was fighting cancer, Oscilloscope execs David Fenkel, who left the company as announced soon after Yauch's death on May 4 to start indie distributor A24, and his successors Berger and Laub, were running the show.

"David Fenkel's departure was unexpected and obviously came at a difficult time," writes the company's sole owner, Yauch's widow Dechen Yauch, in an email exchange. "But Adam did everything he could to protect O-Scope. He put his heart and soul into this company. I think the choice of Dan Berger and David Laub reflects his integrity, and falls into a pattern that carried over from his choices as a musician/creator where he sought to work with people whose passion and work ethic matched his own."

The release slate thus far has been pick-ups recommended by Fenkel, Berger and Laub and approved by Adam Yauch; several more of his choices are in the pipeline, including end-of-the-world comedy "It's a Disaster." O-Scope plans to continue releasing eight to ten features a year, chosen by Berger and Laub, not Dechen Yauch. "Dan and David are pure cinephiles," she writes, "and were also very much involved with these decisions. Adam trusted their opinions, as do I."

Yauch's widow is actively invested in fulfilling the company's original purpose and has no plans to either find a financial partner or sell: "Keeping Oscilloscope going was never a question. Adam loved films, and was so proud of Oscilloscope for doing right by its filmmakers...He was interested in putting out films he really liked. And that's what we're still trying to do."

Berger and Laub "took the reigns of the company under such extreme circumstances and I am very pleased with how well they have handled themselves," writes Dechen Yauch. "Their choices and actions reflect a deep knowledge and appreciation of film, as well as a great deal of good sense."

So far Oscilloscope is holding its own. LCD Soundsystem music event "Shut Up and Play the Hits" made over $500,000 in theatrical box office from its one-night national break. "Samsara" is doing decent business since it opened August 24 with the highest per screen average for any doc this year  ($38,111 on two screens) and the fifth highest per screen of any feature so far.  Its expansion has continued strong; it's now on 25 screens and should soon cross 500,000, with more playing time to come.

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Festivals, Festivals, Reality, Oscilloscope Laboratories


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.