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Final Draft

With, in one week, the Gotham Awards, the Spirit Award noms, and the publication of the Sundance List, the Fall/Winter independent film sprint kicks into high gear. There’s a lot to cover, especially because, in addition to noting all the films, there are also a host of business developments to write about as well. So, as we lead up to Sundance, we’ll try to be covering on the website and blog not only the films but also the strategies filmmakers are employing to promote and distribute their work in these confounding times. If you have a film headed to the festival and you’re doing anything different than the usual “screen at the Eccles and wait for a deal” approach, email me at editor.filmmaker AT, let me know your plans and we’ll try to draw some attention to what you’re doing. And if you don’t have a film going to the festival, check back on the site as well because, we hope, the info we’ll be posting will be useful to anyone with an independent film in 2009.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay
A highlight at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, the twisted kidnapping caper Nobel Son stars Alan Rickman as Eli Michaelson, a egomaniac who wins the Noble Prize for chemistry only to find that his less-then-brilliant son has been abducted and the ransom demanded is Eli's Nobel prize money, something he's reluctant to give up. One part dark comedy and one part suspenseful thriller, director Randall Miller (who has already had success this year with the California wine comedy Bottle Shock) delivers a bizarre tale of greed and revenge that includes a great ensemble cast (Danny Devito, Mary Steenbergen and Bill Pullman).

This family drama, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year by Aussie director Elissa Down, is a semi-autobiographical coming of age tale about 15-year-old Thomas (Rhys Wakefield), who along with dealing with the struggles that come with adolescence also has to watch over his autistic brother Charlie (Luke Ford). Charlie makes life tough for their pregnant mother (Toni Collette) and endangers Thomas' romance with his newfound flame Jackie (Gemma Ward). Having two autistic brothers himself, Down went through many of the challenges Thomas has in the film, and as she told Nick Dawson in this week's Director Interviews she didn't want to sugarcoat the experience. "I had to be completely honest,” she says. “That was how I could tell that story, to be completely open and honest and go, ‘This is what it was like growing up,’ because I didn't want it to be a study in autism or anything like that."


This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio lists the Spirit Award nominees as well as the Sundance Competition films, and Scott Macaulay lists this year's titles in Sundance's New Frontier section and highlights Hammer to Nail's '08 best list.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.
The 2008 Gotham Independent Film Awards season is a wrap. Almost. From nominations honoring 22 films as the best of the year, awards were presented to filmmakers and actors from six winning films on December 2 at Cipriani Wall Street. Receiving the top award as Best Feature was Frozen River, written and directed by Courtney Hunt and produced by Heather Rae and Chip Hourihan. Frozen River also scored a win for lead Melissa Leo as Breakthrough Actor. Other winning actors included 14 actors from the casts of the two films that tied for Best Ensemble Performance – Synecdoche, New York and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The Breakthrough Director Award went to Lance Hammer for Ballast, and picking up the Best Documentary award were Tia Lessin and Carl Deal for Trouble the Water. Finally, this year’s winner for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You went to Sita Sings the Blues – written, produced, directed and animated by Nina Paley. That honor also came with a $15,000 grant sponsored by Artists Public Domain and D.R. Reiff & Associates. The awards joined tributes given throughout the evening to Gus Van Sant, Melvin Van Peebles, Sheila Nevins and Penelope Cruz. The final Gotham activities wind down this week with a Conversation with Sheila Nevins and Peter Bart (and screenings of Taxicab Confessions NY, NY and Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired) on December 4th and a screening of Melvin Van Peebles’ Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha on December 6. Info on those events here.

How couldn’t you be existential in space? Cut off from Mother Earth, becoming a machine of sorts with only memories of holidays to pass the time? In the lovably lo-fi sci-fi Christmas On Mars, psych rock band The Flaming Lips have invented a straight-to-DVD film that could be a lost cousin to 2001, but born on the other end of the budget universe. Stuck on Mars with the gravity control device and the oxygen supply failing, a group of young colonists try to fix their space home, while battling hallucinations of babies. Part of the space colony also houses a white, antiseptic room where a woman is undergoing futuristic experiments to give birth without the child actually having to grow inside her. read more


Los Angeles Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Dec. 5 (Early), Jan. 16 (Final)
Festival Dates: June 18-28

Atlanta Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Dec. 5 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 16-25

Palm Beach International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Dec. 15 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 23-30

Find more festival deadlines, click here. And get the latest news and notes on the fest circuit at Festival Ambassador.

FALL 2008


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