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Us in Progress & The Champs Elysees Film Festival, Part 1

I love Paris! Serving on the jury of U.S. in Progress to judge five American independent films in post production, bonding with filmmakers, organizers and the beautiful city itself, being part of a larger festival which featured films I particularly enjoyed like Nina Simone, Love Sorceress… Forever, It Felt Like Love by Eliza Hittman, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, what’s not to love?

The friendly openness of everyone at the festival made the event special. Sophie Dulac, the festival’s founder (and distributor, producer and exhibitor) whom I interviewed last year and again, almost as old friends again this year (see upcoming blog!), the publicist and programmer, Maxine Leonard, the staff, the Us in Progress organizers – Adeline Monzier (now also Us representative for Unifrance), Ula Śniegowska, Artistic Director of Wroclaw, Poland’s American Film Festival and Mobile New Horizons, my fellow jury members for USinP, and of course, the filmmakers themselves created a fun and inspiring event. What a great international film business we are in!

As I write this, the mailman just delivered a book, entitled Titra Film, A Cinematographic and Family Chronicle, sent to me by my fellow jury-member, Isabelle Frilley, who now, along with her children, owns and operates Titra, now called TitraTVS, the sub-titling company founded by her grandparents in 1933 shortly after talkies made subtitling de riguer . Very involved in the world of cinema, and inspired by her literary tastes, Isabelle has also helped develop multi-lingual subtitling for cinema, subtitling for the hearing impaired, and audio-description for the visually impaired. For many years, Isabelle Frilley has been a member of the juries of “Ciné en Construction” (for Latin-American cinema, in Toulouse), of “Cinéma en Mouvement” (for Mediterranean cinema, in San Sebastian), and of the Caméra d’Or in Cannes. She is only one of the illustrious jury among whom I was honored to count myself. Others included Julie Bergeron who runs Cannes Marche’s Producer Network among other things, Europa Distribution Eve Gabereau of Soda Pictures, a London-based indie distributor, Ciné Cinéma’s Bruno Deloye, Firefly’s Philippe Reinaudo, Commune Image’s Michael Werner, Eaux Vives Production’s Xénia Maingot, and Matthias Lavaux, the cofounder of touscoprod, the French crowdfunding website dedicated to movies, launched in January 2009.

1982 by Tommy Oliver

USinP’s winner, Tommy Oliver, whose previous film Kinyarwanda was a favorite of mine at Sundance a couple of years ago which Roger Ebert ranked 6 on his top ten films of 2011, is now in post on 1982 and won Us$60,000 worth of post production services.

Tommy’s directorial debut, 1982, starring Hill Harper, Sharon Leal, La La Anthony, Bokeem Woodbine, Wayne Brady and Ruby Dee, tells the story of a black father whose wife succumbs to a crack cocaine addiction and his efforts to shield their 10-year old daughter from the ill effects of having a drug addicted mother while trying to wean her off of her addiction. It's set in 1982 in Philadelphia at the very onset of the crack cocaine epidemic and ultimately, it's a story about a father doing whatever he can to protect his family. It's semi- autobiographical story and inspired by true events.

He also wrote and produced 1982 which also received a prestigious San Francisco Film Society Krf grant .

Tommy himself is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, a Microsoft alum and founder of Seattle-based interactive media firm Viliv Studios as well as La- based production company Confluential Films, which he started with actor/ author/ speaker Hill Harper.

I can confidently predict that this film will be seen on the festival circuit as it brings a humanity to the issue we’ve seen dozens of time – crack in communities – but never like this. We don’t see the ugly community violated by violence. We see a loving family coping with a personal and private disaster. Hill Harper plays a loving, compassionate good man. Comparisons will be made with Fruitvale Station, another African American “issue” film (police brutally killing an innocent family man) which will be released July 12 by The Weinstein Company. We need more such films to create a consistent pipeline for audiences who will pay to see these films. AFor his film 1982, he has devised a super-sophisticated, break-the-record domestic marketing plan. I am eager to watch the trajectory of this one.

The runner-up film, Bfe was supported with great gusto by its director and producer, Shawn Telford and producer, Mark Carr who brought a special energy to the entire event and were full of fun throughout. Shawn charmed his French hosts with his French. Watch for the film and with it, watch for Shawn!

I Believe In Unicorns is the feature debut of director Leah Meyerhoff. It was nominated for a Calvin Klein grant at the 2012 Gotham Independent Film Awards and stars Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Toni Meyerhoff, Julia Garner, Joshua Leonard and Amy Seimetz.

As noteworthy as the film is and as talented as Leah is, the producers themselves are also notable and prolific! Allison Anders, Katie Mustard and Heather Rae who also produced the Academy Award nominated film Frozen River, starring Melissa Leo, which won the 2008 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, opened the New York Film Society’s New Directors/New Film series and was acquired by Sony PicturesClassics. She won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for her production work on Frozen River. Heather also produced Mosquita Y Mari (Sundance 2012), Backroads (Sundance 2000), Trudell (2005 Sundance Film Festival), Ibid (2008 SXSW), The Dry Land (Sundance 2010), Magic Valley (Tribeca 2011), and is currently in post-production on Five Thirteen (with Tom Sizemore), Ass Backwards (with Alicia Silverstone and Vincent D’Onofrio) and Plastic Jesus (with Paul Schneider and Mackenzie Foy). For six years she was a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute and recently joined the Sundance Board of Trustees.

Ping Pong Summer

Michael Tully made his directorial debut, Cocaine Angel, world premiered at the 2006 International Film Festival Rotterdam, Michael Tully (Director) was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. His follow-up, Silver Jew, world premiered at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival. In 2011, he wrote, directed, and acted in Septien, which world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. He’s currently in post-production on his newest feature, Ping Pong Summer, which he wrote and directed. Since 2008, he has been the head writer/editor of, a website devoted to championing ambitious cinema.

Producers: George Rush, Brooke Bernard, Ryan Zacarias, Michael Gottwald, Billy Peterson, Jeff Allard

Main Cast : Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Leah Thompson, Judah Friedlander, Amy Sedaris


Director : Jaffe Zinn Producer : Jaffe Zinn and Sterling Hoch

Aside from the jury, the films were seen by members of Europa Distribution:

Alpha Violet - Keiko Funato & Virgine Devesa - France - Sales agent Bac Films - Crasset Véronique - France - Sales agent & Distributor Bankside - Alice Ramsey - UK Sales Agent Chrysalis - Camille Lopato - France – Distributor Content - Toby Melling - UK - Sales Agent Coproduction Office - Marina Perales & Philippe Bober - France - Sales Agent Distrib Films - François Scippa-Kohn - France - Distributor Equation - Didier Costet - France - Distributor Eurozoom - Manon Galibert - France - Distributor Film Republic Rashid Xavier UK sales agent Films Boutique - Jean-Christophe Simon - Germany - Sales Agent Hanway - Fabien Westerhoff - UK - Sales Agent Happiness - Isabelle Dubar - France - Distributor Heliotrope - Laurent Aléonard & Goldfain Philippe - France - Distributor Imagine - Bral Tinne - Benelux - Distributor Jour 2 Fête - Sarah Chazelle - France - Distributor K5 Intl - Oda Schäfer - Germany - Sales Agent Kmbo - Grégoire Marchal - France - Distributor Le Pacte - Nathalie Jeung - France - Sales Agent & Distributor Level K - Freja Johanne - Denmark - Sales agent Locarno Film Festival - Aurélie Godet - France - Festival Memento Film - Tanja Meissner & Ram Murali - France - Sales Agent & Distributor MK2 - Emmanuelle de Couesbouc / Juliette Shramek - France - Sales Agent Premium Films - Karwan Kasia - France - Sales Agent & Distributor Reel Suspects - Frederic Gentet - France - Sales Agent Rezo - Sebastien Chesneau - France - Sales Agent & Distributor Sacrebleu - Louise Bellicaud - France - Producer Soda Pictures - Eve Gabereau - UK - Distributor Sophie Dulac Distribution - Eric Vicente - France - Distributor The Works - Steve Bestwick - UK - Sales Agent Tribeca Film Festival - Frédéric Boyer - USA - Festival Trust Nordisk - Silje Glimsdal - Denmark - Sales Agent Urban - Claire Charles-Gervais - France - Sales Agent & Distributor Versatile - Violaine Pichon & Pape Boye - France - Sales Agent Wide Management - Loïc Magneron - France – Sales Agent Wild Bunch - Emmanuelle Fellous - France - Sales Agent & Distributor Zed - Martine Scoupe - France - Distributor

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