9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
OPPORTUNITIES IN INDEPENDENT FILM
Not so long ago, Hollywood was buzzing with excitement over indie film releases such as The English Patient, Fargo, Shine, Sling Blade, Secrets & Lies, and Breaking the Waves. Independent films were center-stage at last year's Academy Awards ceremony, and two were nominated for Oscars this year The Full Monty and Good Will Hunting. Indie filmmaking begins with someone's vision÷often, but not always, the writer's. However, the idea, concept, or story can come from many other sources as well÷from producers, directors, actors, agents, attorneys, and others. For The Apostle (October Films) celebrity actor Robert Duvall wrote, directed, produced, and starred in his film. But what if you are an unknown? What are some of the challenges that independent filmmakers face? What are some of the pitfalls? Where do they begin to look for financing? Distrubtion? Talent? Alliances to help them get the project made? Our panel will address these and numerous other questions.
Tony Blain is an entertainment attorney/manager who brings people together to make projects happen. He represents various talented writers, producers, actors, and directors whose partial credits include A League of Their Own, The Arrival, Body and Soul, Theory of the Leisure Class, Worst Case Scenario, Eye for an Eye, Campfire Tales, Dark Angel: The Ascent, The Search for One-Eyed Jimmy, They Live, Radio Flyer, Jacknife, and the television shows Dellaventura, Nothing Sacred, and numerous other film and television projects. Covering every area of the industry, Blain actively develops emerging talent and assists in all phases of a client's career, from development to distribution, focusing on independent film representation and spec script sales. A graduate of Brown University and Pepperdine School of Law, he runs his own successful entertainment business and has built strong relationships at studios, networks, agencies, and production companies around town. For the second consecutive year, Blain was named one of the "Top 100 People in Hollywood You Need to Know" by Fade In: magazine. He has been a featured speaker at AFI, the UCLA Extension Program's Independent Producer series, The Scriptwriters Network, Santa Monica College, WGA, The Writers Network, Pepperdine University, Flash Forward, and Fade In: magazine's conference.
Betsy Chasse, 28, is one of the youngest vice presidents of production in Hollywood. She currently presides over production for Prosperity Pictures. In the last year, the company completed production of six feature films, including Romantic Moritz, produced in association with her own production company, Rampant Feline Films. Prosperity Pictures is currently in development and pre-production on several feature films and is financed to produce eight to 10 motion pictures over the next 12 months. Chasse was literally born to be in film and television. Her birth was filmed for a news story on natural childbirth. For the next 18 years, Chasse worked as an actress before beginning her production career as production coordinator on several films, including Robert Altman's The Player. She was production manager on the independent film Public Access (which won the 1993 Sundance Film Festival) and thereafter freelanced as the line producer on over 30 independent feature films. In 1996, she started her own production company, Rampant Feline Films, which has produced several cable specials and music videos, including I Used to Love Her, Ice T's controversial video about the O.J. Simpson case.
Travis Fine is a writer, producer, and director who got his first big break in Hollywood when he was cast in the ABC series The Young Riders. After three years on the show, he went on to star in a number of TV movies, including the role of Erik Menendez in A Killing in Beverly Hills. Following the sale of his first screenplay, The Lords of the Sea (written in 1994), to Howard Koch, Jr., Fine was hired to write episodes for Diagnosis Murder and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. In 1996, he attended the New York Film Academy, where he wrote, produced, and directed four short films and later wrote the short film The Last. In 1997, he acted in The Thin Red Line and wrote, produced, and directed his first feature-length film, The Others, a '90s update of such films as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink.
Peter McAlevey, president of Thunderbird Pictures, is currently one of the busiest producers in Hollywood with three films scheduled for release this spring Klash, starring Giancarlo Esposito and Jasmine Guy; Back in Business, starring Brian Bosworth and Joe Torrey; and Champions, starring Ultimate Fighting Champion Ken Shamrock. In addition to his work as producer on the film, McAlevey helped create Champions' underlying story with long-time friend George Gianfrancisco. McAlevey's Thunderbird Pictures has been involved with the production of such pictures as Killing Zoe and Born to Run. Champions marks Thuderbird's fifth feature film. McAlevey was formerly vice president of production at Michael Douglas' Stonebridge Entertainment and Stone Group Pictures, where he oversaw every aspect of motion picture development and production on films such as Radio Flyer, Flatliners, Hard Promises, Double Impact, and Stone Cold. He served as co-executive producer on Radio Flyer and as executive producer of Hard Promises. Previously, he was vice president of production at Walt Disney Pictures, where he reported directly to Jeffrey Katzenberg, a founding partner of DreamWorks SKG. Prior to his career in the entertainment industry, McAlevey worked for many years as a journalist. Magazines and newspapers that he has worked for or contributed to as a freelance writer include SAVVY, Newsweek, Inside Sports, The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Businessweek, Forbes, TV Guide, and Televizier (Netherlands).
Ariel Enrique Wapnir has an extensive backround in live-event production, in feature film and television development, and in raising independent financing for film projects. He has just completed producing his first film, Young Hearts Unlimited, a family comedy starring Corbin Bersen, Lesley Ann Down, and Robert Carradine. Wapnir is currently prepping Against the Wind, starring Brad Renfro for production this fall, and will then produce Cold Wars, a $5-million teen fantasy. During his tenure with Tomorrow Film Corp. (a family entertainment company), he has developed a slate of feature films and TV projects, including the latest in the Francis Ford Coppola Black Stallion series, The Black Stallion Rebels, scheduled for production in fall/winter 1998. Projects that Wapnir has developed as an independent producer include Piece of My Heart, The Janis Joplin Story and The Adventures of Cliff & Norm, with John Ratzenberger and George Wendt of Cheers. Wapir founded Joss Resources, which was the production company for the MOW Programmed for Murder, for Wilshire Court Productions/The Sci-Fi Channel, and was involved in a joint venture with National Lampoon for the development of comedy clubs and programming. Wapnir has worked on a multitude of projects for The Robert Evans Company (Paramount Pictures) and has developed feature film projects with Ron Shusett (Total Recall) and TV movies with the production arm of The Family Channel.