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Indie Film

LA Judges Help Award $50,000 Short Film Prize

It’s a lot of money, especially for anyone toiling in the realm of short films shot in the qualifying region of Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana. Now, thanks to a panel of judges that included Movie City News’ Kim Voynar, EW‘s James Hibberd and USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Tara MacPherson, a lucky trio of filmmakers are $50,000 richer.

Thomas Woodruff, Noah Scruggs and Chris Armand (pictured, above) won the grand prize for their short Western The Legend of Luther Anderson. The film was was one of more than 80 entries and 20 finalists at the inaugural Louisiana Film Prize Festival Weekend (October 5-7). From today’s announcement:

The Legend of Luther Anderson is a Western comedy about a set of boots that transforms Luther Anderson, a meek cowboy, into a hero and an instant legend. As Luther blazes a trail across the frontier, his evil nemesis is in hot pursuit after the magical cowboy boots. In the end, the two men stand tall in a showdown to the death.

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Newspaper Reporter Film Role Rewritten to Accommodate Talented British Thesp

Get ready to read and hear a lot this fall about David Oyelowo (pronounced “oh-yellow-oh”), the 36-year-old British actor who gained some prominence last year via The Help and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He’s got four films coming out in the next three months: Lee DanielsThe Paperboy (October 5); 2012 Sundance award-winning drama Middle of Nowhere (October 12); Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (November 16); and the Tom Cruise action drama Jack Reacher (December 21).

Oyelowo is very good in The Paperboy, playing one half of a crack Miami newspaper reporting team (together with Matthew McConaughey) that comes to Lately, Florida in 1969 to investigate the possibly wrongful Death Row conviction of a local man (John Cusack) for the murder of a town sheriff. The actor has a big fan in Daniels, who planned earlier to make a civil rights era movie with Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. and has the performer in his next film, The Butler. From The Paperboy press notes:

Daniels rewrote the character specifically for Oyelowo, transforming the part of Yardley Acheman from a white reporter into a cultured and sophisticated black man, whose English accent helps him navigate the still largely segregated American South of the 1960s. “As a black man himself, Lee was very interested in how a black reporter in Florida in 1969 would have been greeted and how he would react in that situation,” says Oyelowo.

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Somali Pirates Drama Claims Top Prize at TheWrap’s Short Film Fest

Culminating with an awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Backstage Theater on the Sony Lot, TheWrap’s inaugural ShortList short film festival recognized the top vote getters from a dozen hand-picked entries.

A judges’ panel consisting of Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen, producer Cassian Elwes, actor Zachary Quinto, producer Lynette Howell and Sundance Institute feature film program founding director Michelle Satter crowned Fishing Without Nets – a drama about Somali pirates told from the pirates’ point of view – as the Jury Prize winner. The audience vote, gathered via thewrap.com and MTV websites film.com and nextmovie.com, favored The Maker. From Lucas Shaw’s report:

[Fishing Without Nets] director Cutter Hodierne nets a $60,000 reward from Panavision to be used for a future filmmaking project… Hodierne and [The Maker director] Christopher Kezelos will receive a new Sony Alpha A77 DLSR Cameras, as well as a first-look deal with Cinedigm.

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From a Drug-Infested Texas Radio Station to the Hollywood Red Carpet

Fox Latino has a good profile today of Jovanny Venegas (pictured), a 28-year-old actor and freelance TV journalist who came to LA from central Texas.

His career began very colorfully at age 15 as a DJ in the Lone Star State, working at a station where the owner was dealing drugs and once got stabbed. The bilingual go-getter’s acting career is now starting to pick up steam here in Hollywood with roles in K-11, a prison drama directed by Kristen Stewart’s mother Jules, the Fuse TV pilot The Hustle and indie drama Fifth Street.

Venegas says that as a reporter covering the red carpet, he sometimes brought relatives to the events he was covering to let them soak in the Hollywood atmosphere. At one such event, this led to a classic “mom” moment:

“After I finished my interview with Sandra Bullock, I was like ‘Where’s my mom?’ I couldn’t find her,” he recalled. Finally, he spotted her. “I was like ‘Mom, where were you?’

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Porn Star James Deen & Lindsay Lohan to Star in New Bret Easton Ellis Film

Bret Easton Ellis is making the dreams of straight girls the world over come true by putting porn star James Deen on the big screen. Ellis tweeted the news that both Deen and Lindsay Lohan were both set to star in his upcoming flick, The Canyons, an erotic thriller about 20-somethings navigating life in Los Angeles.

The film will be directed by Paul Schrader and produced by former Lionsgate producer Braxton Pope. In an effort to retain creative control the trio are partially funding the film themselves, with the rest coming from a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $160k. No doubt some of that dough came from Deen fans eager to see their porno heartthrob make his mainstream film debut.

Robert Rodriguez Talks About His Comcast Cable Network

Writer-director Robert Rodriguez recently returned to his Alma Mater, the University of Texas at Austin, for a casual conversation moderated by his former professor Charles Ramirez Berg.

One of the central topics of discussion was El Rey, the national cable channel that Rodriguez will unleash in 2014 with help from Comcast. He has been traveling the country to promote the in-the-works outlet, which is designed to give Latino filmmakers a much needed public airwaves boost. From the Austin360.com report:

Latinos will make up a third of the U.S. population by 2050, according to census estimates, yet, Rodriguez, joked, there was a dog channel before there was one like El Rey…

Rodriguez said the cable channel will be cutting-edge, underground and imbued by an indie sensibility. He has already had multiple conversations with Hollywood stars such as Benicio del Toro and Michelle Rodriguez, who have expressed interest in collaborating with El Rey on original programming.

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Panel Debates ‘Shifting Landscape’ of Independent Film

FishbowlLA was in attendance Thursday as Whitewater Films kicked off its third year of bi-monthly back patio panels in Santa Monica with a sunny lunch hour discussion of “The Shifting Landscape of Independent Film.” Manning the barbecue as usual was company founder Rick Rosenthal, while Indiewire editor-in-chief Dana Harris returned for another rotating stint as panel moderator.

Dustin Smith, vp of acquisitions and business affairs for Roadside Attractions, kept things lively with a number of jokes and direct exchanges with the other panelists. He recalled for example that by flying in Jennifer Lawrence from London for a Q&A, he was able to keep Winter’s Bone screening at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood for a critical early third week. He also had lots to say about the state of “S-VOD” dealmaking with Netlifx; as the streaming service focuses more on episodic TV assets, he recently encountered his first outright rights renewal rejection (Goodbye Solo).

Deborah McIntosh, a member of William Morris Endeavor’s global finance and distribution group, addressed the exciting new distribution arm of client Tim League, co-founder of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. She also touched on the agency’s imminent plans to release an independent feature exclusively on Facebook.

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Christian Film Producer Hopes to Shepherd ‘God’s Sequel’ to Mel Gibson

California-based Christian Post reporter Alex Murashko caught up with David Wood at the tail end of the March 21-25 K.E.Y.S. conference in LA. The topic of conversation was Wood’s ambitious movie project The Resurrection.

Some in the Christian filmmaking community are referring to the planned feature as “God’s sequel” to Mel Gibson’s 2004 smash The Passion of the Christ. Wood and a team of five other producers are starting to put the word out to churches about the project and hope to crowd-source the entire $40 million budget:

A “Spiritual Producer” is described as an individual who has donated a minimum of $25 or more to the not-for-profit, pledged to pray for the Resurrection project, spread the word (i.e. via Facebook, Twitter) and/or committed a serious capital investment in the project with a financial return…

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Martin Sheen Shows THR Reporter the Way

By somewhat sheer happenstance, the Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg has been thrust onto the Inside the Actors Studio beat.

After Martin Sheen heard “through the grapevine” about the film journalist’s fondness for The Way, an indie drama made with and by son Emilio Estevez, the 71-year-old actor invited Feinberg to his Malibu home. The result is a nearly two-hour videotaped conversation about Sheen’s life and times.

What’s so great about this video is how raw it is. With a spectacular rock-landscaped pool in the background, Sheen is free to reminisce without any of those annoying cut-away shots  so common at Hollywood junkets, of the interviewing journalist nodding or smiling.

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Forest Whitaker Joins Juntoboxfilms.com

Juntoboxfilms.com, a collaborative film studio and social media platform, gets its name from the American Revolution days. “Benjamin Franklin formed what he called the Junto Society, which consisted of a diverse group of people committed to self-improvement, their community and the aid of others,” senior vice president of digital Rachael McLean tells FishbowlLA. “This is the inspiration behind the name of our company.”

Helping lead this namesake, public-voted 21st century indie film revolution will be Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker, who was formally announced today as company co-chairman. Inspired by social gaming technology, juntoboxfilms.com will invest a total of $2.5 million in five films this year. They are also hosting a special pre-SXSW digital mixer at their offices in Santa Monica tonight, in partnership with Digital LA.

“We are currently privately funded by individual investors,” McLean explains. “All films are different with the budgeting requirements. The funding will be distributed depending on what the actual film is and the story, that way we aren’t locked into a set amount [per film].”

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