NY Times : Indie Films - Part 2 - U2 France

NY Times : Indie Films - Part 2

jeudi 15 avril 1999

Source : NY Times

"He was the soup du jour for a while," said Tribeca president Jane Rosenthal."He was really hot. But then Phil had been through ups and downs in his career,and he really came to us hat in hand, saying : ’I’ve got to sort of start over. I’ve gotto do something small to get started again.’ We loved the idea."

The barriers were high. The financing was not set up until days before shooting.A hail storm on the set in New York wrecked some film and equipment. All-nightsessions were the norm, and Ms. Holly said she had never eaten so much chili.Without trailers, many of the stars changed outfits in restrooms.

"It didn’t feel like making a movie," Dorff said. "It felt insane."

That is one reason Robert Faust, the founder and director of the Los Angeles filmfestival, one of the better known stops on the indie film circuit, said he chose thefilm to open the event, where it will play to a sold-out house. It embodies, Faustsaid, the best of the indie spirit.

"I love the fact that Phil, who’s a studio director, has taken this route and has toldsuch a personal story," Faust said.

But the major film distribution companies, meaning the major studios, have yet totake on the movie, not because it is not good, said to several executives who haveseen it, but because it does not fit neatly into any existing marketing category. Ithas lots of rock-and-roll and tells a story of youthful abandon, but it is a little tooserious to make it as a teen-ager film, they said.

"It’s very slickly shot and well done," said a senior executive at one big studio."Then it gets down to who’s the audience and how do we sell it ? We have tojudge these movies by their commercial potential, not their art."

That is one of the contradictions of the indie world. The aim is frequently to makemovies that defy conventional labels. But with major studios cutting back onproduction budgets and the number of films they make, they are often less willingto distribute films that do not appeal to a broad, readily identifiable market niche,like teen-agers or women.

Most of the people involved in "Entropy" are taking the hurdles in stride,believing that they have a strong movie and that waiting is the norm in theindependent world.

"Nothing was easy on this movie, so why should it start now ?" asked Brad Epstein,one of the producers and an executive at Tribeca.

In a way, Joanou said, the movie came to life as his own life began to fall apart inthe early 1990s. The journey began when he went to work for Spielberg aftergraduating from the University of Southern California Film School in the early’80s. He directed two episodes of Spielberg’s television show, "Amazing Stories,"and went on to direct everything from rock videos to documentaries, somethinghe still does from time to time.

His breakthrough studio movie was "State of Grace" for Orion Pictures in 1990,about an Irish-American street gang based on the Westies, who terrorized Hell’sKitchen in New York in the ’70s. It starred Ed Harris, Gary Oldman and SeanPenn and was made before Joanou was 30.

But within a few years, Joanou had married a woman he met at a party and hadknown for just hours, and then divorced her. His relationship with a well-knownmodel, Josie Borain, flourished and then collapsed. And he feuded bitterly withthe producers of "Heaven’s Prisoners," tainting his reputation.

By the mid ’90s, Joanou said, he was reading dozens of scripts, sitting throughendless meetings at studios and making some documentaries, but he was notdirecting feature movies. That is when he decided he had to take a new path. Hesat down to write his own script.

"I needed to show I could do this without all the toys you get from a studio and themoney, that I could tell a story," he said.

But conditions were tough. When he was shooting a drunken wedding sequencein a Las Vegas wedding chapel, the video camera batteries went dead, and he hadto use Epstein’s personal camcorder. He had a crew of no more than 30 people,all paid below scale, compared with a typical crew on a big budget movie of 80 orso. Normally there are two or three cameras. Joanou had one. He had only abouthalf the usual amount of film stock to shoot, meaning he could do only a couple oftakes of each scene, rather than the five or more directors often demand.

Joanou directed a dream sequence for the television show "Third Rock From theSun" a couple years ago in which he had a budget of $1.5 million for a 16-minutesequence. It had 26 sets on 3 sound stages. In "Entropy," a two-hour movie,Joanou could not build a single set.

Now the hope is that the film festival screening will help it find a distributor and abroad audience.

Joanou remains a bundle of energy and said he was about to begin writing hissecond independent movie, maybe just a touch wiser.

"I don’t want to whine, but it is a game I am just starting to understand," he said.

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