The new millennium was unmistakably upon us as the East Coast Video Show wound down on October 11th with a whimper. Outside of $125 hotel rooms in Atlantic City, and casinos squeezing every last penny out of gamblers with $20 buffets and table game minimums of $10, everyone was grumbling about the declining video business, and the onslaught of Video On Demand (VOD). Like MIPCOM, the major companies had a small presence with MGM’s booth almost invisible if you didn’t look for Leo.


Some years ago, I can’t remember how many, the Film Society of Lincoln Center had a season of films celebrating the critical concept called the auteur theory. Simply stated this is the idea that a good film, or even a better film, is the result of the intellect of one person, the director and the stronger director is one who leaves his indelible stamp on the finished film. The timing was ironic because a month before the US courts had ruled that in fact it was the copyright holder that held all rights to a work of art. At the end of American motion pictures there had been for some time, the credit stating that for legal purposes, Twentieth Century Fox or Columbia Pictures or whomever, was to be regarded as the author of the photoplay, etc. So in fact, as far as the American Industry is concerned, there is no such thing as the Auteur Theory.


I have never figured out how stuff this awful gets made. It’s not pointless, I’ll give it that, it’s just so derivative and takes its own Great Heart for granted that it never bothers to articulate. Nigel Hawthorne plays the traditional Holy Fool who has a $134,000 pillar built so he can sit on it and work his spiritual magic. The problem to overcome is that Rufus Sewell, who lives in a sprawling mansion on a piece of property with its own lake, forest and hills, needs money which he plans to get by selling his uncles wine collection so he can start up an old manganese mine. Don’t think about it, just go along with it. Minnie Driver, who I guess is his designated girlfriend ain’t driving no mini as she pulls up to the front door behind the wheel of a half million dollar Mercedes 300 SL. I couldn’t figure out the meaning of ‘needs money’ in the context of this film.


Darwin introduced the world to the concept of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Most independent theatrical distributors who bootstrap themselves with their own money don’t make it to ten let alone fifteen years without selling out to Hollywood (Miramax, October) or outside investment sources (Fox/Lorber). Panorama, headed by Stuart Strutin, a veteran of Troma and Vestron’s Lightning Video division, and Steve Florin have beat the odds and have come out on top in 2001 with not one but two critically acclaimed features.


Considered to have the longest press reach of a publicist in the industry, Marilyn Stewart is one of the rare individuals in the entertainment business who is not interested in promoting her own interests, but rather immerses herself in a client’s project and thoroughly enjoys each that she accepts. Starting her career at the tender age of 17 with MGM, she was trained by the showmen of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In her 20s she was named Worldwide Head of Publicity & Promotion (today’s equivalent of Sr. Vice President) for Paramount Pictures. As with her many other firsts, she was the first woman to hold such a position in the motion picture industry.


Despite the recently depressed market for internet IPOs and concomitant drop in share value of .com enterprises on the NASDAQ extant, there remains a climate of qualified optimism in that segment of the creative community who operate outside the umbrella of corporate patronage regarding the ability of the web as a means to bypass the pitfalls normally associated with traditional means of distributing their work. For independent filmmakers in particular it would seem that anything producing anxiety in Hollywood on the scale that the rise of the internet has can only be a positive development in the quest for a more democratic process facilitating audience access.