14th ANNUAL FT. LAUDERDALE FILM FESTIVAL
by William C. Martell
Billed as the longest film festival in the world, the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival is actually a collection of four linking festivals in Broward County, Florida which lasted from October 20th to February 14th... almost a whole month of interesting and innovative films. The Coco Walk Mini-fest, Hollywood (Florida) Mini-fest, and Boca Raton Mini-fest were regional opening acts for the main event in Fort Lauderdale which ran from November 3rd to the 14th, and boasted 78 feature films, dozens of shorts, an impressive group of special guests to be honored, and a handful of panels for screenwriters and filmmakers. Though the festival actually began on Wednesday the 3rd with a half dozen films from around the world, the opening night Gala featuring the U.S. premiere of Lord Richard Attenborough's new film GREY OWL took place two days later on Friday the 5th.
Limos began delivering celebrities to the luxurious Parker Playhouse for pre-premiere cocktails at six, and by seven the huge theater was filled to capacity. The evening began with the presentation of the Script Magazine SCREENWRITING IN THE SUN screenwriting award on center stage. Movie stars, celebrities, and Lord Richard Attenborough watched as Script Magazine editor Shelly Mellott awarded contest winner Brent Hartinger a check for $5,000 for his script SHADOW WALKERS. In addition to the check, Hartinger and a friend were flown to Ft. Lauderdale and put up in a luxurious beach front hotel by Script Magazine. Three major agents are already reading the script as a result of winning this contest! Finalists in the competition included Mike Shields for his script DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH, Bill Powers for his script GAME PLANE, Gerardo Herrera for THE CAVALIER, William Kerr for NIGHT SCREAM, Daniel J. Bingley for TWO RIVERS and Geoff Murrin for RUBBER DAISY.
Afterward the award was presented, a local theater luminary introduced a montage of clips from Lord Richard Attenborough's career, including scenes from IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942), BRIGHTON ROCK (1947), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965), THE SAND PEBBLES (1966), for some strange reason BRANNIGAN (1975), and JURASSIC PARK (1993), as well as a clip from each of the nine films he directed except OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR (1969). Then Lord Attenborough was presented with a huge lifetime achievement award featuring a silver plaque surrounded by stills from several of his films. Attenborough quipped that Lifetime Achievement Awards made him nervous, because he wasn't quite ready to be put in a box. "I have two more films I want to make."
Attenborough then introduced one of the stars of his new film GREY OWL, Canadian actress Annie Galipeau. The role required a beautiful Native American woman, and Attenborough had interviewed hundreds of actresses, searching for the right combination of ethnic features and star quality. Galipeau fit the requirements with one small problem... she was only fourteen years old. Too young to co-star in a love story with Pierce Brosnan. Attenborough continued his search, but the film was delayed due to Brosnan's previous commitment to a James Bond film and the remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. When Brosnan's schedule cleared and they returned to casting GREY OWL, Galipeau had matured into a beautiful adult woman. So they cast her in the female lead and shot the film. Galipeau said a few words about the pleasure of working with Attenborough, then the Chief and Elders of the local Seminole Indian tribe presented both of them with a ceremonial zippered windbreaker (?) Which they immediately put on over their evening wear. Then Festival President Gregory von Hausch won the award for most-laughs-per-minute with his introduction of the Festival staff, rattling off names at warp speed, but pausing in mock-confusion when he came to Attenborough and Galipeau. Then Greg handed the reins back over to Lord Attenborough and they screened the film.
GREY OWL is the true story of the most famous Native American of the 1930s, Archie Grey Owl. A hunter, trapper, and wilderness guide, Grey Owl became a world famous spokesman for environmental issues. He wrote a best selling book about our vanishing wilderness, met the King Of England, and became a key man in the Canadian Parks Service efforts to save the beaver and other wildlife. But Grey Owl was hiding a strange secret that was only uncovered after his death. In some unusual casting, Pierce Brosnan plays Grey Owl, with Annie Galipeau as his wife and Graham Greene as her businessman father.
After the film, a Gala party was held at the Design Center Of The Americas sponsored by Premiere Magazine and Eastman Kodak. Catering by twenty top restaurants ranged from lobster to stir fry, with some very unusual presentation (a Viet Nam prisoner of war camp theme seemed really odd). In the Grand Atrium a big band played swing tunes, in Le Petit Atrium a DJ spun disco tunes in a strange 1980s flashback. Richard Attenborough talked with fans, even posed with Script Magazine editor Shelly Mellott's newborn baby Audrey Grace. Other stars and celebrities in town for screenings of their films mingled and danced the night away.
The next morning, Script Magazine held its screenwriting seminar at the historic Vinnette Carroll Theater. A capacity crowd learned about character, conflict, and the importance of your first ten pages from a panel consisting of David Geatty, Shelly Mellott, and William C. Martell (me). The contest winner and finalists were discussed in depth. Why were these scripts chosen? The panel fielded questions from the audience on a wide range of screenwriting questions from craft issues to finding an agent. The discussion actually ran over 40 minutes over time!
Other seminars included Internet & Film with IndieLiquid's Tony Sullivan, Film Financing with Walter Shulze, International Distribution, a panel on Post Production, Eastman Kodak's seminar on film stocks, and a fun Pitch Factory featuring dissections of script pitches by a panel of experts (including Script editor Shelly Mellott).
A second Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Eva Marie Saint at the Luminaries Awards Gala on November 12th. The star of ON THE WATERFRONT and NORTH BY NORTHWEST will be starring in I DREAMED OF AFRICA with Kim Basinger, to be released in April of 2000. A radiant Kelly McGillis presented Lukas Haas with the Star On The Horizon Award, and Norman Jewison was honored with the Robert Wise Director Of Distinction Award. A special tribute to director William Wellman (WINGS, A STAR IS BORN, BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES) was held on November 14th, with his son William Wellman, jr introducing a retrospective of film clips from his late father's greatest films. A special lunch honored ex-Warner Bros. President Barry Reardon earlier in the week.
Films in competition at the festival included THE STRAIGHT STORY directed by David Lynch, THE BIG BRASS RING directed by George Hickenlooper, WHEN THE DEAD START SINGING (from Croatia) directed by Kristo Papic, JOURNEY TO THE SUN (from Turkey) directed by Yesim Ustaoglu, CHECKPOINT (from Russia) directed by Alexander Rogozhkin, BAJO CALIFORNIA (from Mexico) directed by Carlos Bolado, TUMBLEWEEDS directed by Gavin O'Connor, JOE THE KING directed by Frank Whaley, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (from Spain) directed by Pedro Almodovar, THE WAR ZONE (from Great Britain) directed by Tim Roth, and NOTHING ABOUT ROBERT (from France) directed by Pascal Bonitzer. Most of the directors were on hand for the screenings of their films, and at the opening night and closing night Galas.
World Premieres included THE AUTEUR THEORY directed by Evan Oppenheimer, PROMISE HER ANYTHING (from Canada) starring Billy Zane and directed by Alain Zaloum, CHAPTER ZERO starring Dylan Walsh and directed by Aaron Mendelsohn, SUICIDE BLONDE starring redhead Angel Boris and directed by Eduardo Carrillo, FASHIONABLY L.A. directed by the beautiful Tamara Olsen, and the hit of the festival SEVEN GIRLFRIENDS starring Tim Daly, Mimi Rogers, Laura Leighton, Elizabeth Pena, Arye Gross, Jami Gertz, and Olivia D'Abo in the hysterical story of a guy whose one true love gets killed in a freak accident, causing him to question his past romances. Director Paul Lazarus had the audience laughing at the premiere screening when he asked everyone for a James Cameron-like moment of silence... then instructed the house to turn off their cell phones and pages for the next 104 minutes. If you get a chance to see this sick, twisted, romantic comedy, stay through the complete credits for a final joke. (For an interview with Lazarus about SEVEN GIRLFRIENDS, see WHAT EVERY WRITER SHOULD KNOW by Theresa Welty in our current issue with Frank Darabont on the cover).
Other films screening included the very funny THE BEST MAN (not the one in theaters now) directed by John Newcombe, 24 NIGHTS directed by Kieran Turner, SIAM SUNSET (from Australia) directed by John Polson, AVE MARIA (from Mexico) directed by Eduardo Rossoff, LAST NIGHT directed by Don McKellar, JEROME starring Wendie Malick and produced by David Spade, MAN OF THE CENTURY directed by Adam Abraham, THE MATING HABITS OF THE EARTHBOUND HUMAN starring Carmen Electra and Lucy Liu, NO VACANCY starring Christina Ricci and Lolita Davidovich, MEETING DADDY starring Lloyd Bridges and Alexandra Wentworth, PUPS starring Burt Reynolds, THE SKY IS FALLING directed by the beautiful Florrie Laurence, SMOKING CUBA STYLE with Seymour Cassel, THE TAXMAN with Elizabeth Berkeley and Joe Pantoliano, THE THIRD MIRACLE starring Anne Heche and Ed Harris and directed by Agnieszka Holland, WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP starring Ian Holm, THE WEDDING BAND tarring Dom Deluise.
Documentaries screened included WHOSE DANCING NOW directed by Emmy winner Judy Kinberg, AMERIKAN PASSPORT (a messy documentary that seems like home movies cut together) directed by Reed Paget, the hysterical SIX DAYS IN ROSWELL produced by Roger Nygard (who had just flown in after seeing his documentary TREKKIES double billed with FREE ENTERPRISE at the New Beverly Cinema), AMERICAN MOVIE directed by Chris Smith (about the making of a low budget horror flick), and hot ticket midnight show SEX: THE ANNABEL CHONG STORY a documentary directed by Gough Lewis about a female college student trying to break a gang-bang record by having sex with 251 men in ten hours.
Because all of the celebrities were housed in the same beach front luxury hotel, it wasn't unusual to bump into directors, writers, or movie stars in the lobby, or share a shuttle from a screening to a party with the cast of a film. Actor Tim Daly was staying on the same floor as I was, and I rode the elevator with him a few times. Richard Attenborough and Annie Galipeau were staying one floor down, and I bumped into them frequently in the lobby. A pack of fashion models from FASHIONABLY L.A. were often wandering back and forth to the beach. I rode shuttles with directors George Hickenlooper, Florrie Laurence, John Newcombe, and others. Tim Roth hosted the closing night of the festival, introducing his film THE WAR ZONE and was the guest of honor at the Wrap Party at the Atlantis night club right on Ft. Lauderdale beach. The world's longest International Film Festival had come to a close.
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