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AFM Day 2: Fries Frame, ODB, Doddle, IM Global & Hong Kong Day updated

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Maybe it was just a coincidence that Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow was spotted making a stealth move out of the parking structure in Santa Monica on Day 2 of the American Film Market (AFM), but today, Nov. 5, heavy hitter Gary Barber, Co-Chairman/CEO of Spyglass will join Harvey Weinsten, Co-Chairman of The Weinstein Co., Nick Meyer CEO of Sierra Pictures, and Stewart Till, Chief Executive of The Icon Group in a heavy hitter roundtable at the AFM Finance Conference. In sum, the market has hit its stride at the half-way point.

Day 2 was officially dubbed Hong Kong Day, so in case filmmakers can't find any money for their project domestically, there's always China. As in: "Hong Kong: Asia's Co-production Gateway to the China Market."

Oddly, there's a Wu-Tang Clan-related documentary available for sale at this year's market -- and, no, it has nothing specifically to do with China. Wu-Tang Clan is the group the late American hip hop artist Old Dirty Bastard (nee: Russell Jones) founded with The RZA, GZA, Ghostface, MethodMan, etc. ODB, who died in 2004 on Nov. 13 two days before his 36th birthday, is featured from cradle to grave in a film DIRTY made by his second cousin Stephon Turner.

To bring you up to speed, ODB is what Kurt Cobain was to the grunge movement; in other words, all the American rage of "The Dirty South" was brought to you by ODB fusing "karate movie music with hip hop" according to Turner, that spawned Wu-Tang Clan and ushered in the Dirty Movement. The RZA, ODB's cousin, scored the first Kill Bill movie for Quentin Tarantino, and the Wu-Tang Clan, BrooklynZu, "Protect Ya Neck," legend lives on. (ODB died of a heart attack in his studio brought on by legal and illegal substances.) The documentary sizzles.

Next, imagine this offering out of left field, David Hyde Pierce finds himself in THE PERFECT HOST (Cinema Management Group), a cop-thriller/psycho drama/murder mystery in which he is required to dance like John Travolta in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER with a cameo by Helen ("I Am Woman Hear Me Roar") Reddy. Strange weather indeed.

More traditional fare includes WRECKED, wherein: "A Man (Adrien Brody) awakens in a mangled car wreck at the bottom of a steep cliff. He's injured, his legs are trapped, and he has no memory of who he is or how he got there... His only company -- a crackling radio broadcast of a violent bank robbery gone wrong and a corpse in the backseat with a wallet identifying him as one of the perpetrators." The picture, in post, is directed by Michael Greenspan and offered by eOne.

While today, Nov. 5, is the official unveiling/press conference for Doddle (pronounced "dawdle"), yesterday co-creators Jim Robertson and Rich Kwait gave an advanced demo. What is Doddle? "The World's First Digital, Completely Interactive Filmmaking Resource." "Doddle will revolutionize the film and TV industry" by tapping every database pertaining to the entertainment industry worldwide. In other words, if google and a PDA had a child... "It's just cool," Jim Robertson said. "As a producer, I got so sick of not finding things, so we came up with this."

IM Global, the company that brought you PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, threw an ambitious recession-averse party at the Shangri-La Hotel. And they have reason to celebrate. Their upcoming slate includes JESUS HENRY CHRIST produced by Julia Roberts; SHELTER with Julianne Moore and Jonathon Rhys-Meyers; THE FACTORY, starring John Cusack; and a slew of other films including talent like Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Laura Dern, Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Chris Cooper, with producing talent Paula Weinstein, among others. And, yes, there will be another PARANORMAL sequel: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: TOKYO NIGHT, "which is mostly for the foreign market," according to an insider.

Checking in with a Hollywood filmmaking dynasty, the legendary Chuck Fries' son Charles Fries and daughter Alice Fries, who founded Fries Films two and a half years ago, are offering an impressive slate of films, as well as a Jack London-based TV series "Call of the Wild." (Brother Mike Fries is CEO of Liberty and second to founder John Malone.)

Alice Fries was a packaging agent for more than 15 years before joining her brother in Fries Films. "It just worked out," she said. "We love working together. Why not?" Laughing, she added, "we're making oodles of cash, cash, cash!"

Here's what Charles Fries had to say about the market, their films and his process for making pictures:

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: So you're offering films with talent like Laura Linney and Jeanne Tripplehorn in one project. Billy Zane, then Sam Neill in another. What's completed and what's in post?

CHARLES FRIES: Everything is for sale. DRAGON PEARL (Sam Neill) we're taking possession of now. A MILLION COLOURS is being completed.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Do you buy these projects already made?

CHARLES FRIES: Sometimes we do; sometimes we don't. We picked up "Call of the Wild" completed. SURVIVING EVIL (Bill Zane) and all the other pictures we've been involved in from the get-go. We put together the financing, we participate in the production -- when the picture is completed, we make delivery to the buyers who have interest in the pictures.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: When you look at a potential project, do you guys make a group decision, in other words, how to do pick the projects?

CHARLES FRIES: We go to all the markets, we constantly interact with the buying community -- as a result of that we try to make our decisions based on what we think the (audience/buyers) are interested in. What we are going to be able to see.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: So it's not based on the project but the market, what you think they want to see?

CHARLES FRIES: It's based on the project as well, a whole slew of projects. There are ones you actually like, discard the ones you don't. Then, of the ones you actually like, and can get going and sell, are the ones you can sell.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Is there already talent attached in most cases, or do you get the talent attached?

CHARLES FRIES: It's all over the place. Sometimes a project will come in with talent, sometimes just a screenplay, sometimes with half the budget -- sometimes with nothing.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Are you going to the same sources, or having to find new sources of funding because it is so tough out there right now?

CHARLES FRIES: It's always new. Always changing. There are certain banks that we have been involved with over a long period of time that we remain involved with, a constant flow of investors in the business.

Sometimes we round out the budget. MORNING (Laura Linney) came to us pretty much packaged and ready to go, we invested in that. We were involved in A MILLION COLOURS from the very beginning; DRAGON PEARL (Sam Neill) came pretty much ready to go, we put some money in at the end.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: With SURVIVING EVIL, when you go to make a film about filmmakers, a story within a story, did you think 'oh, wait, is it okay to make a film about the film business?'

CHARLES FRIES: I think it made it more interesting. It's an example of what you said before, a project that appealed to us. Of course we knew we could sell that [starring Billy Zane (TITANIC)]. In this they go into the Philippines to do a documentary about tribe that has been (undiscovered), and they find the people are no longer there.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Which are your favorites of all the films you've "made" or acquired?

CHARLES FRIES: They are all my children.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: You can't answer that, I guess.

CHARLES FRIES: Well. I have ones I don't like!

ALICE FRIES: I want to interject on that. Maybe it's not that he has a favorite film, it just that he likes to make the films, the process. It's all in the process from conception to completion to sale. There are multiple layers, and that is what's exciting.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Plus your other sister, Diane, does the marketing, graphics, and posters, right?


QUENDRITH JOHNSON: What were your favorite films growing up?


QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Would ever think about a remake on MAD MAD MAD WORLD, because that is still a great concept? I mean RAT RACE was kind of a remake, but it is still un-mined as a concept.

CHARLES FRIES: I really like that (1963) movie, although I've gone back and re-watched it recently and it wasn't as funny. Several times in the last five years I've seen it, I don't know why it is not as funny for me.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: But there's Ethel Merman hitting people with her purse, that will always be funny. Anyway, as far as working with your sister, how is it working with family members where there is money at stake?

CHARLES FRIES: It's good. We speak short-hand to each other. I trust her.

AFM continues through Nov. 10, stay tuned for ">AFM more coverage.


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