Oscar Contender Seeking Celebrities at Sundance for Money to Fund Film Projects: 'I Want an Autograph, on a Check'
Bebe Neuwirth said, "In L.A. you have nothing to fear but earth, air, water and fire." She never met Unbeaten producer Steven Barber, a force of nature and a force for good, now hunting for celeb money at Sundance, fired up by his Cher-funded Oscar song contender.
"I have pitched Giamatti, Spacey, Paul Reiser so far," says Barber from Sundance, where he accosts passersby wearing a Mad Hatter hat covered with video screens of his doc about Alaska's 267-mile paraplegics' wheelchair race, Unbeaten, "a remarkable documentary of courage and inspiration," as Dan Aykroyd says in the intro. Barber says he also got a check from Cher -- ironic, since the film's song he got from Clint Black, "A Better Life," was one of 40 contenders for the Oscar along with Cher's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from Burlesque (and many future Cher concerts).
If you're a celeb, you haven't seen the last of Barber. "Went up to Redford last night at his restaurant Zoom and pitched him hard to narrate [a film]. He was nice but none too pleased." Niether was Harvey Weinstein, says Barber, when he pitched him at breakfast, nor Tom Hanks when he dropped off a script at his home. Jeff Bridges was gracious, says Barber, when he buttonholed him at the True Grit Chateau Marmont event. The key to financing do-gooder docs? "Catch 'em off guard. I was shoppin' at Whole Foods, Diane Lane was in front of me. Most people want an autograph. I want an autograph on a check." He says Lane gave him one.
Barber stays alive -- "barely" -- by "selling blinking stop signs with LEDs." He says he's been an extra in "a lotta five-and-unders" in Vancouver -- X-Files gave him a chance to pitch David Duchovny years later -- but what he really wants is to produce. "We're gonna get nominated. I can taste it!" Meanwhile, he's got to hit the Sundance street. "I'm going to look for money, baby. Right on Main Street. They can't get away."
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Scott, whose THR coverage appears both in print and online, is one of the film industry's most experienced and trusted awards analysts, and possesses one of the strongest track records at forecasting the Oscars. His best showings came in 2006 and 2013, when he called 21 of 24 winners; he was also the only pundit to project long-shot best picture nominations for The Reader (2008), The Blind Side (2009) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011). An alumnus of Brandeis University, he previously ran "The Feinberg Files" blog for the Los Angeles Times. He is now a voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, and is writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 350 high-profile Hollywood figures.
Gregg contributes awards news, features online, and "The Race" column in print.
Tim contributes awards news and features, both in print and online.