Colleagues honor Hope at Hamptons

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The Hamptons International Film Festival feted indie producer Ted Hope on Thursday night at its third annual Industry Toast. The event was the unofficial kickoff to the fest for many top members of the New York film industry.

Former and present colleagues, from Focus Features CEO James Schamus and directors John Waters and Todd Solondz to fellow producers Christine Vachon, Ross Katz, Anthony Bregman and Anne Carey turned out to honor Hope's career, which includes such films as "The Ice Storm," "In the Bedroom," "Happiness" and "21 Grams."

The tribute comes at a pivotal moment in the history of the company he founded, This Is That Prods. Hope's longtime partner Bregman (who started as the producer's unpaid assistant at Good Machine in 1992) left on good terms this month to form his own production company, Likely Story, leaving the This Is That reins to Hope and fellow partner Carey.

"Maybe this marks a nice closure to Phase 2 of my career, the first at Good Machine and the next with Anthony at This Is That," Hope said before the event. Although he initially spoke of producing two-three films a year with his new streamlined staff, he now says that he will keep his output steady. "We produced seven films this year, and we may end up producing seven more next year and seven more the year after that," he said.

The honor also gave Hope a chance to reflect on the state of the indie film industry. "We're on these traditional tracks: domestic business leading to international business, leading to ancillary business. We've got to get away from this strict theatrical fetish we have," he said. "When the guys at Netflix say 'Palindromes' has exceeded its boxoffice dollars in rentals and is driving more business to Todd Solondz's earlier films, that says a lot about where our business is heading."

Hope also hinted that, despite Bregman's departure, This Is That should continue to grow and evolve along with the industry. "Studios may be cutting back on their films, but there are entrepreneurs out there creating even more opportunities than before, with companies like Netflix and people in the DVD premiere business," he said.

Tributes at the event ranged from reverent to scathing. HIFF executive director Denise Kasell said, "I think he's a rarity among us: an honest man." But Hope was frequently razzed for his parsimonious style and, as host Rosie Perez put it, his "SpongeBob Square Pants voice — the only one in the business I know with a voice like mine."

Schamus read fake letters from such fellow filmmakers as David O. Russell ("You passed on 'Spank the Monkey,' so guess what, you can spank my monkey, asshole!") but added, "I owe more to Ted Hope than anyone here."

It was a busy day for Hope, who spoke onstage in the afternoon with Vachon about her new memoir "A Killer Life." Hope wrote a few pages for his friend's book, in part because he related so much. "If you take away the names and titles, we've all gone through the same experiences she has," he said.
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