For many in the biz, it's business as usual
EmptyNEW YORK -- Hollywood is dead, or at least in a coma. The talent agencies and virtually every studio are officially closed between Christmas and New Year's. It's a time when the industry gets to catch its breath during awards season and right before Sundance. Hypothetically.
In New York, not so much. "People don't take time off as religiously in New York as they do in L.A.," says HDNet Films co-founder Jason Kliot. An informal sampling of other East Coast film execs reveals that the city that never sleeps supports an industry that never really stops working.
James Schamus jokes that his studio's slogan is "Focus Features: Open 24 Hours." ThinkFilm US theatrical head Mark Urman, who's spending the holidays in his New Jersey home with family, admits, "I'm still not done with 2006. CAA closed, and I don't know how many e-mails I've gotten today from agents there."
Since Urman is the nervous dad of young drivers, he leaves his cell phone on all night, leaving him victim to text messages from a nervous director at 3:30 in the morning. "When someone gives you their film, it's like their child. There are very few boundaries, and notion of protocol flies out the window. No one thinks, 'Should I be calling someone when they're having an appendectomy?'" he sighs. "I'm not a surgeon and I don't save lives. No one ever died over a movie crisis."
Even execs that get away for the holidays don't really get away. Kliot and his HDNet partner Joana Vicente are taking their kids to an eco-friendly resort in Tulum, Mexico, with solar power, recycled water, no TV ... and wireless Internet access. "I'm a workaholic, so at night I can sneak off and do my e-mails," says Kliot, who has two films in Sundance. "I work with Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, and they're always working."
Another Cuban/Wagner company, Magnolia Pictures, is open this week with "a skeleton crew," says president Eamonn Bowles, who's managing a few days away for a trip to Florida with family. Emerging Pictures president Ira Deutchman's outfit will be closed, but he anticipates at least a few calls from his theaters. He'll be watching a "smorgasbord" of awards-season screeners, like many of his L.A. counterparts. "They'll hopefully refresh my memory as to why I wanted to be in this business in the first place," he says.
Picturehouse president Bob Berney has his Oscar hopeful "Pan's Labyrinth" opening just before year's end. "You sit around and freak out," he says, noting plenty of exit polls at theaters, checking the boxoffice grosses, making expansion plans. "I really like it, but it's a 24-hour-a-day on-call situation," he says. Berney also will be working with New Line Cinema vp production and acquisitions Meredith Finn overseeing production on the horror film "Amusement." Thanks to the miracle of technology, Finn will schlep into the office to view digitally downloaded dailies from Budapest. "As things like BlackBerries and laptops and cell phones came along, the lines of when you stop and start working have been continuously blurred," she notes.
With film finance attorneys like Andrew Hurwitz of Epstein, Levinsohn, Bodine, Hurwitz and Weinstein, there's no pretense that this is even a holiday -- he'll be closing four deals this week. "It's about trying to meet firm deadlines where people say 'this needs to be done by the end of the year,' or projects where no one wants to stop a week or two, miss precise windows and have the whole thing fall apart," Hurwitz says. "Deals also need to be completed for tax reasons."
Ah yes, taxes. The only thing in life that's certain for New York film execs besides death ... and Sundance.