The seventh annual Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films closed on Sunday night having screened 284 films from around the world. And in the closing night award ceremony, winners of the 21 festival prizes, which shared a total of $43,000 in prize money, came from across the globe. Australian film-makers in particular were showered with awards - winning the best of festival award, best live action (over 15 mins), best student live action (under 15 mins) and a runner-up prize in best student live action (over 15 mins).
Beth Armstrong's Cheek To Cheek, a poignant 35-minute story of a new widow and her dog from Australia, won the festival's chief prize - the Best Of Festival award across all entries. Serguei Bassine's Because Of Mama, an American film set in St Petersburg and shot in Russian, won the coveted $15,000 Future Filmmaker Award.
Other winners voted on by the nine-person were:
Live action (15 minutes or under)
First prize: An Invitation To Lunch
Second prize: The Terms (Ireland)
Live action (over 15 minutes)
First prize: Delivery Day (Australia) Dir: Jane Manning
Second prize: Schneider's Second Stage (UK) Dir: Phil Stoole
First prize: Down To The Bone (Hasta Los Huesos) (Mexico) Dir: Rene Castillo
Second prize: Stubble Trouble (US) Dir: Joe Merideth
First prize: Beautiful America (Germany) Dir: Peter Roloff
Second prize: Grit And Polish (US) Dir: Birgit Rathsmann
First prize: Hypertension (US) Dir: Jeff Spoonhower
Second prize: Rick & Steve The Happiest Gay Couple In The World, Ep 3 (US) Dir: Q Allan Brocka
First prize: I Could Have Been Human (Moglem Bye Czlowiekiem) (Poland) Dir: Barbara Medajska
Second prize: Memories Incertaines (UK) Dir: Michale Boganim
Student Live Action (Under 15 minutes)
First prize: Harvey (Australia) Dir: Peter McDonald
Second prize: Beancake (Ohagi) (US) Dir: David Greenspan
Student Live Action (Over 15 minutes)
First prize: Lector (US) Dir: Greg Marcks
Second prize: Dog (Inja) (Australia) Dir: Steven Pasvolsky
The jury also made four special jury mentions to Miguel Sapochnik's The Dreamer (UK), Mauro Magazzino's The Encounter (Italy), Vassilis Douvlis' The Veteran (Greece) and Jesse Schmal's SUB! (USA)
As expected, Glenn Williamson - a former senior production executive at DreamWorks SKG - has joined USA Films as president of production, succeeding Donna Gigliotti who is leaving after two years to return to producing.
Gigliotti will continue to work with USA through the release of the last two productions she oversaw for the company - Robert Altman's Gosford Park which is scheduled to open on Dec 21, and Neil LaBute's Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart which was recently moved from 2001 to an early 2002 release date.
Williamson will start the job as of next week in a role which was specially created for Gigliotti by USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein. He will be based in USA's Beverly Hills offices and will report directly to the New York-based Greenstein.
He was at DreamWorks for four years, where, most notably, he brought into the company Alan Ball's spec script for American Beauty which went on to gross over $250m worldwide and win five Oscars in 1999. He also supervised Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, Sam Mendes' recently completed Road To Perdition, Gore Verbinski's The Mexican and Bronwen Hughes' Forces Of Nature - based on Williamson's own story idea.
He has recently been working on the development of The Tuxedo to star Jackie Chan, Catch Me If You Can which still has Leonardo DiCaprio attached and Walter Salles' The Assumption which will star Juliette Binoche and Benicio Del Toro.
Williamson began his career with DreamWorks co-heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald when the two were producers at Sony-based Aerial Pictures. He joined them when they moved to Amblin Entertainment and then when Amblin was absorbed into DreamWorks.
"Everyone at USA Films is thrilled that Glenn will be joining us here," said Greenstein in a statement. "Having Glenn join USA Films is a truly rewarding moment in our still-early evolution: he has worked on many of the best films of the past few years, and has the respect and admiration of the entire industry. Donna Gigliotti has been a significant asset to USA Films and our first full slate of productions. We all wish her great success in her future endeavors, and look forward to continuing to work with her closely."
It's been a curious year for USA Films. Starting with the huge box office success of Traffic - the company's first and to date only $100m-plus hit - and its four-out-of-five Oscar wins, it was then struck by the departure of president Russell Schwartz for New Line Cinema and the resignation of Gigliotti. Furthermore only last month, British TV
executive Michael Jackson was appointed chairman and CEO at USA Entertainment Group by USA Networks chief Barry Diller, giving Jackson control of Diller's networks as well as Greenstein's USA Films. It is thought Jackson, who maintained a hands-on approach with the FilmFour unit of Channel Four, will be similarly intimate with USA Films. Meanwhile, rumours around Hollywood have former MGM worldwide marketing chief Gerry Rich in talks to take over Schwartz's marketing role.
USA Films was formed by Diller by merging Gramercy Pictures, October Films and certain domestic assets of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, companies he acquired from Universal Pictures in 1999, and USA Home Entertainment.
USA's upcoming schedule includes Joel & Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't
There and Gosford Park before the end of this year, and new films from Labute, Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) and Billy Bob Thornton (untitled project with Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Penelope Cruz) in 2002.