Ethan Hawke's Chelsea Walls, a star-studded digital video production that receives its world premiere in the Directors' Fortnight section of this year's Cannes Film Festival this year, has been acquired for France by ARP Selection. It is the first territory to be sold on the film outside North America where Lions Gate Releasing will handle distribution.
Based on Nicole Burdette's play of the same name, Chelsea Walls stars Kevin Corrigan, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Sean Leonard, Natasha Richardson, Tuesday Weld, Frank Whaley, Steve Zahn and Hawke's own wife Uma Thurman, all of them playing contemporary dreamers or artists residing in New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel.
Killer Films' Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler produced the film for Independent Digital Entertainment (InDigEnt), New York's digital video collective that was inspired by both Denmark's Dogme 95 no-frills-film-making manifesto and by one of the original pioneers of cinema verite-style low-budget cinema, the late John Cassavetes.
Jointly created by director Gary Winick (The Tic Code), entertainment lawyer John Sloss (Cinetic Media) and IFC Productions, InDigEnt has completed five productions so far, including two that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival - Bruce Wagner's Women in Film and Richard Linklater's well-reviewed Tape. Also among that initial five, all of which were acquired as a package by Lions Gate for domestic release, is Campbell Scott's Final, a psychological game of cat-and-mouse starring Denis Leary and Hope Davis.
Under the InDigEnt scheme, established screenwriters, directors and actors agree to work within a framework of budgetary and technical limitations. In exchange, the entire filmmaking team - everyone from the director and actors down to the grips - share 50% of all revenue generated from the first dollar, creating what InDigEnt's creators believe is the truest partnership yet in filmmaking.
Another five InDigEnt video productions is due to be completed by the end of this year, including one directed by Winick himself and starring Sigourney Weaver.
ARP's acquisition of Chelsea Walls is the just the latest in a string of bold purchases of American independent features by the French independent. At the Sundance Film Festival this year, ARP bought continental European rights to Haiku Tunnel. It also pre-bought French -speaking rights to David Siegel and Scott McGehee's The Deep End (also screening in Directors' Fortnight) and Joel Hopkins' Jump Tomorrow, in both instances before the US domestic buyers Fox Searchlight and IFC Films, respectively, came on board.
The InDigEnt team consists of: Gary Winick and Alexis Alexanian, who oversee all productions through the InDigEnt office; Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films, and Caroline Kaplan, vice president of film & programme development, who oversee production at IFC Films; and John Sloss, a partner in InDigEnt who also handles sales on the slate.