Focus Features chief executive James Schamus is planning an “anti-keynote keynote speech” when the takes the stage at The Time BFI 53rd London Film Festival last this month.
He will use the speech, entitled My Wife Is A Terrorist: Lessons In Storytelling from The Department Of Homeland Security, to call on the industry to take a step back to assess “why we do what we do and what role it has in the larger culture”. The talk is part of an ongoing project that Schamus eventually plans to publish as a book.
“We are drowning in way too much noise and speculation about the changing film marketplace, the digital horizon, piracy, the end of DVD sales and the financial stress of the studios,” Schamus said.
Schamus will also talk about what the film industry has to learn from contemporary narrative theory, “by way of a discussion about my wife, who apparently is a terrorist”. His wife, author and political activist Nancy Kricorian, was included on a list of “terrorists” by6 the Maryland State Police.
He will address the way narrative is used by “these extraordinary and gigantic spy bureaucracies”.
“Look, I live in a country where as a citizen I could literally be arrested today. According to not the Bush administration but the Obama administration, I could be placed in indefinite custody in an overseas secret location and never charged for the rest of my life. So that’s a little weird.”
Schamus’s speech, which is being hosted in association with Skillset, comes as the LFF seeks to ramp up its profile with the UK and international industry.
The festival will be hosting four days of Industry Screenings at the Curzon Soho, Monday October 19 – Thursday 22. These will be for films that are yet to secure UK distribution. Between 20 and 30 UK buyers are expected to attend. A similar number of international sales agents are also expected in town, among them, representatives from Wild Bunch, EuropaCorp, TrustNordisk and Celluloid Dreams.
Meanwhile, the Festival has been using some of its extra UKFC lottery funding to lure more key international press reprsentatives to the festival. Journalists from IndieWIRE, The New York Post and Le Monde are all due in the capital.
Focus will be presenting Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock and The Coen brothers’ A Serious Man. On the eve of the Festival, Schamus was striking an optimistic note about the state of the specialised market. “There are challenges, in particular the shrinkage of the DVD market and certain weaknesses in some of the international territories as a result of the changing TV landscape,” he said.
Schamus acknowledged he was “somewhat depressed by the lack of critical mass of colleagues in this sphere…frankly, there are fewer players. That means that I go to festivals and there are a lot of movies that I don’t have room for on my slate that I would love to acquire. A lot of those films are not getting properly released.”
As for his own ongoing collaboration with Ang Lee, Schamus confirmed that he was working on a new screenplay for Lee. “Ang is currently working on a couple of things outside the fold that he might do, which would be wild and fun. I’ll be the first one to get in line and pay for it but at the same time, I am writing a screenplay for him right now. We’ll see what is next.”