Good independent films are struggling to find distribution in the United States in these hard economic times, veteran actor Michael Douglas lamented this week at the Toronto film festival.
We re having a really tough time in the States in the distribution area if you look at this festival, Douglas told a press conference to promote his film Solitary Man.
The number of quality movies here that don t have an American distributor is somewhat disgraceful, he said.
There are a number of really good pictures here with a lot of talent that don t have one.
Toronto film festival organizers would not comment on distribution contracts until the curtains close on Sept. 19, but several others, including George Clooney, agreed with the sentiment.
It s certainly more difficult to produce movies now, said Clooney, noting his own challenges in keeping films within budget.
It requires us to economically change the way films are made for actors in my position, which means do them for almost nothing upfront and take a bad end, and if they make money, you make money, he added.
And if they don t, you made a movie that you wanted to make.
The largest of its kind in North America, the Toronto festival has traditionally been a key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors because it is attended by a sizable contingent of North American media.
Douglas admittedly rarely leaves his cherished wife actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and young children to work on films anymore unless offered a very juicy role, which he said is now his only reason to get out of the house.
I m not that motivated, nor do I see that many good projects that take me away from my family, said Douglas, who won an Oscar for his leading role in 1987 s Wall Street.
More women behind the camera
Female filmmakers are breaking out at this year s edition, reflecting a growing worldwide trend that could soon result in a first directing Oscar for a woman.
Women still account for an estimated 10 percent of directors in Hollywood and elsewhere. Australia and New Zealand are the exception, with an unexplained, more even male-female ratio of directors.
In a sign of things to come, however, female filmmakers this week have occupied some of Toronto s most coveted spots: screenings and press conferences in the first few days, when industry buyers and media are paying the most attention.
There s a new generation of young female filmmakers emerging, festival programmer Jane Schoettle told AFP. And this generation is insisting on expressing itself.
Schoettle also credits in part new film technologies that have made movie-making more accessible.
People who are disenfranchised, particularly women in socially-restricted countries, are gravitating to the medium to be heard, she said.
The Toronto film festival does not choose films to showcase based on a gender quota and there is no difference in the quality or feel of films directed by women, she noted.
But women are generally less afraid to tackle more difficult subjects because they have less to lose, Schoettle said.
In the male-dominated movie business, she commented, It s about financing and financing is about power and power is about clubs and it s very hard to break into the club.
But it s starting to happen, she said. Women directors are demonstrating they have more than their fair share of testosterone.
Female directors were first and last propelled to the front of Hollywood s awards race in 2003 when Sofia Coppola screened Lost in Translation here. Coppola is one of only three women to be nominated for a directing Oscar.
Lina Wertmuller and Jane Campion also earned the distinction, for Seven Beauties and The Piano, respectively.
None of them won.
Niki Caro s Whale Rider, Catherine Hardwicke s Thirteen, Patty Jenkins s Monster and Shari Springer Berman s American Splendor all made a strong impression that year too.
Campion is reportedly back in contention for prizes this year with Bright Star, about poet John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne, while Caro is said to have a good shot with her latest film The Vintner s Luck.
Other women who have screened their films at the festival this year include directors Lone Scherfig ( An Education ), Rebecca Miller ( The Private Lives of Pippa Lee ) and Leanne Pooley ( The Topp Twins ).
Drew Barrymore and Samantha Morton are making their directorial debuts in Toronto with Whip It and The Unloved, respectively.
And Kathryn Bigelow s Hurt Locker, which was screened last year in Toronto, has generated substantial Oscar buzz since its summer release.
Karyn Kusama s comedic horror Jennifer s Body, starring Megan Fox as a sexy high school girl who literally rips out men s hearts, also premiered here this week. Kusama was last in Toronto with Girl Fight in 2000.
Jennifer s Body was written by Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for her screenplay Juno in 2008.
It s different working for a woman (director), Fox told a press conference Friday. She s much more sensitive to how I may be feeling on a moment to moment basis.
She showed (in the film) that real is beautiful, that you don t have to look like an airbrushed Cosmopolitan (magazine) cover to be attractive.
And I didn t have to bend over a bike, which was nice, she quipped, taking a not-so-subtle jab at her previous role as eye candy in Transformers 2, now in theaters.
‘Chloe’ debuts amid condolences for co-star Neeson
Liam Neeson s colleagues on the sexual thriller Chloe reiterated their condolences over the death of his wife and gratitude for his quick return to finish the film.
Chloe had its world premiere at the fest earlier this week, less than six months after Natasha Richardson sustained a fatal head injury while skiing in Quebec.
Neeson, who is now making another film and did not attend the premiere, had departed the Toronto set of the film to be with his wife but returned the following week for his last few days of shooting.
After Richardson s death, I got this e-mail from him that he wanted to come back and finish it right away, and that it was the best thing for him to do, Chloe director Atom Egoyan said in an interview Monday. And that is just amazing. He s a consummate professional, and I think that s the smartest thing he could have done.
Chloe, inspired by the French drama Nathalie, revolves around a woman (Julianne Moore) who suspects her husband (Neeson) of cheating and hires a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried in the title role) to try to seduce him as proof of his infidelity.
The story twists into Fatal Attraction territory as lies, jealousy, suspicions and obsessions mount among the couple, their teenage son and Chloe.
“Everybody in this film has a somewhat different perception of the events and therefore a different reality, Moore said. It kind of explored a place in a marriage where they ve been together for a long time and maybe felt they knew an awful lot about each other. And then one day, she goes, ‘Oh my gosh, I don t think he s here at all.’
The key relationship in the film is between Moore and Seyfried s characters, with Neeson in a supporting role. Egoyan had directed Neeson in a play in New York City a year earlier and began pitching Chloe to the actor around that time.
It was very generous of him to do this film, because it really is about the two women, and for an actor of that stature to do this role, it s a really generous thing, Egoyan said.
While the filmmakers were able to carry on with Chloe, Neeson s tragedy left a personal mark on his cast and crew mates, said producer Ivan Reitman.
I think the biggest effect was the human impact, the realization that life can change in an instant, and people we love or ourselves are here one moment, and then they re gone, Reitman said. It didn t change the film, but it changed all of us as human beings. -Agencies