So much travelling lately my head is spinning, but got a particularly nice greeting upon landing in London this morning: a huge, two-page cover story spread on 51 Birch Street in the London Times, which announces the film is "rapidly becoming a phenomenon," among many other fine things.
I knew the article was coming, since the Times flew the journalist out to New York to see me, then down to Florida to interview my dad. I mean, you don’t do that for a capsule review. But the timing is particularly perfect in that I’ve come to England for the new festival, BritDoc, which starts tomorrow, and where I’m looking to raise money for two new docs I’m producing.
My first stop is the offices of Channel Four, where I show Program Exec Alexandra Finlay the 16-minute sample of The Danny Williams Story. It’s an amazing film about director Esther Robinson’s uncle Danny, who was Andy Warhol’s lover when he disappeared off the face of the earth in 1966. In searching for what happened to Danny, Esther unearthed 20 short films he shot in and around the Factory that are absolutely breathtaking, and seemingly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his life. Alex loves everything about the sample, but she does acquisitions and we don’t even quite yet have a rough cut. This is about planting the seeds, really.
On the way out, I stop by to see Tessa Payne in the Biz Affairs "office," which is actually a desk two down from Alex’s (the layout of Ch 4 is one of those endless open spaces, kind of like Jack Lemmon’s in The Apartment). I sign two copies of a contract and it’s official, 51 Birch has been licensed to More4 for the next 5 years.
On the bus ride out to BritDoc on the Oxford campus, I catch up on recent news in the Times, but the situation in the middle-East is beyond depressing. While coming into London from Heathrow, I’d noticed this charming graffiti on a passing wall: JEWS ARE EVIL MURDERERS AND NEED TO BE EXTERMINATED! Israel’s blitzkrieg of Lebanon is clearly going to have widespread repercussions for Jews everywhere.
Wherever I go, heat waves follow. San Francisco, where I spent 3 fabulous days at the SF Jewish Film Festival, was supposed to be in the high 60’s, but crept up almost into the 90’s (with no air conditioning at the 1400 seat Castro Theatre). Now England has followed suit - the dorm room I’m staying in at BritDoc is stifling and the forecast is for even higher temps tomorrow.
Lori will be joining me in the morning and, in addition to screening 51 Birch Street and my pushing individually for Danny Williams, we’ll be pitching a new doc we’ve just come on board for as Exec Producers, called American Harmony. It’s something that came to our attention recently and grabbed us both as simply a fun, quirky, vastly entertaining film. It follows a number of top Barbershop quartets over the course of the year through to the recent international finals, which took place while I was in Jerusalem. In other words, it’s a contest doc, and one that, almost unbelievably, came to an unprecedented, nail-biting conclusion.
Contest docs, hmm… Hoop Dreams, Spellbound, Mad Hot Ballroom, Wordplay… yep, they’ve done pretty well for themselves as a genre. So we’d like to think this is a no-brainer. But when you've been Around the Block a bit, you learn life in the doc world is never that simple or easy.