Chanticleer quits Features Program

Chanticleer Films is scrapping its eight-month-old Features Program, aimed at giving novices the opportunity to direct low-budget features, a move that has drawn howls of outrage from at least a few applicants.

Company officials say there were “no viable” projects that qualified for production among the more than 200 submissions received. But at least one disgruntled applicant is irked that the company didn’t follow through on its plan to announce finalists in June after entrants paid the required $ 50 or $ 100 submission fee.

Chanticleer announced last March that with the financial backing of Showtime Networks Inc. it intended to produce six features costing around $ 1.3 million each. The movies were to be aired on Showtime. The program was an offshoot of Chanticleer’s successful Discovery Program.

The deadline for submissions was May 26, 1992, and in its application form, the company stated that prospective directors would be chosen and notified on or about June 2, 1992.

Chanticleer creative affairs VP Joy Ryan, who personally read the majority of submissions, said the company received 150 scripts from novices, who paid $ 50 each, and 74 video reels from experienced directors, who paid $ 100 apiece.

Chanticleer prexy Jana Sue Memel said that “we haven’t found anything in any of the material we looked at that we thought to be commercially viable and were willing to pass forward in the marketplace.”

Ryan said that generally the works “didn’t fit the guidelines … either they didn’t fit the genre, they weren’t commercial or they were too expensive–some of these people didn’t have a concept of cost.”

Memel claims that “all but six people whose scripts we didn’t read were contacted and sent (rejection) letters.” She said that in a “few isolated instances, where we thought people had talent and promise, we called them in and discussed the possibility of doing something, but we found nothing we wanted to make.”

Both she and Ryan pointed out that as is with the case with Hollywood studios: “It’s not unusual that out of 150 scripts, we didn’t find a project we wanted to make.”

One angry screenwriter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “They promised they were going to announce the winners in June, then by October they stopped taking calls and I got voice mail. … And, I had no recollection of them saying that they reserved the right not to go forward with a feature production. Otherwise, why don’t all of us declare film contests and earn tens of thousands of dollars in fees without doing any work?”

Memel pointed out that “there was never a promise” to produce any of the scripts, as was made clear in the application form.

The form itself states: “Submission of this application is not a contract. The production company does not guarantee any director of material/script will be chosen from submitted material/script through the application process or that any film will be produced from submitted material.” The form also notes that application fees are non-refundable.

Responding to the various beefs of the anonymous source, Memel–who along with her Chanticleer partner Jonathan Sanger established the Discovery Program six years ago–said: “We didn’t get tens of thousands of dollars. We responded to everybody in writing, and if he didn’t receive his, he must have moved.”

There are always disgruntledfringe elements in Hollywood and reasons why their films don’t get made. And if he’d like a personal response beyond the one he claims he didn’t receive, he’s welcome to call Joy Ryan and speak to her.”

Memel also said, “We check our voice mail several times a day, clearly if the gentlemen would have left a message we would have returned it. If he felt he had been ignored, it would have simply taken a letter to anyone at Chanticleer, which would have been responded to.”

The source responded: “At Chanticleer’s suggestion, I wrote to Michele Friedman (at Chanticleer) and also left numerous phone messages for her, which were all ignored.”

Hillary Ripps, associate producer and VP in charge of production administration for Chanticleer, said the money received–a total of $ 14,900 –was applied to costs incurred with processing submissions, including photocopying, mailings and other clerical assistance.

Ripps claims, “It cost us money to run the program. In fact we lost money on this.”

Chanticleer officials estimate they spent 500 man hours reading and processing the materials.

Memel insists that she is “real sad that the features program didn’t work” and that while she personally came up with the idea that it would “give all these disenfranchised people out there who don’t have access to the system a way to get their films made, I found out my theory was wrong.

“When we got this vast load of scripts in we found out that by and large in 99% of the cases, the people who are not able to access those who can help them are not sophisticated enough to know what makes a viable project–they’re still learning.”

The only advice the Chanticleer prexy said she would give budding filmmakers is “be aware of what is out there and what works. Go to the movies, turn on your TV sets and see what people make. Don’t think something is commercial because you want to see it … don’t think you’re going to show Hollywood what it needs to make.”

The Discovery Program will continue to give established industry professionals a chance to direct their first short film.

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