Like Gotham, L.A. now gets a ‘First Look’

NEW YORK — For the past five years, industryites on the prowl for new talent have gathered on the second Tuesday of the month at Gotham’s Tribeca Film Center for First Look, a showcase for the work of new filmmakers. Now, the West Coast creative community has the same option because the screenings were recently expanded to Los Angeles, where they are held at the offices of Creative Artists Agency.

“The reality is that the industry is on both coasts,” First Look director Harlene Freezer said. “No other entity offers filmmakers a chance to screen their work on both coasts. The fact that the screenings take place within a week helps to create bi-coastal buzz.”

When a filmmaker’s work is screened at First Look, he able to get constructive feedback and establish contacts with industry execs. Because the series is not for review purposes, there is no danger of a critic lambasting a film that has not yet secured distribution. This policy also helps insure that a First Look berth will not prevent a film from being accepted by festivals, which generally do not select pics that have already been reviewed.

Jointly sponsored by Tribeca and Eastman Kodak, First Look began in 1992 at the behest of Robert De Niro, who had co-founded Tribeca with Jane Rosenthal four years earlier to tap the city’s ample creative resources.

First Look is co-chaired by Chip Wilkinson of Eastman Kodak and Tribeca vice president Trina Wyatt. De Niro and Rosenthal co-chair an honorary board that includes such entertainment heavyweights as Nora Ephron, Quincy Jones, Harvey Keitel, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

There also is an advisory board, whose 16 members include producers, sales agents and publicists acting as film scouts for the series.

Since its inception, First Look has helped such films as Hal Salwen’s “Denise Calls Up,” Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s “Party Girl,” Robby Henson’s “Pharoah’s Army” and Dierdre Fishel’s “Risk” find theatrical distribution. It also has been the launching pad for pics selected for film festivals such as Sundance. Regular attendees at the series include reps from October Films, Fox Searchlight and agencies International Creative Management and William Morris.

But the series has a purpose beyond connecting filmmakers with distribs. “First Look is a talent showcase,” Freezer says. “Many films which would otherwise not be seen are given exposure to industry professionals, and people’s skills are put on display, whether they be directing, acting or cinematography.”

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