Canuck outfit wings into U.S. with 'Buffalo'

MONTREAL — This year Cinepix Film Properties embarks on its most ambitious year of feature film production, with a pic six-pack set to shoot, including two U.S. projects.

Stateside projects are “Buffalo 66,” the directorial debut from thesp Vincent Gallo (“Palookaville,” The Funeral”), and “Johnny Skidmarks,” which toplines Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand, Peter Gallagher and “Third Rock From the Sun” star John Lithgow.

The CFP pics all are in the $4.5 million budget range, except for “Johnny Skidmarks” which comes in at $6 million. The slate illustrates CFP’s commitment to making inexpensive, indie films with up-and-coming helmers and, in many cases, well-known onscreen talent.

CFP retains all world rights to the films, which are sold via its international sales division, and some may be released Stateside through its domestic Gotham-based distribution operation.

“Buffalo 66,” which wraps in Buffalo at the end of this week, is written and directed by Gallo, who also appears in the pic, along with Anjelica Huston, Christina Ricci, Roseanna Arquette and Mickey Rourke. It is a dark comedy about a guy who kidnaps a woman to make his parents believe he’s married. The film, which is financed by CFP, is produced by Chris Hanley (“Trees Lounge”), and CFP likely will be credited as executive producer on the project.

Feature bow

“Johnny Skidmarks,” which currently is shooting in and around Los Angeles, is the first feature directed by scripter John Raffo (“The Relic”), and is the story of a crime-scene photog (Gallagher) and his girlfriend (McDormand), who are hounded by an inquisitive cop (Lithgow).

Written by Raffo, pic is produced by CFP production veepee Mike Paseornek, Karen Severin and Karen Weaver. Executive producers are CFP executive vice president Jeff Sackman, CFP president Andre Link and CFP chairman John Dunning.

“It’s a departure for Canadian companies to be involved shooting films in the U.S.,” Dunning said. “It’s usually the reverse, with Americans up in Canada shooting here and taking advantage of the Canadian dollar. Now we’re in the U.S. shooting. We’re finding that it’s fairly successful. You don’t have to make studio films. Look at the Oscars. It shows that independent films have a certain cachet and a certain success.”

Seasoned indie thesp Steve Buscemi, who made his directorial debut with “Trees Lounge,” currently is working on a script for CFP, “Prisoner of Love,” which he will direct for the Montreal-based company later this year.

Thriller in the pipeline

Other upcoming CFP feature projects include the thriller “Tom and Jerry,” to be shot in Toronto in June by Canuck thesp-turned-helmer Saul Rubinek, with Joe Mantegna, Ted Danson and Peter Riegert.

Production is under way on “Marco Polo,” shooting in Kiev in the Ukraine under the direction of Vancouver helmer George Erschbamer and featuring Jack Palance, Oliver Reed and Don Diamant from “The Young and the Restless.”

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