Miss the boat to Sundance and you’re up a creek

THE QUINTESSENTIAL INDIE SCENARIO, once you get past story, financing and talent, finishes with, “and we’ll premiere the film at Sundance.”

Seth Willenson at IRS Media says that he wishes he had a dime for every time he’s heard that line. Frankly, most would settle for a nickel.

So, get out your hankies and laugh and cry.

The first story involves “The Picture Bride,” which was set for the main competition, but got yanked shortly after Miramax acquired domestic distribution rights.

Scuttlebutt is that the new plan is to launch “Bride” in Cannes. After all, don’t they say that a bird in the hand isn’t as good as a hope in the bush?

The second tale involves vet helmer Paul Williams, who made such seminal ’60s and ’70s indie fare as “Out of It” and “Dealing.” He’s been absent from the scene for about a decade. But last year he got sick and tired of wheeling and dealing, and plunked down his own cash to make a quickie black-comic thriller titled “The November Men.”

After jumping a lot of hurdles, the down and dirty, shoot-from-the-hip movie debuted to raves at the Chicago fest and secured commercial distribution via Arrow Releasing. Williams then submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival, and apparently the selection committee was blown away by its originality. The members immediately contacted Arrow about slotting a berth for the pic.

However, they talked to the wrong person at Arrow. The fest folk were told that the film would be released commercially prior to the event. What was actually planned was a test engagement in November, which would not have imperiled the picture’s eligibility to screen at the Utah event.

When Williams finally heard what went down, he quickly called up the organizers. It was too late. The program had already gone to the printers the day before. So, instead of schmoozing on the slopes next week, he’ll be baking in the desert sun at the Palm Springs Film Fest.

Luckily, screening at the festival neither affects the filmmaker getting distribution nor another gig. He’s already in pre-production on his next film, a psychological thriller titled “Smoke.” Filming begins at the end of the month and he’s set Sean Young and Steven Bauer for the leads.

FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS, you’ll probably be hearing more than you ever wanted to know about Sundance. More ink, in fact, than even its organizers wish to swim through.

There will be a lot written about its success, albeit grudgingly. Programmer Geoff Gilmore has already had his quota of physical threats from jilted filmmakers. And he’d happily welcome a counter event to the Park City ode to indies.

The curse of Sundance is there’s no alternative to it. On a certain plane, if you don’t go to Cannes, there’s always Venice or Berlin. Skip New York and you can hop to Toronto. But there’s a very hollow sound when someone says, “I passed on Sundance for the Wine Country Fest.”

A LOT OF PEOPLE have called Universal’s release pattern of “Schindler’s List” things like savvy, innovative and trail blazing. It’s unique for a film of this caliber not to have a specific expansion scenario. Among other limited releases, “Heaven and Earth” fanned out this week and “Philadelphia” expands on Friday.

The studio’s doing a fine job, but there’s a logistical reality to the release of the Spielberg opus many have missed. For starters, Deluxe Labs in New York is the only U.S. venue that can actually print black-and-white film on black-and-white stock. The common practice of printing black-and-white on color stock — because it’s more plentiful and can accommodate color sequences (there are several in “Schindler”) — ain’t the way it’s being done here.

The color sequences are actually being cut manually into the film, so only about 100 prints can be made a week. When the filmmaker and studio decided to take these pains, they were initially able to produce only eight copies daily.

It was not the most economic way to do it, but it is the best way to present the film’s stunning visuals. Of course, the stock is thinner and flimsier than standard color fare, so built into the equation is a percentage for replacement prints. Universal Films prexy Tom Pollock says it’s true these prints experience more wear and tear. However, at three hours-plus running time, “Schindler’s List” screens fewer times a day than everything save “Gettysburg.”