Distribs bridge new IFFM deals

'Hellgate' hot, 'Monsoon' reins 'em

NEW YORK — Despite the rainy weather, the Independent Feature Film Market remained lively on Tuesday, dominated by gangsters, kudos and talk of foreign markets.

The hot screening of the day was actor turned helmer Michael Sergio’s Gotham-based mobster pic “Under Hellgate Bridge,” which garnered a full house that included cast members Vincent Pastore and Dominic Chianese, who also appear on HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

By day’s end, there were domestic and foreign theatrical distribution offers on the table, insiders said. Pic concerns a gangster who tries to win back the love of his life from a competing mobster. The producers expect to sign a deal within the coming weeks.

Tuesday’s market saw fiction films wresting away the IFFM spotlight from the docus that have traditionally done well at the market.

The day’s high-profile screenings included Adam Marcus’ “Snow Days,” a wedding comedy starring Bernadette Peters, who attended the showing.

‘Monsoon’ reins ’em in

A special evening screening of “The Young Girl and the Monsoon” was skedded in response to strong word-of-mouth following its midday showing. Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight and Miramax were expected to attend.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s session of No Boarders — the IFFM’s forum to match projects in progress with perspective financing — featured Robin Gutch of Film Four Lab, the development arm of U.K. production company Film Four. Gutch discussed the rapidly changing demands of the Brit TV market.

“U.K. television has changed dramatically over the last four or five years,” Gutch said. “It is infinitely more slot-driven, with programming more theme-oriented then ever before.” As a result, Gutch added, it’s harder to predict how viable a project will prove to be.

Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker drove through the rain from Connecticut to address the crowded session’s foreign filmmakers concerning the U.S. market for foreign-lingo pics. Overseas filmmakers comprised 25% of the No Borders participants.

Upbeat on foreign pics

“This year, life is a lot better for foreign films in the United States,” Barker said, citing such well-received films as “Life Is Beautiful” and “Central Station.” “While American indies have traditionally done much better in the marketplace overall, recent American indie films are exceedingly poor in quality,” he commented.

Barker added that foreign films have made great strides in the video sell-through and DVD markets because they appeal to collectors.

As for kudos, the Independent Feature Project awarded the first annual Heathcote screenplay fellowship to Shawn Lawrence Otto for “Shining White,” his script about a gambler’s redemption.

The Independent Film Channel also announced the four winners of the IFC 2000 student film competition. The jury included Nora Ephron, documentary filmmaker Les Blank and IFC director of acquisitions George Lentz.

Awardees included grand prize winner Kelly L. Riley from the Rhode Island School of Design as well as UC Santa Barbara’s Brian Emerson, New York School of the Visual Arts’ Rebecca Marshall and NYU’s Jim Cox.

New Latino org

In other IFFM news, a bicoastal effort has yielded the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, which has been formed in response to the recent demise of the National Latino Communications Center.

A reception was held Monday night at the Public Theater to fete the new org. Edward James Olmos, a surprise guest, showed up to express his support.