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New York Times Stages Online Indie Film Fest With L.A.’s Film Independent (Exclusive)

Newspaper’s website will stream four pics exclusively from Sept. 3 to Oct. 2

The New York Times is hosting its first indie film festival on the Internet, streaming four titles on NYTimes.com for free during September, extending bicoastal relationship with Los Angeles-based nonprofit org Film Independent.

Old Gray Lady lined up trio of sponsors — Acura, Stella Artois Cidre and Broadway musical “Big Fish”, starting previews Sept. 5 ahead of Oct. 6 open — for The New York Times Indie Online Film Festival. Publisher will host the four pics, curated by Film Independent, exclusively for 30-day period, from Sept. 3 to Oct. 2.

The Times is not compensating the filmmakers participating in the digital fest, with organizers touting benefits of exposure. NYTimes.com had 30.6 million unique visitors in June 2013, making it the 35th-largest web property in the U.S., according to research firm comScore.

“Our belief is that the filmmakers who opted in to do this, just like they go around to film festivals, will have access to a broad audience that will maybe in turn provide them with new opportunities,” said New York Times marketing veep Laura Langdon. She declined to disclose size of the sponsorship deals.

Added Doug Jones, associate director of programming at Film Independent, “It’s easy enough for someone to put their film online, but that’s like throwing a pebble into the ocean. It’s hard enough to make a movie. It’s even harder to get people to watch it.”

The Times has been a presenting sponsor of Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, and “this gives us the opportunity to slowly wade into the digital waters, so to speak,” Jones said.

The four pics — two feature-length films and two shorts — represent range of styles and themes:

  • “Pincus” (pictured above), directed by David Fenster (79 min.): A man moves home to help his father, who’s afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, casually taking over the family contracting business, wooing a yoga instructor and conversing with his only friend, an illegal alien who lives in the empty homes they work on. Pic was entry in 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • “Towheads,” directed by Shannon Plumb (86 min.): A Brooklyn mother of two boys and the wife of a harried theater director finds comic relief from domestic drudgery by adopting different personas — including drag king, pole dancer and Santa Claus.
  • “Big Man,” directed by Julius Onah (14 min.): Uzoma loves playing games with his little brother, in spite of his father’s warnings. And sometimes, simple games have serious consequences. Onah is in development for “God Particle” with producer J.J. Abrams and Paramount.
  • “Record/Play,” directed by Jesse Atlas (11 min.): Sci-fi love story, an official selection at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, tells tale of war, fate and a broken tape recorder.

To promote the event, the Times plans to run print and online ads from house inventory. In addition, The Times and Film Independent will host live screenings on both coasts: in New York City 7 at TheTimesCenter Sept. 7 and in L.A. on Sept. 9 at the Sonos Studio.

At the events, the four filmmakers will participate in live Q&A discussions moderated by Times culture reporter Jacob Bernstein in Gotham and Film Independent prexy Josh Welsh in Los Angeles. Sessions will also be available for replay at NYTimes.com.

Members of the New York Times Film Club, $100 per year for individual subscription for up to 12 screenings, will be eligible for tix to the live screenings.

The Times posted trailers of the films at NYTimes.com/indiefilm on Tuesday. Execs noted that the film fest is separate from editorial operations of the New York Times, and the microsite carries a disclaimer to that effect.

Film Independent runs more than 250 annual screenings and events, including the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series.

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