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Like I said, a good man to get behind your movie. Besides that, he’s a genuinely nice guy with zero attitude. I talked to him recently about going the distance for a film, festival madness and Carnahan, the Sacramento State whiz kid.
REA: You spend the better part of the nineties with the Samuel Goldwyn Company, working your way up from a PA position to Director of Acquisitions. What was it like working for a small, independent studio?
LYNN: I was definitely in the right place. The great thing about working in a place like that is the egalitarian structure. Everybody reads, everybody does coverage.
REA: Not a bad place to learn the ropes.
REA: Did you get along with Sam Goldwyn?
LYNN: Bottom line is we shared a passion for movies. He believed that every movie had something good about it, and that it was ultimately more rewarding to focus on what succeeded in a film that on what didn't. That advice has served me well.
REA: Acquisitions is a tight, competitive arena.
LYNN: Sure, but very exciting. At the time, Goldwyn was really starting to gear up. They had just come off of LONGTIME COMPANION and HENRY V, and were expanding their production and acquisition departments. The whole world of independent film was exploding, and basically it was my job to stay on top of it. I was already tracking most of the U.S. festivals.
REA: So, for those of us who lead less stimulating lives, what’s it like to get the hots for a film?
LYNN: I had been tracking a film unofficially known as the “necrophilia film”, which I first saw in 1996 at the Toronto Film Festival. I really wanted that movie.
REA: Officially known as KISSED, starring Molly Parker. What did you like about it?
LYNN: It was different. That was we looked for at Goldwyn. Something that we had never seen, told in an unique style and voice. We felt the same way about I LOVE YOU, DON’T TOUCH ME, a great little film directed by Julie Davis, whom Kenneth Turan heralded as a “female Woody Allen.”
REA: Goldwyn bought both of these films, but it can’t always be that easy.
LYNN: It’s never easy. You always want to be first in line when it comes to some of these smaller films, but a lot of these people automatically go to Miramax or New Line. But my philosophy is if something you want is sold to another company, so be it. If you’re determined enough, your time will come.
REA: And sometimes the most publicized “buys” turn out to be duds.
LYNN: IN THE COMPANY OF MEN was bought a month after Sundance last year, but it did better box office than anything sold during the festival.
REA: As the acquisitions guy, how do you prepare for a festival? Do you cram on the plane?
LYNN: You could, but I don’t know how successful you’d be once you got there. There’s a breakneck pace to most festivals, and you've got to respect that. At Cannes last year, there was an unscheduled screening announced in the middle of the festival. The acquisitions people got wind of it, the press got wind of it, and everybody converged on this tiny theater. The story, as I heard it, was that midway through the screening, Miramax got up and bought it.
REA: What film are we talking about?
LYNN: DOBERMANS, an action film, not yet released.
REA: Joe Carnahan first got in touch with you on the web?
LYNN: I’m on America Online one night, and I get an instant message from some guy telling me he’s shot a low-budget movie for $7300, and would I like to look at it?
REA: You get that a lot?
LYNN: Yea, especially on-line. I always say yes when people ask me to look at their films, because you never know when you’re going to find that needle in a haystack.
REA: And this just happened to be one of those times.
LYNN: I’m watching the tape in my office. My door’s open; people are coming in and out. After ten minutes of this, I stop the tape, close the door and rewind. I call Joe about midway into the movie. I ask him how many people he’s shown it to, and he says three, including you. I say, stop right there, don’t show it to anyone else.
REA: What turned you on?
LYNN: Again, it was like nothing I had seen before.
REA: This is his first film?
REA: Did he go to film school?
LYNN: Sacramento State. Film school can teach you how to make a film, but they can’t give you the instincts of a good filmmaker. Joe has those instincts.
REA: What shape is the film in when you see it?
LYNN: He had shot the film on 16mm, transferred the negative to video, cut it on video, then transferred it back to 16mm.
REA: You’re attached to the film at this point. What’s your first move?
LYNN: I immediately thought this film should go to IFFM, but the submissions process was over. I made some calls to people I knew and basically begged them to look at the tape. I realized our chances were slim, but I also knew this film was what IFFM was all about. Fortunately, they saw it the same way and gave us a great time slot. We’re encouraged, and start working on early submission for Sundance.
REA: Meanwhile, back on the home front...
LYNN: They shut Samuel Goldwyn down. I call Joe and tell him I’m out of a job, and he says, hey, more time to rep my movie.
REA: There’s a silver lining for you.
LYNN: I fly to Toronto Film Festival, which despite recent events, turns out to be a great experience because they really stood behind me and the film. From there, I go to IFFM in New York. We screen on Tuesday, and a couple of nights later at a party the buzz is so good, we got agents, managers, and lawyers coming out of the woodwork. Amy Taubin from the VILLAGE VOICE did a story on the film and called it “better than USUAL SUSPECTS.”
REA: Is this when Next Wave Films enters the picture?
LYNN: They gave us finishing funds so we could blow it up to 35mm. It still wasn’t easy. We did six months of post-production in eight weeks. We came to Sundance without a print. The print had to hand-carried in. The day of the screening, the Seattle lab had retimed the first reel and a half, sent new reels out, and I picked them up at the airport on the afternoon of the midnight screening. I brought them back to the Miner's Hospital in Sundance and stayed there until they built up the prints and gave me the old reels back.
REA: Did you like being shown at midnight?
LYNN: Everybody wants to screen competition, but the important thing is we were there. We didn’t actually screen until 12:40, but everyone stayed and we got great responses.
REA: You're going to continue to produce with Carnahan (director/producer) and Dan Leis (actor/producer). What do you see in the future for your first venture together, BLOOD GUTS BULLETS & OCTANE?
LYNN: We’re going to sell it. I wouldn’t have my time and effort into it if I didn’t think the film was viable for a theatrical market. We have offers from a few companies, so it’s only a matter of time.
The worldwide rights to BLOOD GUTS BULLETS & OCTANE have recently been purchased by Lion's Gate Films, Inc.
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