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Reporterís Notebook, Day 3: The 17th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival

Originally Posted: October 13, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

Sharon Stone at Nick & Toni's Breakthrough Performers Brunch Reception. Photos by Douglas Harrington

East Hampton - Thank goodness for my comfy bed at the Huntting Inn, because after just two days at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) I was already exhausted and collapsed into sleep Friday night following the Breakthrough Artists reception at Georgica Restaurant. However, after a good night's sleep and a great breakfast at the Huntting I was ready to go on the busiest day of the festival, Saturday.

Actress Sharon Stone smiles for Hamptons.com.

The overcast sky and intermittent raindrops did not deter the traffic, in car or on foot, in East Hampton. Yes, the festival was now definitely in full swing. My Saturday morning destination was yet another reception for the Rising Stars-U.S. and Shooting Stars-Europe Breakthrough Performer designees; these kids are probably as tired as I am. However, they were undoubtedly as excited as I was because the centerpiece of this reception was none other than the brilliant and beautiful actress Sharon Stone.

This brunch event was hosted at the venerable Nick & Toni's, along with The Palm, one of the most popular restaurants in East Hampton. The Breakthrough Performers arrived at about 12 noon and included Emmy Rossum, Emma Stone, Alba Rohrwacher, Samuli Varaumo and Cyron Melville. The young performers posed for group and single shots and did some interviews with the two dozen press members in attendance while awaiting the arrival of Stone.

Stone arrived amid a steady rain and was ushered into the restaurant. The press corps moved into a covered, glassed sun room that had been opened up for the shoot because of the inclement weather and awaited the photo opt.

Overprotective, as most publicists are, we were told by Stone's very British handler that she would not be fielding any questions or giving any interviews. The photographers could care less, but this, of course, threw a pale over the hopes of the journalists, yours truly included.

Stone walked through the door and joined the young performers with a "Hi, good to see you all." Well, she did start the conversation, and as I said before, her publicist was just being overprotective, as Stone graciously stood and did interviews with all of us after the photo shoot.

The New York Film Critics Circle panel discussion at the HIFF.


Stone's advice to the young performers was, "To keep and maintain your individuality, there is only one of you." I asked the Academy Award nominated actress about her connection to the Hamptons, "I am from Pennsylvania, but I do have a big East Coast connection. My grandparents are here, so that is really great. Just coming back to the East Coast and seeing the change in seasons is very restoring. It is very nice." I also asked Stone if she had a collateral event early in her career at a film festival that parallels the experience of the young actors being honored at the HIFF and at the brunch, "My first film festival was Cannes, so that is like coming out of the chute in a rocket. The first time I was ever at a film festival was when we took 'Total Recall' to sell it at a festival. The first time I ever had a film open a film festival, we opened with 'Basic Instinct,' so as I said I came out at a film festival on a rocket."

Film critic John Anderson and director/screenwriter James Toback following the New York Film Critics Circle panel discussion.

I was curious, after several years off, if she had any projects on the horizon, "Yes, I am shooting a film in London. I am going back to work in films now that all my kids are in school. I have taken another big part in a movie. I am doing a film called 'Satisfaction' which is being shot in London in the first quarter of next year." Very excited to be starring in this thriller about a male escort and the other women he falls in love with, Stone said, "The director is Anya Camilleri, she is really great. She is the inventor and director of the London and New York based television series called 'Nylon,' and she is a lovely lady."

As I mentioned in the first installment, this festival is more than just movie screenings - and later that afternoon I attended a panel discussion at the First Presbyterian Church between members of the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) - regarding the present state of film criticism. The very impressive critics' line-up included Marshall Fine, Karen Durbin, John Anderson, Thelma Adams and Armand White, who is the chairman of the NYFCC. The panel was moderated by director/screenwriter James Toback, as the HIFF is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NYFCC. I asked Toback how he thought the discussion went, "I thought it was a lot of fun. It was very lively and I thought we covered everything. It didn't have any dead moments and I felt everybody was picking up on everyone else." I asked him to comment on the importance of having a discussion like this at a festival, "There are a lot of issues that are very wide ranging. It is a very fertile area, and as I was saying during the panel discussion, it not just film criticism, it is about the entire culture."

Looking very dapper and Bond like, Josh Lucas lifts his vodka martini to toast the Festival.

Elaborating on film festivals in general, Toback said, "I always think the most important thing at festivals is to get films exposed that wouldn't otherwise be seen. A big studio movie comes to a festival, which all festivals want, and the deck is so stacked in their favor anyway, to waste space at a film festival when the film is going to end up on 3,000 screens anyway is almost a corrupting phenomenon. Ideally festivals should be introducing movies that otherwise wouldn't be seen. Of course it is a question of money; they want to sell tickets, so they open the Cannes Film Festival with 'E.T.' They are never going to say no to something like that."

Always one of the festival's stellar fetes, I attended the Chairman's Cocktail Reception on Saturday evening at the East Hampton home of Stuart and Vicki Match Suna. The tented event was an SRO party for festival participants and specially invited press and attendees. I spoke with Suna, 12 year HIFF board chairman and owner of Silvercup Studios, about the success of this year's festival despite the difficult economy, "That is why we moved it to the Columbus Day weekend; because we wanted to make sure we had more people, more of our weekend homeowners in the Hamptons. Ticket sales are up, pass sales and patron sales are up. In the last two or three months sponsors really started coming on board, albeit a little later than usual because of the economy. We have great films, world class films, world class celebrities, great panels, intimacy, great weather and it is The Hamptons."

HIFF Board Chairman Stuart Match Suna with lengendary producer Martin Bregman and Alec Baldwin.


After I covered the red carpet, I joined the other guests in the tent, ordered a martini and literally bumped into the impeccably dressed and true gentleman Josh Lucas. The actor stars in one of the HIFF world premiere films, "Stolen Lives." I asked Lucas if this was his first time at the HIFF, "It is my first time at the film festival, but I have to be honest, I am a fanatic about Montauk. I had the great, great pleasure of coming out here in the winter about 15 years ago for the first time and I discovered this beach out near the military base. Me and my dog now sneak out there for long afternoons, genuinely one of the most soulful, romantic spots I have ever experienced. Only two hours from New York City, I am hoping desperately to find a piece of property. The thing about Montauk and the Hamptons for me is that it is more special in the winter."

Long-time HIFF supporter actor/producer Bob Balaban.

Lucas, in describing his film to me, made the point about the importance of festivals like the HIFF, "Obviously, I am happy to be at the festival for this film. This festival is growing into a really special festival. The film itself is a really sad true story, so it needs festivals to help it live. It is not like normal studio fare these days, it is not a Vince Vaughn comedy."

Even though still only a 30-something, Lucas is a veteran of television, stage and over two dozen films. I told the actor how many of the festival's young filmmakers had expressed to me their gratitude that HIFF still devotes its mission to exposing small, independent films, "I feel the exact same way about our film. It allows for fare that is not commercially, easily attainable. Sundance, Toronto or Cannes, those festivals now want to be sales markets, as opposed to places where people see interesting films. What I think about this festival in choosing a film like ours is that they are honoring that."

Among the guests at the party was legendary film producer and long time Southampton resident Martin Bregman, whose credits include "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Scarface," to name but a few. Arriving with actor Alec Baldwin directly from his Guild Hall appearance in one of the HIFFs "A Conversation With..." series, I asked the producer if he enjoyed his event, which was moderated by Baldwin, "Doing the discussion with Alec was a lot of fun. He is an old friend and he is also a very bright man and a gifted actor." I asked Bregman if he was impressed by the 17 year evolution of the festival, "I think it has done very well for itself, very well."

Actor/director/producer Steve Buscemi and his wife Jo Andres at the Chairman's Cocktail Reception.

This year's "A Conversation With..." series also included Alan Alda, Stone and consummate character actor, writer and director Steve Buscemi, who attended the reception with his beautiful wife Jo Andres. A veteran of many independent films, Buscemi commented, "Any festival that supports independent film I am a big supporter of it. I really feel that it is the independent film that is all about cinema society and mass culture." I noted the difficulty of independent filmmakers finding money and distribution in the recent economy, "It is getting harder and harder, so anybody who can make any film I really applaud. And I really applaud this festival for showcasing people's works that might not get distributed. It is really important because if you really want to see cutting edge films, festivals are the places to see them."

I asked Buscemi what he was working on now, "I am going to be doing this HBO show called 'Boardwalk Empire' that I am acting in." The 12 episode series actually stars Buscemi and is executive produced by Martin Scorsese, who is touted to direct at least the pilot episode. An independent filmmaker himself, Buscemi has his own production company, "I have Olive Productions with Stanley Tucci. We are trying to produce and direct our own art films. We have been doing that for a few years now and we just want to continue doing it."

The crowd at the HIFF Chairman's Cocktail Reception in East Hampton, with Sharon Stone at the center of it all.


Among the other guests at the reception were long time HIFF supporter actor/producer Bob Balaban, Stone, Toback, John Anderson, Karen Durbin, and many other industry actors, filmmakers and insiders. Of course, several of the Breakthrough Performers were also in attendance.

Heading back to my digs at the Huntting Inn for one of the glorious steaks at The Palm Restaurant, the lobby looked like Grand Central Station as it appeared that half the attendees of the festival had the same great idea. I, of course, should have known better, reservations are always suggested at this palace of fine prime, festival in town or not. No worries, I took a wander over to local watering hole and Mexican restaurant The Blue Parrot, where I ran into the host of the evening's reception HIFF Board Chairman Suna, his wife Vicki and several of their friends. Clare Anne and her crew from Frank PR were also hanging out at the restaurant, the new publicity firm handling the festival has done a great job in their maiden year.

After a long and eventful day and evening, I retired to my comfortable room and filled the ice bucket, poured myself a Lagavulin single malt scotch and sat down for some writing. I couldn't stay up too late as on my schedule for Sunday was a morning screening of a film about and a luncheon reception for iconic architect I.M. Pei in Southampton. After which I would be returning to East Hampton for "A Conversation With...Steve Buscemi," the HIFF Awards Ceremony and the Closing Night Party.

Anyone bored at this festival does not have a pulse.


Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline




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