Swimming With Sharks

An indie film pioneer considers the Hollywood shuffle

When you're juggling studio pitch meetings by the dozen and riding the Hollywood party circuit with the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, do you still get to call yourself an independent filmmaker? That's the question Christine Vachon, the head of Killer Films, spends 277 pages dancing around in her entertaining but oddly evasive book, A Killer Life. If anyone has impeccable indie cred, it's Vachon, who pioneered the queer cinema movement of the '90s and launched the film careers of Todd Haynes and Larry Clark. So what the heck is this combat-boot-wearing defender of all things cinematically pure doing schmoozing at the Oscars and fawning over Colin Farrell?

Apparently, that's what so-called indie producers must stoop to these days. The corporatization of independent cinema has bulked up budgets but it has also turned everyone into slaves to the bottom line. In one gruesome chapter, Vachon tells how Far From Heaven nearly fell into the hands of a bond company when the production went overbudget. Vachon is a talented raconteur but she makes several conflicting pronouncements that reveal her still unresolved feelings about the changing indie landscape. She insists that as "independent film keeps getting bigger, I want to make it small again," only to confess later during a casting meeting for the movie Infamous that (her italics) "there is nothing more important than sitting in a room with Julia Roberts."

A more forthright book would've taken the indie community to task for selling its soul to the studios and jumping into the sack with award-hungry stars. Readers will have to wait patiently for that version. For now, Vachon wants to keep her friends and maybe make new, better ones. If this harmless book convinces one Hollywood honcho to plunk down money on the next Todd Haynes film, it will have served its purpose.

 
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