Distributor FAQ: Fox Lorber

What is Fox Lorber?
A leading distributor of specialty programming to the worldwide home video, theatrical, and television marketplaces, Fox Lorber Associates’ products include foreign and arthouse films, as well as documentaries and other entertainment programs.

Who is Fox Lorber?
Richard Lorber, Pres & CEO; Krysanne Katsoolis, Sr. VP, Acquisitions; Sheri Levine, Exec VP, International; Wendy Lidell, VP, Theatrical; Michael Olivieri, Pres, Home Video.

Total number of employees:
More than 40.

What would people be most surprised to learn about Fox Lorber or its founders?
That Richard Lorber was on the cover of Life magazine in 1968 in connection with the publication of his best selling book, The Gap, which dealt with the generation gap.

How, when, and why did Fox Lorber come into being?
It was founded by Richard Lorber and David Fox in 1981 to fill an existing vacuum in the sale of quality documentaries and American independent film to foreign and domestic television. The first title it handled was The Compleat Beatles, a documentary series cofinanced by Fox Lorber dealing with the Fab Four.

Biggest change at Fox Lorber in recent years:
Being purchased in 1996 by WinStar Communications, a diversified public telecommunications company with over a billion-dollar market capitalization. This has given Fox Lorber the enhanced resources it needed to strengthen its market position and expand into additional distribution niches. Most notably, this has included launching a new theatrical division, a new video label dedicated to documentary programming, and a commitment to international coproduction.

Unofficial motto or driving philosophy behind Fox Lorber:
On the cutting edge, but behind the blade. Which means that by being the best in our niche, we’re able to make money while also remaining committed to quality films and television programs.

What best describes a “Fox Lorber” film?
Cutting edge, festival award-winning, critically acclaimed.

The difference between Fox Lorber and other distributors of independent films is…?
its diversification as a sales company in all markets, while owning and operating the leading domestic home video label.

How many works are in your collection?
Over 1,000 hours for international; over 300 feature film titles on the Fox Lorber Home Video label; over 100 special interest titles on the Winstar Home Entertainment label; over 80 titles on DVD; hundreds of titles in the Wellspring and Mystic Fire catalogs, now handled by Fox Lorber; and roughly 50 titles for theatrical and nontheatrical, including the newly acquired International Film Circuit library. [Filmmakers may be familiar with Wendy Lidell’s work heading up the IFC for the past 12 years. Lidell packaged foreign and independent feature films to circulate in the semi-theatrical market here and abroad.]

Best known title in the Fox Lorber’s collection:
Maybe John Woo’s The Killer, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva, or Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses. But also maybe Claire of the Moon or Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. It just depends on which niche you’re asking.

Films and filmmakers you distribute:
Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Wim Wenders, Lina Wertmuller, Juzo Itami, John Woo. U.S. independent titles include Todd Haynes’ Poison, John Cassavetes’ Faces and Shadows, Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven, and Greg Araki’s The Living End. And documentaries include Brother’s Keeper and Paris Is Burning.

Range of production budgets of titles in your collection:
$100,000 to $20 million.

What drives acquisition decisions at Fox Lorber?
Our goal is to find an audience for a film, rather than a film for an audience, and to make a profit at the same time.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
Identify its target market and reach them by whatever means possible.

Where do Fox Lorber titles generally show/sell?
Typically at arthouse theaters, Virgin Megastores, Borders Books and Blockbuster, and enlightened television networks.

Where do you find your titles, and how should filmmakers approach you for consideration?
We attend all major international film festivals and television markets. We would love to discover new work, but we need to be contacted first in writing, by mail or fax, with information about the film and filmmaker. Works-in-progress are always welcome.

Is Fox Lorber also involved in co-production or co-financing of works?
Historically we have provided some completion monies in the form of pre-buys, and more recently we have become involved with true co-financing and co-production on some documentaries, including On the Ropes, a co-production with The Learning Channel, and Search for Kurtz, a co-production with Channel 4 (UK). We will be doing considerably more co-financing and co-production in the future.

Most important issue facing Fox Lorber today:
Keeping pace with the accelerating technological changes in distribution platforms.

Best distribution experience you’ve had lately:
When we rescued Theo Angelopoulos’s Ulysses’ Gaze, a grand-prize-winner at Cannes, from potential obscurity. When no other distributor would step up to the plate, we took on the challenge, launching our theatrical division in the process and made it into a great success. And we got to meet Harvey Keitel!

If you weren’t distributing films, what would you be doing?
Wendy has always wanted to run a movie theater in the country so she could live in the woods and still see all the new films. Krysanne can’t remember a time when she wasn’t distributing films.

Other distributors you admire:
Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo of Zeitgeist Films for their ability to succeed in a very difficult marketplace with films of the highest artistic integrity, and Hengemeh Panahi of Celluloid Dreams for bringing to the world market some of the best and most challenging films being made today.

If you could only give independent filmmakers one bit of advice it would be to…?
follow your heart and not the formula.

Upcoming titles to watch for:
The Francois Truffaut retrospective with new 35mm prints; American Masters’ Leonard Bernstein documentary on video and DVD; and Conceiving Ada, by Lynn Hershman Leeson and Melvin Van Peebles’ Classified X worldwide.

The future of independent film distribution in this country is one which…?
is under attack from the ever-increasing corporate mergers in the entertainment industry. The best solution may be independent visionaries working within those new corporate structures.

Famous last words:
We need to do whatever we can to educate a new generation of film viewers who understand and appreciate intellectually challenging, quality cinema.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.