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Hail, Columbia

November 29, 1987|Leonard Klady

Earlier this year, Columbia chief David Puttnam thought a chance to hobnob for a week with the biggies at his studio would be a treat for the folks back in his native England. So, he shepherded a contest that would bring an aspiring producer to the magic kingdom.

But in all of England, only 10 people entered a contest when the isle's Assn. of Independent Producers announced it.

"I think people were scared off by the questions," we were told by Ellis Freeman, editor of the AIP's Producer magazine. "It's too bad on the one hand, but the quality of those who did enter is really outstanding."

So what was so hard?

One question: What do actress Cybill Shepherd and director Jerzy Skolimowski have in common?

If you answered "Moonlighting" (her TV series, his 1982 movie), you might have been a prime contender.

Among other conundrums: What was the cost-per-minute screen time of "Letter to Brezhnev"? (3,700, approx. $5,500.)

Who financed "Chariots of Fire"? (Egyptian businessman Dodi Fayed).

Contestants also were asked to pitch their film projects in 700 words and to write 300 words on what they expected to gain from a trip to visit Puttnam at Columbia's Burbank Studios headquarters in the far-off States.

Freeman said that while the contest deadline was June 30, he's been unable to get the panel of judges--which includes producers Patrick Cassavetti ("Mona Lisa") and Mark Shivas ("A Private Function")--all together at one time because of conflicts. He and Columbia UK chief Lynda Myles said they're going ahead on the basis that the studio's still behind the project despite recent management changes. (You-know-who isn't chief anymore.)

But we wonder. A Columbia spokesman here said there wasn't a studio liaison and expected arrangements would be made with the Guest Relations Department to provide a tour at the appropriate time.

Steve Norris, an aide to the departed Puttnam, told us: "The contest's up in the air at the moment. If it's humanly possible to do, it will happen. But we'll have to see whether new management will give it the same priority David did."

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