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City of Angles

Get Ready, Set ... Pitch

March 07, 2002|GINA PICCALO AND LOUISE ROUG

It's a packed night in Hollywood and the neighborhood's newest club, the Highlands, is crawling with industry folks. This is talent agent Lisa Lindo's party. For the past eight years, she has hosted this annual networking night for deal-hungry agents, producers, financiers, film distribution and script development reps who attended the Sundance Film Festival but didn't finish schmoozing.

This year's fete was believed to be the largest yet, with more than 1,500 gathering at the mammoth, multilevel club overlooking Hollywood Boulevard. The music is loud and the club is dark on this Monday night, but Lindo, in a knee-length suede coat and colorful beads, turns heads wherever she goes. She ushers people in with: "Go make friends."

Lindo, 37, founded Acme Talent & Literary nine years ago with her then-husband Adam Lieblein because the two agents wanted to spend more time together. They divorced soon after, but surprisingly, they remain bus- iness partners.

The networking parties started as small monthly dinners and mushroomed into all-night parties as the guest list grew. Their clients include actors, writers, producers and video-game creators, including "October Sky" novelist Homer Hickam and actors Richard Kline of "Inside Schwartz" and "Crossing Jordan's" Steve Valentine.

With hundreds of people to greet, Lindo keeps moving. On the patio, Susan O'Leary is talking about Fox Search- lab, the new filmmaker mentoring program that she manages.

"We're looking to develop new directors," she says. "It's about as philanthropic as a studio is going to get." An unusually large man in an expensive suit appears: Imani Lee, a professional heavyweight boxer. Lee shakes hands and brags about Lindo's boxing skills. Next to drift by is Troy Romeo, aspiring director. No small talk here--he's got a story pitch: Abused husband tries to hang himself, but instead kills his neighbor. "I had 10 copies of my film [at Sundance] and I was able to get it in three festivals," he says. Time to move on. He gives out his last business card with a smile and a solid handshake. "It's relationships," he says. "It's all about relationships."

*

From Desperation,

a Script and Career

About seven years ago, actor-screenwriter Milo Addica's income was riding on a series of odd jobs, including one selling nail polish over the phone. Addica knew he had reached bottom when his latest rep's office was in a mini-mall. The man "had a little toupee and a polyester suit and had started back in the 1940s," he said.

Desperate for better roles, Addica and his actor friend Will Rokos wrote "Monster's Ball." The story was a personal one for Addica, who based the film on his own relationship with his father. The plot's potent family dynamic features an executioner's son (Heath Ledger) who refuses to follow in the career path of his father (Billy Bob Thornton) and grandfather (Peter Boyle).

It took several years to get the film made, but after its release last fall, the writers earned best screenplay nominations from the Writers Guild of America and the Independent Spirit Awards.

About a month ago, Addica, 39, was approached separately by director Steven Soderbergh and Russell Crowe to write their next projects. "It's pretty intense," he said Monday during a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. "I really have a lot of responsibility to come up to the mark that people think I am capable of. It's scary."

Soderbergh wanted a script starring Don Cheadle. So over lunch at the Warner Bros. commissary, Soderbergh and Addica mapped out a plot about a man who "takes a fall" for his friends, Addica said.

Around the same time, Crowe called Addica from his ranch in Australia with producer Brian Grazer and executive producer Todd Hollowell on the line. Addica pitched his story over the phone. When he finished, Crowe detailed his problems with the story.

"I got off the phone thinking, 'Well, that's it. I'm not getting that job,'" Addica said. True to Hollywood form, however, the men have agreed to collaborate. When asked about the recent attention, Addica answered humbly: "It's good because I'm starting to see that I'm going to have a career. And I'm confident that people like my voice."

*

A Screenplay Gets

a Touch of Theater

As the lights went down at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood Monday evening, the audience settled in for a performance that was not quite theater, not quite a movie. Googy Gress, one of 15 actors sitting in a semicircle on the stage, began narrating a story that follows a young World War II veteran and aspiring movie director (read by Adam Goldberg) who, on his way to Hollywood, alters the destiny of a small Midwestern town.

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