MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

[PR] Indie DVD labels Benten and Watchmaker partner

28096_wsm_04.jpg[New York/London – March 11, 2009] – US-based distributor Benten Films, the first label run by film critics, and UK-based Watchmaker Films have entered into a strategic and financial partnership. Effective immediately, Benten President and CEO Andrew Grant will head up Production and Acquisitions for Watchmaker. Benten VP and Art Director Aaron Hillis will assume a greater role in the day-to-day operations of Benten while simultaneously looking to expand the organization.
Watchmaker, the brainchild of Mark Rance, shares Benten’s commitment to curation and quality, and extends it beyond distribution into restoration, preservation and remastering services. Watchmaker’s in-house capabilities include HD-4K and higher scans, full picture and audio restoration, color timing, audio/video remastering, DVD and Blu-ray authoring, and the ability to encode for digital cinema and online delivery systems. As a result, both companies can now seek out older titles that previously didn’t have satisfactory digital elements, bringing them to viewers via the many consumer-ready digital formats.
Rance, who has 20 years of industry-related experience as a filmmaker, DVD producer, and director of Los Angeles Filmforum, recently issued Watchmaker’s first DVD release in the U.S.—a critically acclaimed restoration of Eagle Pennell’s lost independent classic, The Whole Shootin’ Match. “We’re excited about partnering with Mark, who has worked for Criterion and every major studio, and has produced such stellar DVDs as the special editions of Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Se7en,” said Grant.
Both companies will continue to support new and underrepresented filmmakers from around the world. Benten is currently working on their first 2009 release, Azazel Jacobs’ The GoodTimesKid, which will be fully remastered from a 2K scan of the original negative, and preserved in an archival 4K scan. “It’s important to expand on the standard canon of great films and support up-and-coming filmmakers with state-of-the-art presentations in every format, from cinemas to DVD and beyond,” says Rance.
The Watchmaker/Benten alliance seeks to advance the role of distributors in today’s rapidly evolving industry. “The distribution world is in the midst of a crisis, both financial and technological,” said Grant. “Sales are down across the board for smaller companies, long-established distributors are closing up shop, and everybody is waiting to see which of the next-gen distribution mechanisms will dominate. Producers and sales agents haven’t understood how the landscape has changed, and they’re still looking for advances that made sense five years ago, but are unreasonable today.”
Rance adds: “Together, we will work directly with filmmakers, archivists and rights holders to help bring their films into the digital era. If we can distribute those films, that’s great. But we can also simply offer our services, even to other distributors. It’s time that film preservation and digital remastering became the responsibility of distributors and every company that loves film.”
On the distribution side, Watchmaker and Benten plan to expand their distribution network into the European and Asian markets. The two companies have been busy acquiring titles, and are currently planning releases by such noted filmmakers as Tobe Hooper, John Gianvito, Danny Lyon, Fred Kelemen, and Peter Wollen/Laura Mulvey.

“We’re still going to pursue American and foreign indies, but we’re excited to be balancing our library with works from such established filmmakers,” said Hillis. On the restoration side, Watchmaker is currently preserving 50 years of student work for the London Film School, while Benten is driving a project to restore the works of several long-neglected filmmakers.
The companies will maintain both the Watchmaker and Benten imprimaturs, and are currently in talks to add additional sub-labels, specializing in political and independent Asian cinema. Negotiations for online distribution of their titles are also in the works.
Watchmaker/Benten titles are distributed in the US by E1 Entertainment (formerly Koch Home Entertainment) and in the United Kingdom and Eire by PIAS UK.
About Benten Films
Benten Films is passionate about bringing the best in independent and world cinema to the DVD, VOD and digital download markets. Founded by Andrew Grant (best known in the New York scene as “Filmbrain,” online editor of Like Anna Karina’s Sweater) in collaboration with Aaron Hillis (a freelance journalist for The Village Voice, LA Weekly, IFC and Spin), Benten is a specialty label designed for cinephiles to uncover lost masterpieces and future classics, with an eye on overlooked gems that deserve greater recognition. All Benten releases are of the highest technical quality, each supplemented with enhanced features and artful packaging. For more information, please visit

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster