Reel World

Swimming With Sharks
"There's so much more at stake for me than for a guy with a $50 or $60 million film," declares 31-year-old director Matthew Leutwyler, hanging out in a trailer at Green and Battery with two shooting days left on his low-budget feature This Space Between Us. "He'll get another job, no matter what. The risks are much bigger for me."

Maybe so, but the S.F. native beams confidence, not anxiety. His debut, Road Kill, a road movie/dark comedy about a hit woman and the filmmaker recording her last job, cost a piddling $180,000 and has distributors salivating. Even better, Leutwyler admits, "People saw it being edited and immediately wanted to give me money" for his next one. This Space is a romantic comedy with dramatic overtones starring Jeremy Sisto and Poppy Montgomery (plus cameos by singers/actors Kate Donellon of Low Hum Satellite and David Lowery of Cracker) as appropriately quirky S.F. singles.

Also on hand this bright Saturday morning is veteran comedy writer/director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman), playing a cigar-smoking, know-it-all Hollywood producer. He breezes by Leutwyler's trailer with a warm smile and a self-deprecating joke ("I've got to see my environment. ... It's some-thing I read in a book once"). In a few hours, Marshall and Sisto (pitching an idea that sounds a lot like Road Kill) will nail their scene in three lively, spontaneous takes. For now, chatting quietly in his trailer while his crew prepares the set, Leutwyler seems content to wait patiently -- up to a point. "I feel like I'm way behind," he confides. "I wanted to be where I am right now when I was 23 or 24. I'm in accelerated mode right now in terms of learning. I feel by next fall I could explode with something great."

The Sweet Smell of Success
Those fun-loving Dockers Khakis folks have kicked in a few kopecks to sponsor "The Way We Wore: Fashion in Cinema" at the Pacific Film Archive (running occasionally through Aug. 30). The Levi's deal is the first in a series of corporate underwriters whose logos will surface in PFA schedules and ads. ... As "compensation" for his "duties" as "honorary chairman" of last month's Dockers Khakis Classically Independent Film Festival, Francis Ford Coppola's lit mag Zoetrope received a $25,000 "contribution" from the pants people. By way of comparison, the ostensible beneficiary of the festival -- the Film Arts Foundation -- received $29,000 (including three $3,000 grants to produce short films). ... Chronicle film critic Edward Guthmann, the sole champion of foreign films at the celeb-crazy paper, is taking a four-month leave. Bob Graham (listed on the masthead as arts editor) is impersonating a "staff critic" for the duration. Graham's a much deeper thinker than his gossipy, trivial reviews of Six Days, Seven Nights and Gone With the Wind would lead you to believe. But the dictum from above is Dumb It Down.

By Michael Fox

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