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Everywhere Man

As Factory Girl flickered off the Arlington screen,
Emmanuel Itier faced itier.jpg a midnight deadline to call his native
France.

By then it would be 9 a.m. in Paris and his independent
distributor clients would be nervously awaiting his thumbs up or
down on the movie. Should they try to buy French rights to the
painful story of “poor little rich girl” Edie Sedgwick’s
self-destructive life?

The question wasn’t whether Santa Barbaran Itier liked the film.
The decision solely depended on whether he thought Factory
Girl
would lure enough French audiences. In short: Would it
make money?

“It’s not a gut feeling,” said Itier, also a journalist,
director with two films to his credit, and a board member of the
Santa Barbara
International Film Festival
, which showcased the movie as its
opening film. “It’s a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about how
much (the clients) can get back.” It’s the business part
of show business.

“I have to judge it with my business eye.” After the lights went
back on at the Arlington Thursday night, Itier walked down to the
after-party at Paseo Nuevo, had a couple of glasses of Champagne,
went home with his wife Roxie, and sent word to Paris. Buy. “I
thought it was a very moving and intense story,” he told me.

On the red carpet he had interviewed Sienna
Miller
, who played Edie in the film, and would be filing the
story with the Web sites for which he writes.

At 5 a.m. Friday he was up and on his way to L.A. to interview
actor Andy
Garcia
. That night he was back at the Arlington red carpet to
snatch a quick interview with Helen
Mirren
, who was being awarded the festival’s 2007 Outstanding
Performance of the Year award for The Queen, and maybe get
a few more words with her at the after-party.

Itier, raised in Nice and a Santa Barbaran for 15 years — who
happens to be my neighbor — makes the rounds of film festivals,
scouting out possible buys to recommend to independent distributors
in France who rely on his judgment.

Along the way, he suggests possible entries for the Santa
Barbara fest to executive director Roger Durling. “My life is a
mixture of pleasure and pressure,” he told me at his Riviera
home.

On Thursday, for instance, he stopped at the Direct Relief
International
fundraiser at Café Buenos Aires for a drink and
to schmooze, then found a spot across the street at the Arlington
red carpet to interview Factory Girl VIPs for the five Web
sites he writes for, then donned his critical judgment hat to
evaluate the movie.

“It’s hard work,” he said with a laugh. “A drink at the
reception, then line up on the red carpet, and then enjoy
myself.”

Another Santa Barbara Film Festival entry he’s recommending to
clients is 9th Company, the true story about the journey
of a platoon of Russian soldier recruits who were forgotten and
left to die during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The 2005
release was a box office hit in Russia and winner of the Russian
Golden Eagle Award.

“It’s a tricky game,” advising for France’s highly competitive
independent distributor market, Itier told me. He visits France
every two or three months to keep in touch.

He’s just back from the Sundance
festival
and is going to festivals in Cannes, Toronto, and a relatively new one in Bermuda, which is
“really taking off,” he said.

When he’s not interviewing film stars, directors, and others in
show business, and reviewing films, he directs movies. Itier has
directed Scarecrow — a horror film — and Tell Me No
Lies
, an erotic story, and is seeking investors for his next
one.

The French have long been known for their relish for film and
Itier is outspoken in his deep passion.

“I think movies are art, about loving life. I’m a glutton for
movies. I love movies. I devour them. I love life. Every year it’s
a struggle to put on the festival. We are so passionate about
movies. You have to be.” The Santa Barbara festival is the last one
before the Oscars, and important for filmmakers to get media
attention and attract deals for the movies being shown.

“People don’t realize it but this is business,” he said. Scouts
will be taking in the films, picking the ones they like, “and
fighting to grab the rights.”

Itier has no restrictions on which country’s movies he’ll
recommend to the French. “I can recommend a good Asian one or
Spanish.” After the Sundance festival he suggested that his clients
buy French rights to Summer Rain, “a beautiful, sensitive
picture” directed by actor Antonio
Banderas
. (Think troubled youth in the south of Spain.)

Among the movies he’s liked so far in the Santa Barbara festival
are A Very British Gangster, a documentary, and Blood
Diamond
, a movie “that makes you cry because of the
exploitation of children.”

In his spare time Itier reads omnivorously and writes poetry.
Among the Web sites he writes for are buzzine.com, thebookla.com, and allocine.fr, which he says reach a total of
about 7 million viewers a month.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at
barney@independent.com or at 805-965-5205. He writes a Tuesday
online column for
The Independent, a Thursday print
column, and a Friday Barney’s Weekend Picks
.

Photo by Sue De Lapa of Emmanuel Itier and son Felix

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