New film reflects indie woes

Wed Apr 8, 2009 9:26am EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" was made in 2006 but will only reach U.S. theaters on Friday in what stars Sienna Miller and Peter Sarsgaard say is a sign of the impact of the financial crisis on independent filmmaking.

Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon's novel of the same name, the film premiered at Sundance, the top U.S. independent film festival, in January 2008 but only found distribution through Peace Arch Entertainment a year later.

The film is a coming-of-age story in 1980s Pittsburgh. It tells the tale of college graduate Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) as he befriends Jane Bellweather (Miller) and Cleveland Arning (Sarsgaard) and the three try to find their way in the world.

Sarsgaard, who also stars in Nick Hornby's "An Education," which premiered at Sundance in January and is due for a U.S. release later this year, said he had noticed a slowdown in the independent film industry in the past couple of years.

"You think of who buys movies, well they are people losing their money right now," Sarsgaard told Reuters in an interview with Miller to promote their movie. "Nobody's got just an extra few million dollars they are willing to throw away."

"Before there was a class of people who enjoyed being a part of doing something interesting and original and they weren't doing it just for financial gain," he said. "They were doing it to be a part of the arts."

In 2008, Picturehouse, Warner Independent Pictures, Paramount Vantage and THINKFilm were among the "indie" film companies that either went out of business completely or drastically changed their business plans, leaving too many makers of art-house films chasing too few distributors.

LESS RISK-TAKING   Continued...