Contact: James Ronald Whitney

HBO signs deal with "JUST, MELVIN"
May, 2000

    New York, NY -- A deal between HBO and James Ronald Whitney's "Just, Melvin" has just been signed. Roger Ebert featured the film in the Chicago Sun-Times describing it as " of the best docs of the year." Details Magazine did a two-page feature on the movie that is Whitney's directorial debut, saying that "'Just, Melvin' easily one of the most jaw-dropping documentaries to come along in a decade."

    HBO bought the exclusive broadcast rights to license "Just, Melvin" in the United States for an undisclosed price. Although HBO's rights are exclusive of any theatrical rights, they are responsible for showcasing the movie theatrically both in New York City and Los Angeles to qualify "Just, Melvin" for an Academy Award. And the Oscar buzz has been circulating since its Sundance premiere, where indieWIRE wrote "...[Whitney] could win the Academy Award." In addition, the HBO world premiere will allow the movie to qualify for Emmy Award consideration.

    The discussions were held between Whitney and HBO's powerhouses, Nancy Abraham and Sheila Nevins. About the deal, Abraham, a 4-time Emmy Award winner, and Nevins (26 Emmys and 9 Oscars) said "We're excited about working with [James Ronald] Whitney to bring this unique and powerful documentary about the generational effects of evil to the widest possible audience on HBO." Whitney, who in addition to being a filmmaker is also the Vice President at a Wall Street firm, commented that "Both Nancy and Sheila have been incredible. They understand that this is an important film, and that my goal is for 'Just, Melvin' to serve as a wake-up call to society. With HBO's muscle and incredible popularity, an HBO world premiere is as good as it gets."

    After receiving rave reviews during its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2000 from the likes of Premiere Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, "Just, Melvin" has been on an unstoppable roll, winning first place in what is supposedly an unprecedented three out of four competitive film festivals (it was runner-up in the fourth). In fact, Newsweek said that "The hardest movie to watch at Sundance this year, far outweighing the horrors of 'American Psycho,' is a quiet little documentary entitled 'Just, Melvin.' ...Despite its brutal subject matter, 'Just, Melvin' has moments of fun and humor...the examination is extraordinary."

    Although earlier theatrical offers were put on hold after Sundance pending the outcome of the HBO deal, in that "Just, Melvin" will soon be viewed by millions, Whitney hopes that the visibility of this release will send even more distributors knocking on the door of his New York City agent, John Sloss, at Sloss Law Office, in an attempt to acquire the domestic and international theatrical rights, as well as the broadcast and video rights abroad.

    The movie went from Sundance directly to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival where it won the "Best Documentary Feature Award" presented to Whitney by Jimmy Smits. From there, it went to the South by Southwest Film Festival, where Michael Moore presented Whitney with the "Runner-Up Best Documentary Feature Award." Then last month, "Just, Melvin" again won the "Best Documentary Feature Award" this time at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and last weekend the movie screened at the South Beach Film Festival, where just yesterday it was announced that "Just, Melvin" once again won the "Best Documentary Award."

    Paul Zimmerman of iF Magazine touted both the film and Whitney's behind-the-camera debut, commenting that "'s clear we're witnessing not just a great doc but the debut of a bold new stylist. It's the most effective back and forth editing since Coppola cut from the baptism ritual to systematic executions for the climax of THE GODFATHER." And yet another reviewer described the movie as "...a V.C. Andrews horror paperback inbred with David Lynch, John Waters, and Luis Bunuel: Rape, murder, suicide, addiction, incest, genetic damage, karaoke, auto mechanics, and TV game shows."

    Well into production with his next film, "Love, Sharon" (working title) is about Whitney's close friend and former business partner, Sharon Alt, who had a son while she was married to another woman for eight years (Whitney walked her down the aisle and gave her away). Sharon and her 4-year-old are currently living with her boyfriend, Pat, and the couple recently got involved in the "Amateur, Adult" internet industry.

    When asked about the status of Melvin Just, Whitney explained that "In 'Just, Melvin' I promise the audience that when I'm finished with Melvin, he'll either be in prison, or he'll be dead. And I kept my promise. Melvin Just is a monster, and his dirty little secrets are finally out of the closet. Thanks to HBO, those secrets have not only been told, but they are about to be heard--by millions. It's not TV, it's HBO, and it's not any monster, it's my grandfather."

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Contact: James Ronald Whitney

HBO Exec. VP Talks About "Telling Nicholas"

"Telling Nicholas - a look at a Staten Island family that, after 10 days of making excuses, has to tell a boy that his mother won't ever come home incredible microscopic look at the effect and devastation of the Twin Towers tragedy on one American family. The film reveals in intimate detail the suffering of one family and one can only imagine the reverberation and effect on the thousands of American families effected by September 11. This was something so horrible. It's dizzying and sadness. Somehow, though, it has made me feel useful about what it is I do as a programmer."
--Sheila Nevins
HBO's Executive Vice President of Original Programming

DIRECTOR'S FILMS: GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood, Telling Nicholas, Just, Melvin,
Find out more about James Ronald Whitney's Productions at the Fire Island Films website
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