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Gary Winick, 1961 - 2011

"Gary Winick died today," Matt Dentler tweeted last night. "He leaves behind a legacy of supporting indie film and NYC."

"He made his directorial debut with Curfew in 1988 but really made a splash with his [2002] movie Tadpole, starring Sigourney Weaver as a middle-aged stepmom who's the object of her teen stepson's affections," wrote Jamie Russell, introducing an interview with Winick for the BBC in 2004. The year before, he'd won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award for producing Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity.

In 1999, Winick partnered with John Sloss and IFC to create the digital filmmaking collective InDigEnt. Setting out to make ten features for $100K each would be an unusual move even now that the digitalization of the industry is nearly complete, but just over a decade ago, the idea seemed downright radical. Winick told MovieMaker's Jennifer M Wood that he "was inspired after I saw the Dogme film, The Celebration. And I also thought about how John Cassavetes worked in the 60s, with the 16mm cameras and the repertoire of actors and the small crews. I thought with this new medium that there was an opportunity here, because in New York there's this great theater and independent film community. My idea was to form a collective where everybody gets paid the same amount, but also owns a piece of the film. Creatively, I was interested in using these new tools for experienced filmmakers to tell stories they normally couldn't tell, or to tell stories in a different way because of these tools."

In 2002, Winick told Matthew Ross in an interview for indieWIRE, "You should be more prepared with DV than you are with 35mm film. You should be more prepared than if you were making a $50 million movie. You have to be more disciplined because you have more freedom."

Update: "Winick was of course a filmmaker first, leaving behind a dozen films that grew from small-scale indie dramas to crowdpleasers such as Charlotte's Web and Letters to Juliet that charmed audiences by the millions," writes Stephen Saito at "Winick's general lack of cynicism towards the process and what could be achieved, in regards to the digital format in particular, extended to his work as a director, a quality that made him so compassionate to his characters and a natural choice for the studios to deliver their closest approximations of fairy tales in recent years. Skeptics (myself included, admittedly) wondered why Winick would abandon his role as a leader in the indie film world to become just another journeyman director of big-budget romantic comedies. But for the director, it was just one more proving ground as he pulled the magic out of Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30) and Amanda Seyfried (Letters to Juliet) in the roles that established each as movie stars as easily as he found the humanity in Michael Imperioli's drug-addicted father just trying to make ends meet in 1995's Sweet Nothing and Aaron Stanford's overeducated, Voltaire-spouting teen whose main goal in life is to bed his stepmother in Tadpole."

Updates, 3/1: "In the 24 hours since Winick's passing, many people from the New York film community have conveyed their sadness and spoken of Winick as a leading light," reports Charles Lyons, who speaks with several who worked with him for indieWIRE. "The cause of death was brain cancer, said Mark Ross, a close friend of Winick who was among the friends and relatives with him when he died at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. 'He had more close friends than anyone I had ever seen,' said Ross, who attended Tufts University with Winick. 'He was an amazing mentor and an amazing friend.'"

Scott Macaulay not only edits Filmmaker but he produces as well and today he's "flashing back on many great conversations with him over the years… I shared a condo with Winick at the Sundance Producer's Lab, and I was knocked out by the seriousness with which he guided a whole new group of producers even as he was prepping a complicated CGI picture, Charlotte's Web." And: "As the comments in that Indiewire piece — 'an amazing mentor,' 'a generous visionary,' 'one of the finest human beings in our industry' — attest, Winick was a rare soul in the world of independent film. He was a smart, compassionate and truly giving person, and, even as his Hollywood career took off, he never forgot his roots. While he was crafting smart and heartfelt mainstream movies, he continued to advise, nurture and be a resource to a younger community of filmmakers who were still awaiting their own breaks."

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Very sad!

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