SydneysBuzz now consists of the blog, acquisitions rights reports on the international business, professional education initiatives and strategic planning and consulting for individuals, companies and countries seeking to improve their position in the international film market.
SydneysBuzz was originally part of a larger newsletter created during the time of FilmFinders about the international film business, IMDb turned into an independent blog to update the industry on international film developments. The blog can be found on both IMDbPro‘s home page and on Indiewire who picked it up in 2009.
Today’s services are a natural growth from the former FilmFinders, launched in 1988 by Sydney Levine and Peter Belsito.
FilmFinders’ pioneer database contained comprehensive data of all independent features from around the world, and generated reports for acquisitions and programming executives in the international independent film business.
During its twenty-two year life span, FilmFinders created an industry standard for organizing and tracking the rights buying and selling part of the film business. It listed rights availabilities for 60 territories, advance notice of screenings, specific contact information, story summary, cast and crew, and was issued before, during and after major markets and festivals.
In July 2006, FilmFinders merged with Withoutabox to develop new digital services for filmmakers. In January 2008, FilmFinders and Withoutabox were sold to IMDb, an Amazon company. After 18 months integrating FilmFinders into IMDbPro, Levine and Belsito amicably left IMDb in April 2009 to pursue activities as educators and consultants.
FilmFinders’ database was adopted by the Cannes Marché in 1996 and developed into today’s Cinando, the database website used by Cannes, the Berlinale, Ventana Sur, Toronto International Film Festival and others. It is available to individual professionals through the Cannes Marché.
Sydney Levine has over thirty-five years’ experience in the entertainment industry.
Prior to establishing FilmFinders, she helped start the profitable video rental division of Republic Pictures as Vice President of Acquisitions and Development after having spent three years acquiring such feature films for Lorimar as My Beautiful Laundrette, Letter to Brezhnev, Tampopo, and Sugar Baby as part of a wide variety of international artistic and commercial genres.
Levine has worked in international distribution for Twentieth Century Fox in Amsterdam, in Ross Perot’s start up video company Inovision, in marketing for ABC Video Enterprises, at Public Media Inc. the social issue documentary division of Films Inc. and Pyramid Films, the award winning short film distribution company in Santa Monica California. During her tenure at all these companies she acquired features and documentaries for international and domestic distribution.
Her online course on the international independent film business has been used by UCLA Extension Film School Certificate Program and is currently in use at Woodbury University.
She speaks French, German, Spanish and English and travels extensively on the international film market circuit as a hired panel moderator, educator, consultant for filmmakers, the Cannes Film Market, the Berlinale’s European Film Market and Talent Campus, Deutsche Welle Akademie and others.
Levine’s educational background includes a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Southern California, a License from the Sorbonne University of Paris and a BFA from the University of California.
Peter Belsito grew up in New York City and graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and from the Masters film program at UCLA where he was a graduate teaching assistant at UCLA Film School.
He was a founding member of Newsreel, a radical anti war student filmmaking collective. He was a founding member of the Independent Feature Project (IFP) in New York City in 1981 and opened the IFP office in Los Angeles (now FIND). He was a founding member of the Chicano Cinema Coalition.
After graduating from UCLA he worked professionally as a cinematographer, produced feature films and feature documentaries and wrote screenplays. His produced documentary ‘El Valle des Lagrimas’ aka ‘Valley of Tears’ played the festival circuit and is being distributed by Seven Arts.
He worked in publishing for ten years for Charles T. Munger, Vice Chairman of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, and assisted Sydney Levine in founding FilmFinders in 1988 as a blue chip film acquisitions tracking, consulting and publishing firm. He came on board full time in 1995 as a FilmFinders partner, Head of Sales and Marketing as Executive Vice President. Fourteen years after Ms. Levine’s successful launch of FilmFinders, Peter recently founded FilmFinders Consulting.
Both Peter and Sydney have been involved for the last fifteen years in professional education and with young filmmakers via countless festival and market panels and forums and active course involvement with such institutions including Harvard, Wharton, the Binger Institute of Amsterdam, ACE of Paris, Rotterdam Cinemart, IFP New York, IFP West of Los Angeles etc.
Both have originated and coordinated panels and conferences for various institutions as well as Film Finders. He lives in West Hollywood, California and travels extensively throughout the year to film festivals and markets worldwide.