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Palm Beach FF Honoree: Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman, the 30-year-old film director who scored an Academy Award nomination for his second feature film, will be honored this evening at the Palm Beach International Film Festival with the PBIFF Visionary Award. The honor will be given following a special screening of his hit comedy JUNO, which will be released on DVD tomorrow by Fox Home Video. Following the screening, Reitman will participate in an on-stage Conversation with National Public Radio host and film critic Peter Rainer. Reitman is second generation Hollywood. He was born in Montreal, Canada in 1977, the first of three children of comedy director Ivan Reitman and Geneviève Robert. His father, Ivan, directed the box office blockbusters ANIMAL HOUSE, GHOSTBUSTERS, STRIPES and KINDERGARTEN COP.

While describing his own childhood self as "a loser... a movie geek...and painfully shy”, he began appearing in small acting parts and serving as a production assistant on his father's films in the 1980s. . He spent time in the editing rooms of his father's movies, learning the process. Throughout his 20s, instead of accepting offers to make commercial feature films, Reitman began making his own short films and directing commercials.

In 2000, he wrote and directed the comedy short film IN GOD WE TRUST, which was a hit on the festival circuit, winning top awards at the Aspen Shortsfest and the Austin, Florida, Seattle, New York Comedy and Santa Monica film festivals. In 2004, he co-wrote the short film CONSENT with his writer wife Michele Lee, which also had success on the festival circuit, winning top prizes at the Aspen and Seattle film festivals.

In 2005, Reitman directed his debut feature film, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. He had developed the satirical novel by Christopher Buckley into a screenplay and shopped it around to the major studios. The project was considered a rather hot potato, due to its controversial lead character, a shill for the tobacco industry. However, he eventually signed a deal with Fox Searchlight, the specialty distribution arm of Twentieth Century Fox. With the casting of Aaron Eckhart, the film became a cult hit, winning an Independent Spirit Award for its screenplay, as well as a Best Directorial Debut nod from the National Board of Review.

His second film would bring even more success and establish him as a major creative talent in Hollywood. JUNO, the story of a smart-alecky teenage girl who discovers she is pregnant and decides to go to term and give her baby to a yuppie couple, was the indie cult hit of the year. The film had its world premiere at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival and never looked back, going all the way to the Oscars, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director, It sole win was for Best Original Screenplay by hot screenwriter Diablo Cody, but the film was by far the most successful box office hit of the year, grossing over $400 million in the US and $250 million overseas.

Reitman and his producing partner Daniel Dubiecki formed Hard C Productions in 2006 and have several projects in the works. The company has an overall deal with Fox Searchlight Pictures, the company that distributed Reitman's first two films. Reitman describes his production company's goal as being to produce "small subversive comedies that are independent but accessible”. He is next set to produce and direct BANZAI SHADOWHANDS, a comedy about "a once-great ninja who is now living a life of mediocrity". The film has a screenplay by Rainn Wilson, one of the stars of the television series THE OFFICE (who also had a choice cameo in JUNO). Other projects in the hopper include THE ORNATE ANATOMY OF LIVING THINGS, written by Matthew Spicer and Max Winkler, and JENNIFER’S BODY, a horror comedy scripted by Diablo Cody. There is no question that Reitman is a powerhouse talent to watch.

Sandy Mandelberger, Palm Beach FF Dailies Editor

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