Ira Deutchman loves movies. He has spent the better part of the last 45 years watching, studying, teaching, distributing, marketing, and producing them. In 1981, Ira Deutchman joined the venerable studio United Artists, where he oversaw marketing during a substantial transformation of the United Artists Classics specialty label. The unit quickly found success with such titles as Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva (1981), Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro (1980) and The Woman Next Door (1981), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen and Lola (both 1981), Polish master Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron (1981), and documentaries like The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time (1981). Deutchman was personally involved in the re-releases of a number of ignored or under-appreciated films, including Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way, and Joan Micklin Silver’s Chilly Scenes of Winter.
In 1982, immediately after leaving UA Classics, Deutchman branched out on his own and co-founded Cinecom International Films, which specialized in distributing American independent films. Rather than compete in bidding wars for exhibition rights of foreign films, Deutchman focused on procuring low-cost films of quality from proven veterans or untried newcomers. He worked closely with an impressive cadre of directors including Robert Altman, John Sayles, Jonathan Demme, and James Ivory, and worked hard to build personal relationships with all. As the President of Marketing and Distribution, Deutchman carefully strategized the release of critically acclaimed movies such as Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), Starstruck (1983), Angelo My Love(1983), El Norte (1983), Stop Making Sense (1984), The Brother From Another Planet (1984), Swimming to Cambodia (1987), and Matewan (1987). The company’s biggest success was James Ivory’s A Room With a View (1985), which was nominated for eight Academy Awards (winning three), and which launched the careers of Daniel Day-Lewis and Helena Bonham Carter.
In the late 1980s, Ira Deutchman formed his own marketing and consulting firm, the Deutchman Company, working with future rival Miramax on the promotion and distribution of what would become one of the signature independent films of the era – Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape (1989). In 1990 he founded Fine Line Features, a specialty division of the independent distributor New Line Cinema. Along with competitors Miramax and USA Films (later Focus Features), Fine Line quickly became a driving force in shaping the indie scene of the 1990s. During Deutchman’s time at the company, Fine Line released a slate of films by some of cinema’s most renowned directors, including Jim Jarmusch (Night on Earth, 1991), Gillian Armstrong (The Last Days of Chez Nous, 1992), Roman Polanski (Bitter Moon, 1992), Mike Leigh (Naked, 1993), David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey, 1994), Alan Rudolph (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, 1994), Whit Stillman (Barcelona, 1994), and many others. He also helped shepherd Robert Altman’s career resurgence with The Player (1992) and Short Cuts (1993).
Ira Deutchman also helped to change the game for feature documentaries. Most notably, Fine Line distributed Steve James’ Hoop Dreams (1994), a three-hour documentary following the story of two African-American teenagers from the Chicago projects as they progressed from grade school to college. Receiving rave reviews, the film went on to become one of the top-grossing documentaries of all time. The film’s surprising failure to capture any major Oscar nominations led to widespread criticism, and ultimately to a major overhaul of the Academy’s nomination process.
Since leaving Fine Line in 1995, Deutchman has produced an eclectic slate of films including Kiss Me, Guido (1997), 54 (1998), All I Wanna Do (1998), Lulu on the Bridge (1998), Way Past Cool (2000), The Center of the World (2001), Ball in the House (2001), Interstate 60 (2002), The Lucky Ones (2003), The Game of Their Lives (2005), Beauty Remains (2005), Red Doors (2005), The Speed of Life (2007), and For Real (2009). He also founded the innovative production-distribution company Emerging Pictures, which found success by distributing feature films in venues that weren’t originally designed to be movie theaters.