Following his resignation from the Avalon Publishing Group earlier this month, former executive v-p Neil Ortenberg announced plans to start a new career in film production and has launched a production company called Insurgent Films.
Ortenberg told PW that Insurgent would bring together "a small group of editors, filmmakers and screenwriters looking to finance social/political documentaries and low-budget indie films." He said, "It was my decision to leave Avalon. I've been in publishing for 23 years, and I have been thinking about doing other things for a while."
Ortenberg said Insurgent Films has about five partners and will be financed by "personal money and some investors." He said that he was not developing projects specifically around Avalon properties, but he did not rule it out. Among the first films to go into production will be a documentary conceived by his longtime colleague Dan O'Connor called God Told Me To, a 60- to 90-minute film surveying groups who commit pathological acts and attribute their motives to God. He is also developing a documentary on legendary publishing maverick Barney Rosset. "It'll be a cross between The Kid Stays in the Picture and Werner Herzog's My Best Fiend," Ortenberg said.
Charlie Winton, chairman of Avalon, told PW that Avalon was having "internal discussions" about Ortenberg's successor and said the group was considering "something more than just replacing Neil." He credited Ortenberg with "helping to make Avalon an independent entity," noting, "Neil is the only guy who could publish Gore Vidal and Dee Dee Ramone."
Ortenberg won't leave the book publishing world completely. He said he's working on a memoir of "sex, drugs, alcohol and survival in contemporary Manhattan book publishing." He will also finish editing the forthcoming The Outlaw Bible of American Literature, a companion volume to The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. A number of titles that Ortenberg acquired (among them books by Gore Vidal, Melvin Van Peebles and John Sayles) will be published by Avalon's Nation Books, an imprint Ortenberg helped to establish.