The past year has seen the emergence of producers from varied backgrounds who are working on high-profile projects with major talent. This year in Cannes, a constantly heard refrain is that there is an abundance of quality product. Below are some of the key producers responsible:
Megan Ellison: The daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison has deep pockets and good taste that have put her at the forefront of today’s hot producers via her Annapurna Pictures. She’s also respected for what one distributor says is her “strategy of working only with strong directors.” Of the official selection films in Cannes, she produced John Hillcoat’s Lawless. Last year at Cannes, she won a bidding war for the rights to make 2 more Terminator installments. On her upcoming roster are Kathryn Bigelow’s hunt for Bin Laden pic, being sold by the sales company she’s backing, Panorama Media. There’s also Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths (sold by Hanway), Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming The Master, which the Weinsteins have and Inherent Vice starring Robert Downey Jr as well as Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum and also via Panorama. Deadline also recently reported a big deal is in the works for Ellison and Annapurna to fully fund American Bullshit, the drama that has David O Russell attached to direct, with Christian Bale also attached and Bradley Cooper in talks.
Red Granite: When Red Granite Pictures launched its international sales division in Cannes last year, they did so in style. You can tell a lot about a company from the way it throws a party and Red Granite’s last year is one people still talk about. Kanye West performed with Jamie Foxx joining him to duet on Gold Digger while Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt rocked out on the beach. In 2011, Red Granite’s first production, Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids, was released and the company has steadily been building its roster of impressive product including Wolf Of Wall Streetwith DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese and Out Of The Furnace starring Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana and Casey Affleck which Scott Cooper is directing. Red Granite is also selling those pictures. Exec Joe Gatta tells me the company’s vision is to “make quality movies first and foremost. It’s a tough business; we have a lot of competition and we want to stand out as a company that’s getting the movies made.” Gatta says Red Granite wants to “grow, but grow steadily.” That could “in the future” include distribution, but the company will definitely grow its sales division under Danny Dimbort, the former Millennium/Nu Image partner who Gatta calls “the best in the business.” The goal for Red Granite is to be doing 3-5 productions per year with some third party pick-ups in the mix.
Alexander Rodnyansky: A year ago, Alexander Rodnyansky and his Russia-based AR Films came to Cannes as a mystery to Hollywood. This year, he returns as financier/producer of five commercial films he will sell in the market. In Machete Kills, he’s got Danny Trejo squaring off against Mel Gibson along with Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and a Russian-set untitled thriller directed by Renny Harlin, based on a 1969 tragedy in which a group of hikers were found dead under mysterious circumstances. “Cannes will be a buyer’s market, but it definitely feels like there is an appetite for good projects,” said Rodnyansky. He knows this can be a perilous business, but feels his background will serve him well as he expands beyond Russia to fund Hollywood films. AR Films controls one of the largest film licensing and distribution corporations in Central and Eastern Europe in A-Company; Rodnyansky is a significant distributor and producer of films in Russia, and runs the film festival Kinotavr there. He is also a director of documentaries, and a partner in the sales company Aldamisa International, which is selling his slate. His model: the late Bernd Eichinger. “You have to develop confidence as both a producer and financier and being a filmmaker helps a lot,” Rodnyansky said. “I read scripts, I love movies, I speak to directors, and I can structure business models for films. I need to learn a lot, and I was personally impressed by how Bernd was so well regarded in German cinema while he was also perceived in Hollywood as a producer of universal movies. I don’t want to break ties with Russian territories, I want to strengthen them and use my origins as an advantage to continue developing distribution companies in that part of the world, attracting financial and creative resources. And at the same time, build a vertically integrated company with strong production and sales in Europe and Russia.”
Pierre-Ange Le Pogam: In January of 2011, Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp announced the departure of co-founder and longtime Besson associate Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. Le Pogam then set up his own production, finance and distribution outfit, Stone Angels. Now, the company has Nabil Ayouch’s God’s Horses in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. Before starting Europa with Besson, Le Pogam was a longtime Gaumont exec during a period in which the studio put out such pics as Besson’s The Big Blue and The Fifth Element and Francis Veber’s hit The Dinner Game. Le Pogam honed his producing skills while partnered with Besson at Europa on such films as Taken and Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada. He now has projects in the hopper that include Grace Of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman and sold by Inferno and he’s co-producing upcoming French comedyLike Brothers starring rising talent Pierre Niney. Le Pogam also has a small role in that film, continuing his taste for dabbling in front of the camera. His other acting credits include Besson’sSubway, Cédric Klapish’s Ni Pour, Ni Contre (Bien Au Contraire) and more recently Eric Lartigau’sL’Homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie. The first film he’ll release under the new Stone Angels banner is David Cronenberg’s competition pic Cosmopolis.
Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey: An Education producers Dwyer and Posey recently created a formal partnership under their Wildgaze banner But, they’ve known each other forever. Dwyer explains the pair met when she first came to England from her native New Zealand and was developing Iain Softley’s 1994 Backbeat and Posey was helping out on The Crying Game, both of which were produced by Stephen Woolley. “We worked around each other for some time and then just started doing things together,” says Dwyer who adds, “Producing can be lonely sometimes, so it’s good to have someone to bounce off of.” The duo, who’s just arrived for meetings in Cannes, recently attached Rooney Mara to a Nick Hornby-scripted adaptation of novel Brooklyn, about a girl from a small Irish town who must decide between two cities and two men. That film reteams the producers with Hornby, who also adapted An Education. Posey (who’s married to Hornby) also produced the adaptation of his novel Fever Pitch. And, Dwyer and Posey are nearing a shooting start on another Hornby adaptation, A Long Way Down, which Pascal Chaumeil is directing. Toni Collette, Emile Hirsch and Pierce Brosnan star in that film. On her own, Dwyer recently produced Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet which The Weinstein Co just acquired.