10 Producers to Watch

The careers of Canadian producers Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss took flight the way many do — overnight, after years of toil.

The Toronto-born duo, who struck a chord last year with Sarah Polley’s “Away From Her” (with Daniel Iron also producing), followed news of the film’s theatrical release while they were in Jordan, where they were filming Brian De Palma’s “Redacted.”

As that film unspools at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival in September, they will be prepping Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration.”

“It’s a bit of a whirlwind,” Urdl concedes, “but I don’t think it has come out of nowhere.”

Urdl’s career is closely tied to that of Egoyan, who hired her out of film school in 1991 to be his assistant. “He’d never had an assistant before, and I’d never been an assistant, so we figured it out together,” she says.

She was at his elbow for “Exotica,” “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Felicia’s Journey,” working her way up to associate producer on “Ararat.”

One day, Weiss, a friend of a friend who had worked for the Toronto fest, called her for career advice. Her timing was impeccable.

“I had found a feature I was going to produce, and I wanted to take on a partner,” Urdl recalls.

Together the two produced the comedy “Jack & Jill,” after which they set up their own shingle, the Film Farm.

“It’s an amazing case of symbiosis,” Egoyan says. “They have different personalities, but they understand each other really well.”

Their next feature was “Luck,” another comedy, starring Luke Kirby and Polley. While not a B.O. smash, the film snagged several awards on the fest circuit, including SXSW. They then teamed up with Polley for “Away From Her.”

They met De Palma during the Toronto fest. He was impressed that “Away From Her” went from concept to unspooling as a Gala at the festival in just a year. It was also budgeted at $5 million, about the same as “Redacted” and “Adoration.”

While they don’t want to be known as the $5 million producers forever, they say it’s a nice round figure to work with.

“You can make a really good film for $5 million,” Weiss says. “It’s a particular type of film, but it’s a good number from a business standpoint. It can be recouped in the international marketplace.”

VITAL STATS
Ages: Urdl, 40; Weiss, 36
Provenance: Toronto
Inspired by:
Urdl: European melodramas, Sally Potter’s “Yes.”
Weiss: Tragedies, Wong Kar Wai’s films, Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves,” Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.” “I remember seeing ‘Exotica’ long before I met Atom Egoyan,” she says. “I remember being inspired and thinking, ‘I can make films in Canada.’ ”
Company: Film Farm
Web: n/a

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