If Nicholas Tabarrok’s Darius Films had a signature pic, it would be “Weirdsville” (2007), Allan Moyle’s caper comedy involving two drugged-out slackers (Scott Speedman and Wes Bentley), their hooker friend and a trio of Satan worshippers. Unstable characters run amok in Tabarrok’s oddball oeuvre, but that’s no reflection on the Toronto-born producer’s friendly, steady style.
Moving from bit actor to assistant production accountant to production manager until launching Darius in Toronto with low-budget thriller “Motel” (1998), the English lit grad and former number-cruncher has the organizational chops and filmmaking know-how that has execs and talent welcoming repeat collaborations.
Shoreline CEO Morris Ruskin, who exec produced Magnolia-distributed “Weirdsville,” says Tabarrok “knows how to make things happen and how to bring things under control.” Shoreline later sold Tabarrok’s sci-fi thriller “Deceived” (2002) and dystopian drama “The Limb Salesman” (2004). “Nicholas always recognizes we are having fun doing what we love,” adds Ruskin.
In a tough marketplace, where few indies have found U.S. distributors, most of the films that Tabarrok has had a hand in have found homes. “Hank and Mike” was snapped up by Magnolia at this year’s Slamdance and is set for a fall release. The pic came to Tabarrok as a script by co-stars/co-writers Paolo Mancini and Thomas Michael, based on their 2000 short.
“I enjoy development, getting a raw script and working with writers, getting it right, then raising the financing,” says the producer. He also helped two twentysomething helmers whittle their three-hour assembly into “Surviving Crooked Lake,” another Slamdance pic, which was picked up by new distrib NeoClassics.
The producer hung his Darius shingle in L.A. last year. “I kept thinking I’d make a ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ but it was a steady flow,” he laughs, adding, “It’s not like I stepped off the plane and life changed. But having a 310 number means you’re taken more seriously.”
Tabarrok hit the Toronto fest in 2005 with the honky-tonkumentary “The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico” and returns this year with two pics. The first is “Cooper’s Camera,” Warren Sonoda’s dark, dysfunctional-family Christmas comedy that stars “Daily Show” correspondents and real-life spouses Jason Jones (who co-wrote) and Samantha Bee. Tabarrok, whose upstart Boutique Films distributes in Canada, notes Sean Buckley was the pic’s hands-on producer. And Tabarrok exec produced Canuck drama “Down to the Dirt,” Darius’ second Toronto title this year.
With an animated sitcom pilot, “Fugget About It,” co-produced with 9 Stories Entertainment, bowing on Canada’s Teletoon this November, Tabarrok seems to be planning on expansion. What else do you expect from a guy whose company is named after a successful Persian emperor renowned as a great financier?
INSPIRATION: 1970s-era Scorsese, Coppola, De Palma, “Family Guy,” authors Mordecai Richler, Nick Hornby, Martin Amis