American Film Market 2011: Case Study - FilmNation

In what easily could have become a failed state, Glen Basner’s international sales outfit FilmNation has become one of movieland’s preeminent players.

Launched three years ago at AFM with only three employees just as the global economy was crashing, FilmNation now has 23 staffers and a highly propitious slate, lead by films from Steven Soderbergh (the male-stripper drama, formerly known as “Magic Mike”) and “Take Shelter” maverick Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey.

The company seems to have grown exponentially in the size, quantity and range of its projects, from China’s most expensive epic ever, Zhang Yimou’s Nanking drama “The Flowers of War” (on which the company will finalize deals after it screens in December) to the latest horror film from “Paranormal Activity” wunderkind Oren Peli to Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi pic “Under the Skin,” starring Scarlett Johannson.

“We’ve always tried to have a diverse slate of films,” says Basner. He identifies three types of projects: commercial ones like the Soderbergh film; auteur pics like Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s bestseller “Midnight’s Children” or Terrence Malick’s untitled drama starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams; and genre movies such as Peli’s ghost story or FilmNation’s first in-house production “House at the End of the Street,” helmed by Mark Tonderai. “We’ve been in that business from the start,” he says.

While FilmNation has endured during the global economy’s most trying times, Basner, a former international sales exec at Good Machine and Weinstein Co., says he won’t let the latest European financial woes drive his decisions. “I can’t really affect that, so we just have to go back to basics and find films that we can not only sell, but also that people are going to see in theaters,” he says.

“Overall, the independent international market is pretty healthy,” adds Basner, noting foreign growth is substantial.

He cites, for example, the $102 million international box office gross for their James Cameron-produced spelunking thriller “Sanctum.” “We’re seeing places like Brazil, Russia and China become major territories,” he says. “And those are positive signs.”

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