Indie mavens are sharpening their dealmaking skills as they head into a market that is coming back at a healthy rate after a disastrous couple of years.
Poised to take full advantage is the three-year-old sales and production company FilmNation, launched by industry vet Glen Basner after he saw a need in the market for a pure third-party international sales company
Three years later and the outfit is robust, and now has an active production arm.
“Our key is to be diversified and value-oriented,” says Basner, who is shopping Jeff Nichols’ Sundance buzz title “Take Shelter” (which is screening in Cannes Critics’ Week) about a young father plagued by apocalyptic visions, and Daryl Wein’s romantic comedy “Lola Versus,” toplining Greta Gerwig and Orlando Bloom for which, at press time, Fox Searchlight was negotiating distribution rights.
Its slate also includes Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” which debuts in competish in Cannes.
It’s also selling Relativity’s “The Brothers Grimm: Snow White,” toplining Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer, as part of an exclusive multiyear deal between the two outfits that has FilmNation overseeing foreign sales and distribution of Relativity pics.
“The truth of how we look at things is that we don’t want to have all specialty films, all genre films or all commercial films,” says Basner, former head of international at TWC and Focus Features. “We want a varied and diversified slate whereby we look at each film and evaluate its profitability. That’s fundamental.”
Basner’s been able to exploit his close ties with foreign distribs for healthy sales.
FilmNation scored when it boarded “The King’s Speech” as an international sales rep in 2009 after Basner read the script. It launched sales for the pic at the American Film Market in 2009, and from script to promo pre-sold the world for close to half the pic’s budget.
“I’m a huge fan of Tom Hooper,” Basner says. “Hooper was the most compelling part (of the project) for me.”
FilmNation scored one of the biggest deals at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, pre-selling Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth starrer “Gambit,” penned by Joel and Ethan Coen, in a multi-territory pact to Alliance Films for Canada, Spain and Blighty.
These days, FilmNation is also the exclusive international sales agent for Media Rights Capital, Samuels Media Group and Greenestreet Films, and has a nonexclusive multipicture deal with Endgame Entertainment.
“We’re in the distribution business ultimately,” Basner says. “Sellers don’t have a business without distributors and if they see value in something, then it enables us to bring better product for them to buy and allows us to service them.”
Basner also recognizes the value of international distribution. “The fact is that international is playing an increasingly larger role in performances of movies, and potential business is increasingly shrinking in the U.S. … Our approach is that it doesn’t matter whether (the U.S.) come now or later.”
Diversification is naturally key in a business that sees distributors getting into production, sales agents tapping into financing and production and even post-production houses boarding projects at the financing stage.
With that in mind, Basner recruited Aaron Ryder, whose credits include “Memento,” “Donnie Darko” and “The Prestige,” to head the FilmNation production division. The shingle is producing John Cusack starrer “The Raven”; Jennifer Lawrence starrer “House at the End of the Street”; and action-thriller “The Amateur American.”
It’s an eclectic slate, but Basner says that trying to find trends in the current film climate is a wasted effort.
“Our business has gone back to a place where it’s about the basics,” he says. “It’s about the storytelling and it’s about budget levels that make sense with that value level around the world.”