According to Lone Scherfig, the Danish director of “An Education,” the secret of Michael Barker and Tom Bernard’s success is that serious filmmakers enjoy hanging out with them.
As a consequence, auteurs are happy to spend time on the promotional circuit alongside the Sony duo, which in turn delivers exactly the kind of editorial profile their films need to maximize their commercial impact.
“When Sony was releasing ‘An Education,’ I was travelling everywhere with Michael Haneke, who had ‘The White Ribbon,’ and Jacques Audiard, who had ‘A Prophet.’ We went to the same parties, the same festivals,” she recalls.
“These are very serious and busy men, and they would prefer to be working on new films above anything else. But they felt so respected by Michael, and respected him so much, that they were happy to do it. So you get interviews and personal meetings instead of just advertising.”
“The fact that he’s a walking dictionary of film makes you very quickly forget that he’s a businessman. You feel like you are back at university or at film school, talking to your friends,” she explains. “Because Michael and Tom look like two suits, it takes a while to realize those are just costumes.”
That makes it easy for filmmakers to trust them with their movies, she says.
She describes their campaign for “An Education,” and particularly the fact they secured Oscar nominations for the film, as “extraordinary.” “The financial crisis happened in the middle of that year, and they saw that maybe people wanted a small comedy like this. They suddenly grabbed the ball and ran towards the goal, because they saw there was a gap.”
Their endorsement alone bestows a huge credibility upon a film and its talent in America, she argues.
“It’s like a stamp of quality. They were invaluable to Carey Mulligan, they supported her strongly and she was ready to work very hard to make her career, and Susanne Bier really benefitted from that last year with ‘In a Better World.’ ”
That film won the foreign-language film Oscar.
It’s not all sweetness and light, though. “You can fight with them,” she admits. “But then you make up 10 minutes later. Actually I think they enjoy it. They like to pretend that you’re the difficult one, but I don’t think it’s true,” she laughs.
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