Cassian Elwes
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Sounding like a crusader for independent film, producer Cassian Elwes pleaded with his colleagues at the Independent Film and Television Alliance Production Conference to step beyond comic-book franchise fare.

“Independent films are saving the souls of young filmgoers,” he declared Friday at his keynote address.

“I want to challenge the system and I dare you to do the same,” Elwes said at the end of his 20-minute talk.

Elwes, the CEO of Elevated Film Sales, gave the address after a year in which he was involved in the financing of eight titles, including “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “All Is Lost” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” And he pointed to the commercial successes of such titles as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Nebraska” as a strong indication that audiences want more than comic-book titles.

“As studios make less movies and more rubbish, we are sitting pretty,” he said.

Studios don’t want to make a movie for $10 million and see it fail, Elwes said, adding,  “They’re looking to make films that generate $100 million, $200 million profit.”

As a result, star salaries have dwindled for most films, he said. And major stars such as Robert Redford, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johannson take roles in the comic-book and franchise films for the big paycheck.

“Actors will realize that these film are not their best work and they’re interested in doing great work,” he said. “When the late Marlon Brando turned to Sean Penn and compliments him on his work, that means a lot.”

Elwes is bringing two films to Cannes for possible U.S. distribution — Eli Roth’s thriller “Knock Knock,” starring Keanu Reeves, and Werner Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert,” starring Nicole Kidman.

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