Nearly a decade after founding IM Global, Stuart Ford is coming to this American Film Market bolstered by a pair of awards-season dramas that he helped navigate to the finish line: “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence.”
Mel Gibson’s World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” which has been in works for 15 years, opens Friday amid stellar reviews. “Silence,” a story of Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan, which Martin Scorsese began developing in 1990, opens on Dec. 23.
“It has been a great year for independents even though there’s no ‘Hunger Games’ and no ‘Twilight,'” Ford told Variety. “‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is working well, and has strong playability for females and in middle America — like ‘American Sniper.'”
“And ‘Silence’ is beautiful and stunning,” Ford said. “It has a $50 million budget and it’s cerebral and meditative — sort of a litmus test for independents.”
IM Global has the heft and prestige to attract foreign buyers to both projects, which were assembled outside the studio system. Ford began selling “Hacksaw Ridge” at Berlin last year, with the film moving into production by late summer. Aided by a presentation to buyers by Scorsese, he launched “Silence” at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
“Hacksaw Ridge” stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who saved 75 soldiers as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa. Garfield also stars along with Liam Neeson and Adam Driver in “Silence.”
“Silence” was financed by AI Films and Fabrica de Cine.
Ford offered his usual cautiously optimistic outlook as his company seeks to stand out in the volatile independent sector and indicated that “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence” are signals of a changing marketplace.
“You can go back three or four years and see that one of the key drivers — mid-priced star-driven action movies — have become less reliable,” he noted. “Now you see more value in upscale filmmakers.”
IM Global’s slate at AFM includes Jessica Chastain’s Sitting Bull drama “Woman Walks Ahead,” which began shooting with Susanna White directing in September in New Mexico; science-fiction film “I Think We’re Alone Now,” starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning; and the love story “Zoe,” starring Lea Seydoux and Charlie Hunnam with Drake Doremus directing and IM Global fully financing.
Ford stressed that the marketplace is tougher than ever.
“Distributors’ priority is to pick up movies with commercial potential; those on the cusp – distributors are not looking for them,” he noted. “The circle of who will buy is getting smaller and smaller.”