Producer Uri Singer launched Passage Pictures in 2016, taking its drama ‘Marjorie Prime,” starring Jon Hamm and Lois Smith, to Sundance earlier this year. That film was picked up by FilmRise, which is planning an awards push for Smith. Also in its slate: “I am Rose Fatou,” written by Ted Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), “Tesla,” which teams Singer up again with writer/director Michael Almereyda, and “Rich,” based on the book “King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich,” about the infamous billionaire oil trader who died in 2013.
What’s different about Passage Pictures?
I decided I had to sit through movies and watch them and I decided they had to be important to bring to the screen — passion projects that can have a bigger audience, and important stories. Like “Experimenter,” and movies like “Marjorie Prime,” “White Noise,” and Nikola Tesla biopic “Tesla.” That’s a challenge I embrace.
How do you navigate the difficult specialty market?
The market for the arthouse movies is very complicated. It’s very hard to make them so that the larger audience will embrace them. What I am trying to do is have a balance and do bigger movies that can be more commercial.
What kind of material are you attracted to?
Some kind of a niche — strong characters especially, and most of the times, material about a real, fascinating personality, like Marc Rich, or Nikola Tesla. Strong personalities. Tesla was not in the end a successful person but brilliant; to me, Marc Rich is a fascinating story that had everything. But Rich couldn’t get the most important thing. Stanley Milgram (the real-life social psychologist played by Peter Sarsgaard in the film “Experimenter”) was also a strong character.
How do you attract a high-profile cast?
It is a challenge to attract cast. Actors can be very picky now. So sometimes you go the route where the director attracts the talent. Or the actors are not attracted to a payday but to the content. With “White Noise,” we are finished the script and going out to our wish list of talent. Once you have the cast and the material and the IP and everyone is reading it, you can compete with the big studios.
Surviving the economics of the indie film biz — what’s your secret?
Very challenging. It’s challenging like the Wild West. Producers have a very hard time — it’s getting harder and harder. Producers have to source material, option it, etc.
You have to really believe in what you are doing and if you have a project of quality, doors open. The material has to be unique — a true story, socially relevant. [We are producing] a Brazilian movie about immigrants from their POV, something that’s timley and important.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Cannes?
Bobo is a brassiere there with fantastic food. The last time I was there, Rena Ronson and James Schamus were at a table near me and the waiter started to sing and dance. They couldn’t hear and the waiter wouldn’t stop, and they left, and the waiter just danced and sang. They were not nice and couldn’t care less but it’s just great food. I also love Le Maschou, in Old Town.