When Sony Pictures Classics inherited “Capote” from United Artists, which greenlit the project before being taken over by Sony, the movie was just a few weeks away from being locked.
But rather than wading into the edit suite waving their scissors, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard commented on just one tiny detail.
“There was a date we had fudged for narrative expediency,” recalls director Bennett Miller. “It was the release date of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on an invitation to the premiere. They said to take it out, because film lovers will know. It was Michael who noticed it, because he knows more about the history of movies than any executive working today.”
Barker and Bernard also suggested that Miller should hold a test screening — not for their sake, but for his. “They eliminated the top two boxes, the scores, so that it was a qualitative screening, not a quantitive one. They said it’s for me to learn whatever I could. If it has an effect on the final cut, great, if it doesn’t, fine. In the end, it didn’t change much, but it gave us confidence in what we had.”
When it came to the distribution of the film, Miller was surprised at how widely they exposed it to tastemakers prior to release.
“They screened it like I didn’t know films were screened any more,” he says. “It created a momentum and energy about the film that achieved critical mass by the time the film came out. With their relationships, the manner in which they presented the film, the people they engaged in hosting those screenings, they made the film an event.”
As a result, Miller says, “Within just a few weeks of it coming out, it felt like everybody that you’d want to see the film had seen it.
“In a business where so many survive on a kind of cunning that resorts to dirty tricks and deception, these guys really are unique,” he adds. “They are so honest and transparent and good to their word. They are film scholars and film historians and film lovers — and shrewd business operators as well. If I were to have my druthers, they would be regarded as the model and the ideal for others. Too often you have companies run by ineffectual film lovers, or by sharks who do not share an actual appreciation of cinema. But Tom and Michael have it all.”
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The Stories Behind the Movies
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