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Vachon talks price of indie pics

Killer Films head brings Bahrani feature to Lido

For Christine Vachon at New York’s Killer Films, “What keeps independent film alive, what it has to be charged with now, is true originality, alternative, truly original voices.”

Vachon can certainly talk. Over the past 20 years, from Todd Haynes’ “Poison” in 1991, she’s produced multiple emblematic indie titles with partner Pamela Koffler including, “Go Fish,” “Safe,” “Kids,” “Velvet Goldmine,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Far From Heaven.” Last year’s Venice hit, HBO series “Mildred Pierce,” was also exec-produced by Vachon.

She has now produced “At Any Price,” from scribe-helmer Ramin Bahrani (“Chop Shop”), called “the director of the decade” by U.S. critic Roger Ebert. “Through the strength of their scripts, exciting and exhilarating movies like ‘At Any Price’ can attract great casts,” Vachon said.

That’s crucial, she added, because “these days movies are financed by cast, cast, cast.”

Starring Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Heather Graham and Kim Dickens and a step-up in budget for Bahrani, “Price” world-preemed Friday in competition to upbeat early reviews. The fundemental importance of cast these days marks a seachange in U.S. indie cinema.

“In the first half of the 1990s, when I made ‘Poison’ and ‘Go Fish,’ I’m sure you couldn’t now name an actor in them, but you could name the directors,” Vachon remembered. “That’s what mattered: A sort of appetite for American indie film that wasn’t necessarily about cast.

“Now, there is a lot of downward pressure on the budgets, but the casting pressure has not been relieved. There’s no magic number where you can say, OK, I can make it for this little, we don’t have to worry about cast.”

What hasn’t changed, Vachon says, is Killer’s commitment.

“People have certain expectations when they see the name Killer Films on a movie: They expect they’re going to see something that, even if it’s a brand new filmmaker, is strongly conceived and very well made.”

The New York shingle is still bringing on new talent. Killer has just wrapped production on debut helmer John Krokidas’ murder story “Kill Your Darlings,” with Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael C. Hall.

Also in post is the “Untitled Sebastian Silva Project,” “The Maid” director’s English-language debut, with Michael Cera, Juno Temple and Emily Browning. Mike White’s Ripcord and Frida Torresblanco’s Braven Films produce with Killer.

Real-life love story “Deep Powder” is Mo Ogrodnik’s first film since 1996’s “Ripe.” Killer is also producing Hilary Brougher’s third film, “Innocence,” with Kelly Reilly, Linus Roache and Sophie Curtis.

“We’d like to think talent is reassured by us, if a film’s by a first-time director or a director who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience,” Vachon said.

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