Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard were honored as icons of the Gotham film business on Monday at a lively party hosted by Variety on the roof of the Gramercy Park Hotel.
The two indie impresarios took a break from the New York Film Festival, where the company is fielding six premieres, including major screenings of such leading Oscar contenders as “Whiplash,” “Mr. Turner” and “Foxcatcher,” to be feted for their efforts to bring challenging and innovative work to the big screen.
“They personify independent cinema,” said Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller during remarks about the pair’s contributions to film. “I learn so much every time I walk away from a conversation with them.”
Barker said he wasn’t sure if he deserved to be labeled a visionary, but noted that the term applied to many of the party guests — a group that included Ethan Hawke, Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, “Foxcatcher” director Bennett Miller, Showtime Networks Chairman and CEO Matt Blank, “Kill Your Darlings” director John Krokidas, “Still Alice” producer Christine Vachon, A24 co-founders Daniel Katz and David Fenkel, and Broadway producer David Binder.
“There are a lot of visionaries in this room,” said Barker.
Bernard noted that Variety has always been required reading for him and said he remembered cutting out the first article he was ever mentioned in many years ago and putting it in a drawer.
“This is all we ever wanted to do,” said Bernard.
Monday’s party wasn’t the only time recently the two executives have been recognized for their commitment to cinema. Last week, the pair received the French Legion of Honor award for their support of French filmmakers and films, something Penske Media Corporation Vice Chairman Gerry Byrne alluded to in his remarks.
“They’re not just visionaries, they’re Legionnaires,” he said.