Amazon Studios Takes Cannes ‘On Its Own Terms’

Amazon Studios rolled into Cannes with five major Festival titles: Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” and his Iggy Pop documentary “Gimme Danger” and Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden.” The presence of so many top contenders and high-profile auteur works from the streaming services was not lost on some Cannes observers, who’ve touted this as a “revolution,” a notion quickly dismissed by Cannes fest chief Thierry Fremaux as well as Jason Ropell, Amazon Studios’ worldwide head of motion pictures.

Ropell said Amazon was not coming to the South of France “looking to disrupt Cannes,” adding, “You have to approach Cannes on its own terms.” This includes, says Ropell, “the traditional elements of the business such as negotiations and meeting with filmmakers. The truth is, we are there pretty much like everyone else, competing in the existing eco-system.”

That “eco-system” is, in Ropell’s view, “the greatest launchpad in the world” and despite all the chatter about the marketplace disruptions caused by the streaming services’ arrival as major players, Ropell again points to the “traditional” aspects of Cannes, where he notes, “There’s no better platform than the films themselves.”

Though Ropell’s modest assessment of Amazon’s impact on the business as usual aspects of Cannes may be technically accurate, when questioned about the hordes of filmmakers hungry for financing and distribution, he does acknowledge the fact that “our team’s dance cards are packed.”

“It’s a good problem to have,” says Ropell, noting with a chuckle, “we get to go to great parties!” But the serious upside of being the hot shop is what Ropell describes “access to the best.” At a time when the top film festivals are inundated with thousands of feature entries, how does Ropell figure out what’s “best” and what’s worth skipping for, say, a great party?

“Ted, Julie and Scott ( film chief Ted Hope, development executives Julie Rapaport and Scott Foundas) are great at their jobs and they’re the best filter in the business. They tell me which meetings I should be taking. We are delighted that people are reacting well to what we’re doing, but that means we have to double down on being respectful of people’s time and their interest in doing business with us.”

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