×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

IFC Films Co-Presidents on the Cost of Oscar Campaigning and ‘Weiner’s’ Success

Since its inception in 2000, IFC Films has beaten the notoriously brutal odds of the independent film business. From “Boyhood” to “The Babadook,” the 17-person distributor, which is owned by AMC Networks, has built a reputation for releasing the kind of quirky and distinctive films that major studios have largely abandoned.

Thanks to the success of last summer’s political documentary “Weiner” — an up-close and personal look at the collapse of Anthony Weiner’s campaign for New York City mayor and his relationship with wife Huma Abedin — as well as buzzy upcoming releases such as Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Things to Come,” and Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake,” the company could be poised to have one of its best years yet.

Variety spoke with IFC Films and Sundance Selects co-presidents Jonathan Sehring and Lisa Schwartz about company strategies, the cost of Oscar campaigning, and riding the Weiner train.

How would you define the IFC brand?
Jonathan Sehring: We are all about the best of the best, whether it’s the best foreign language film, the best horror film, the best documentary. We’re very filmmaker-friendly, but we’re also cognizant of the business element. It is the film business, after all.

Are too many studios doing on-demand releases?
Lisa Schwartz: We were actually the first people to do video on demand. A lot of people rushed into the space, but a lot were experimenting. We stuck to our knitting. We are firmly in the day-and-date business. We do it for a living; we’re not dabbling.
Sehring: It’s a more crowded platform, but it’s more crowded in movie theaters, too. There are more movies being made, and everybody’s looking for the right model.

Would you ever publicly release your video-on-demand revenue?
Sehring: We don’t see the benefit. If there were a standard that the entire industry used, I think we would — but there isn’t. Everybody reports VOD in a different way.

Were you surprised by the reception to “Weiner”?
Sehring: No one could have anticipated Anthony Weiner continuing to …
Schwartz: … behave badly.
Sehring: It’s one of the best political documentaries
that I’ve ever seen. You have Anthony, you have the Huma factor, you have this incredible access, you have a campaign going on. It’s a very humanistic story.
People who were very far to the right went to see the movie and came out saying, “I like Anthony Weiner. There’s something about him personally that I like.”
Schwartz: There were things that happened with that film’s trajectory that you can’t plan for. We went to home video just as Huma announced that they were separating.

Several of your releases, including “Boyhood,” “Y Tu Mamá También,” and “In the Loop,” have been nominated for Oscars. Is Oscar campaigning out of control?
Sehring: It’s always been out of control. The game has ratcheted up. During “Boyhood,” we found out how political it is, and how much money is at stake, and we may have been a little naive to think that negative campaigning didn’t exist. But it was an experience that we learned from.
In the past two years, we’ve earned 10 or 11 nominations, and that was mostly because of the quality. The thing that gives me hope is that when you look at Marion Cotillard in
“Two Days, One Night” or
Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years” — they were being recognized for their performances, not for the campaign or for the amount of ad space or television time.

A number of indie players have struggled recently, from Broad Green to Alchemy. How have you been able to survive?
Sehring: It helps that we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’ve got a strong library.
Schwartz: We also sit inside a large organization — AMC Networks — and one that’s been very supportive of independent film and very patient as the business developed.
Sehring: Going in, we knew the lifespan of an independent distributor probably was five years. We’re on track to have our best year ever.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Naomie Harris Shriek

    'Venom 2': Naomie Harris Eyed to Play Villain Shriek Opposite Tom Hardy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomie Harris is in talks to play Spider-Man villain Shriek in Sony’s “Venom 2,” with Tom Hardy returning as the titular anti-hero. Andy Serkis is on board to direct, and Michelle Williams and Woody Harrelson are also reprising their roles. The original film was a huge hit for the studio when it premiered in 2018, [...]

  • David Weisman

    David Weisman, 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' Producer, Dies at 77

    David Weisman, who was Oscar-nominated as producer of “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” died Oct. 9 in Los Angeles due to complications from West Nile virus. He was 77. Weisman had a long career as a graphic designer and photographer and co-wrote and co-directed cult classic “Ciao! Manhattan” about 1960s icon Edie Sedgwick. Born in [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Composer Michael Giacchino on Setting the Right Tone for 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Michael Giacchino is a widely respected film composer, with an Oscar and a Grammy for “Up” and an Emmy for “Lost,” as well as a Grammy for “Ratatouille.” He is stirring up Oscar buzz again with his score for Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” written and directed by Taika Waititi. Giacchino talked with Variety about the [...]

  • Michael Giacchino Film Composer

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • Robert Duvall (Oberst Kilgore)

    Studiocanal Steps Up its Heritage Game in Germay Via Arthaus Classics

    LYON, France – Continuing its devotion to heritage film in Germany, Studiocanal is bringing classic movies back into cinemas while also releasing newly restored DVD/Blu-ray collections of beloved titles. The leading producer-distributor enjoyed a major hit this summer with the one-day re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now: Final Cut,” which scored 12,000 admissions in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content