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AFM: Netflix Called ‘Bravest’ by Cassian Elwes for Handling ‘Mudbound’

Veteran producer Cassian Elwes didn’t equivocate Friday on his opinion about streaming giant Netflix during a panel discussion at the American Film Market.

Netflix is the only company that would step up to buy ‘Mudbound’ at Sundance,'” he said. “They are the bravest company in the business.”

Elwes, who has credits dating back to the 1984’s “Oxford Blues,” is a producer on “Mudbound,” the period drama film directed by Dee Rees and written by Rees and Virgil Williams, based on the Hillary Jordan novel, set in rural Mississippi with World War II veterans dealing with racism. It stars Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige. Netflix opens the film, expected to be an awards contender, on Nov. 17.

Netflix has created a major disruption in the world of independent filmmaking with its planned spending on content — $6 billion this year and $7 billion next year.

Elwes, speaking at the AFM’s Finance Conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, stressed that producers need to possess passion to get projects made.

“When I read the script for ‘Mudbound,’ I started crying,” he said. “Your passion has to be unbelievably immense to get a movie made. It’s always been difficult to make movies and it’s not a business for people with thin skins.”

Elwes had two major pieces of advice for the capacity crowd, which numbered about 700: get a good script and be prepared.

“I’ve never seen a great movie from a terrible script; I have seen terrible movies from great scripts,” he said. “Every single question you’re going to be asked, you have to have the answer.”

Elwes, whose credits include “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Billionaire Boys Club,” was interviewed by Wayne Marc  Godfrey of financier The Fyzz Facility. He joked that he’s worked in Hollywood for so long that he’s lost his British accent but became serious on the issue of sexual assault, spurred by multiple allegations of scandalous behavior by Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and James Toback.

“There’s a lot of bad behavior in Hollywood and it’s coming to an end,” he declared to applause. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

Earlier, a panel called The Future of Global Film Finance offered a mixed outlook and expressed relief over Chinese box office hit “Wolf Warrior 2,” which has generated $900 million in ticket sales. Alexis Garcia, partner at Endeavor Content, noted that the film carried significant participation from Hollywood players such as Joe and Anthony Russo.

“Before ‘Wolf Warrior 2,’ Chinese box office was flat,” noted Garcia, partner at Endeavor Content. “It made a difference that the project had a lot of Hollywood creative input.”

The remarks came with North American box office lagging 5% during 2017. SKE President John Penotti told the audience that his company is re-directing its spending.

“The theatrical experience is vibrant in Asia; people are going to theaters a lot” said Penotti. “We are consciously reducing the amount of money that we are spending in the States.”

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