×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sierra/Affinity Goes Beyond Sales With Movies Like ‘Atomic Blonde’

Producing and financing films, rather than just taking a fee to sell them, has always been an important part of Sierra/Affinity’s blueprint since the company launched in 2009. Nevertheless, it took several years for the company’s ambitions beyond sales to be fully realized.

The company has produced and financed several titles over the past couple of years and is pushing hard in that direction. As company founder Nick Meyer, who is being honored at Cannes with Variety‘s Achievement in International Film Award, sees it, “a key part of our growth as a company is that we are a production entity.”

Set for release this July via Focus Features is “Atomic Blonde,” the graphic-novel adaptation starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. Recent titles also produced and financed by Sierra include the critically hailed “Lost City of Z” by director James Gray, 1960s melodrama “A Kind of Murder,” John Hillcoat thriller “Triple 9” and genre romp “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Two Jason Statham projects formed the original foundation for Sierra/Affinity’s expansion into production: 2011’s “Parker,” and “Wild Card” in 2015. Another early effort was “Wer,” a horror title from William Brent Bell and the creative team behind “The Devil Inside.”

“As we move forward, we have been focusing on filmmakers and movies that we consider filmmaker-driven movies, meaning they are elevated in some form,” Meyer says. “That could be comedy, that could be action-drama, that could be sci-fi. We’ve been acquiring projects for a while now.”

Recently announced have been the topline cast of “Poms,” a comedy starring Diane Keaton and Jacki Weaver as two members of a retirement community cheerleading squad; and “Snow Ponies,” a Gerard Butler actioner. Based on a screenplay that was on the 2006 Black List, “Ponies” is the feature directorial debut of second-unit veteran Darrin Prescott.

There are many reasons the company has been able to shift resources fairly smoothly into production, including the fact that it now has roughly 25 employees, up from a handful when it launched in 2009, and another is the integration of departments that Meyer has made a priority from the beginning.

“We understand our production business through the lens of our sales and distribution business,” says Marc Schaberg, co-president and chief operating officer. “That allows us to take full advantage of all of the opportunities that we are discussing across the entire company.”

As Meyer sees it, “the need to finance and acquire is high. For us, we have the ability to play in several budget ranges and genres and we have developed some important creative relationships.”

The recent investment in Sierra/Affinity by film and TV powerhouse eOne has clearly provided a shot in the arm. But eOne’s boutique production division, which had a hand in best picture Oscar winner “Spotlight” and “Trumbo,” is separate from the team-up.

Jen Bolton, senior VP of international sales, says organizational decisions made by Meyer when he was setting up the company played an important role in how divisions collaborate and make the most of opportunities in the marketplace.

“One of the most important things Nick has done in terms of structure is that departments are involved with each other,” she says. “We all work as a team. Sales and distribution work hand in hand, on a daily basis, with production.” She adds that the culture is open. “There is a real emphasis on mentorship here that Nick really fosters. We’ve had interns get promoted. It’s very open as long as people work at it.”

Meyer’s organizational thinking was shaped by his time at Lionsgate, where he spearheaded significant growth in the 1990s and 2000s, building out its international arm. He then joined the Hollywood specialty film world as it was exploding as president of Paramount Vantage.

When he exited Paramount amid major layoffs at the end of 2008, he had time to consider the kind of corporate environment he wanted to join — or create.

“I was an executive at an independent company and a studio for 15 years before I founded this company with Marc,” he says. “And one of the advantages is that you can have a small company where everyone is invested. Everyone is moving in the same direction. You have to. You’re a startup.”

One example of the scrappy roots of the company paying off, Schaberg says, is that as a sales entity one of the tenets the company had was to be filmmaker-focused. “One of the core things we do as a company is to meet with filmmakers and discuss their vision,” he says. “We want to make sure that we know how to articulate that. And there are tons of examples where that ability to work closely with filmmakers on the sales side has positively affected our efforts on the production side.”

The one distinct difference, Meyer says, was time. Selling a film in a market is a deadline-pushing, moment-to-moment ride, whereas producing a film can involve gaps of six, eight, 10 years or more between when material is optioned and it finally reaches the screen.

“I just really try to remind everyone that it does take time.”

More Film

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    A Changing Film Market Raises the Pressure for Sundance Indies to Succeed (Column)

    Regretfully, I never go to the Sundance Film Festival anymore because I need to mind the editorial store back home, knowing that our crack team of reporters and critics will be filing great scoops and reviews while freezing their butts off (sorry!). I have lots of fond memories from the days when I frequented Park [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel Oscars

    Will the Oscars Be a Hot Mess Without a Host?

    Who will host this year’s Oscars? With one month left until the telecast on Feb. 24, there’s still no definitive answer. Insiders tell Variety that the ceremony will likely buck the tradition of having a master of ceremonies. Instead, organizers have chosen to patch together a host-less show. That could mean a lot of airtime [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance Preview: Expect Political Moments and Few Costly Deals at 2019 Festival

    Zac Efron underwent a grueling physical transformation to play serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a drama premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week. “I lost 13 pounds,” Efron says. To prepare for the biographical role, he rode a stationary bike for an hour in the mornings while binge-watching [...]

  • Mindy Kaling photographed by Victoria Stevens

    Mindy Kaling Created Her Own Opportunities (and Doesn't Plan on Stopping)

    Over the course of two hit sitcoms, a couple of best-selling books and some scene-stealing turns in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Ocean’s 8” and “Inside Out,” Mindy Kaling has cultivated an image as a kinder, gentler and more relatable star than most. On Instagram or Twitter, where she routinely shares parenting anecdotes and restaurant recommendations, [...]

  • Jimi Hendrix sound check Monterey Pop

    Film Constellation Adds ‘Show Me the Picture’ to Berlin Market Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales and financing house Film Constellation has added Alfred George Bailey’s feature documentary “Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” to its Berlin market slate, ahead of the film’s SXSW premiere. Submarine Entertainment is handling distribution in North America. The film charts the life of American photographer James Joseph Marshall, whose work [...]

  • 'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race

    'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race for France's Cesar Awards

    French actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody” lead the race for this year’s Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, with 10 nominations each, including best picture and best director. “Sink or Swim” (“Le Grand Bain” in France), a star-driven dramedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team, world-premiered at [...]

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content