By Addie Morfoot
A little less than a decade ago, Amy Nauiokas decided it was time for a change. The former Barclays Stockbrokers CEO and managing director wanted to make the transition from a career in finance to a career in the entertainment industry. So she did.
In 2010 Nauiokas founded and launched Archer Gray, a production, media investment and venture capital company that develops and produces narrative films, television shows and documentaries. In 2013 she invited veteran indie producer Anne Carey to join the New York-based shingle as president of production. Together, the duo has backed George Tillman’s “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes,” Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” and Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women.” Archer Gray has also been involved in a handful of Broadway productions including “Seminar” and Tony-winner “Once.”
The shingle is repped at Toronto by Marielle Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” pictured above, which is making its international premiere at the festival. The Fox Searchlight film stars Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, a miserable Manhattan author who forged letters by famous writers in order to pay the bills.
Nauiokas says that working with female filmmakers was one of many missions she had when she launched Archer Gray.
“I have exclusively worked in traditionally male-dominated and, quite frankly, white-dominated industries,” Nauiokas says. “It has been personal passion of mine to change the way women are perceived and included in the work [landscape]. I also promised myself that I would always look to fight for equality and representation in the voices and ideas that had been missing from the world I was living in.”
Tackling bias, discrimination and harassment while embracing diversity is a central tenet of company. That said, Nauiokas is quick to point out that Archer Gray is not a production company that limits itself to just female-driven projects.
“Diversity for me has always been about all, not one,” she says. “The reality is for the world to work the way we want it to and for content and media to be representing the entire world, it has to have all the voices and all people represented. So I wouldn’t say that we deliberately go after only female [directors or stories]. We are working really hard to surround ourselves with the most exciting and authentic stories we can find and we want to work with a talented and a diverse group of filmmakers, actors and production teams — female and male.”
This isn’t the first time Archer Gray has worked with Heller. Both Nauiokas and Carey played an instrumental part in getting Heller’s first feature, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” off the ground.
“When I started writing “Diary,” Anne was the person who I went to seek advice from,” Heller said. “I knew she was not afraid of making movies about difficult, interesting women. She encouraged me to apply to the Sundance Labs, which I did. Getting in to those labs was one of the biggest things that ever happened to me and was a big reason why that film got made.”
Nicole Holofcener was originally tapped to direct “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” but when she was no longer available to helm Carey was tasked with hiring her replacement.
“I can’t honestly say that I sat down and said the director needed to be female,” Carey says. “I think I sat down and made a list of the people who I thought would be the best directors and many of them were female because it is a movie about an angry 50-year-old woman and her cat. A female lens on that character is one that I thought could celebrate Lee and support Lee.”
Currently the shingle is producing Liz Garbus’ “Lost Girls” for Netflix. Starring Amy Ryan, “Lost Girls,” a true-crime story based on Robert Kolker’s book, and is documentarian Garbus’ first foray into narrative filmmaking.
Garbus says that working with Carey, who she previously collaborated with on her 2012 docu, “Love, Marilyn,” has provided her with the “perfect bridge” between the narrative and docu space.
“Anne understands both worlds,” Garbus said. “She is very supportive of me expanding my toolbox. Just yesterday we sat down and talked through everything that I want out of each scene (in “Lost Girls”) so that she knows and she understands what I need to accomplish come production. She will be there by my side the whole time and that’s just a remarkable anchor to have.”
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