As Hollywood converges in Toronto and things get noisy, some Canadian film production and financing companies are using the home-field advantage to talk up fresh ideas and announce new projects in a market milieu that feels both untethered and exciting.
“This is a frothy time for content — it’s a perfect moment in entertainment history to get in the game in a disciplined way,” says Unbranded Pictures co-founder Eddy Moretti.
Moretti capped off 20 years as Vice Media’s chief creative officer by greenlighting Vice’s investment in Scott Z. Burns’ political thriller “The Report,” and ended up stepping in to finance the other half after hatching his new company. Amazon bought “Report” at Sundance for $14 million; after Toronto, the film will have a short theatrical run before streaming on Prime Video in October.
“The options for distribution are growing, and the content marketplace has become a good place to invest money and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down,” continues Moretti, who is well-known to the Canadian investor community from his time at Vice and has leveraged connections to build investment in Unbranded and in a fund that allows the company to self-finance films coming out of development.
“You need to have a global perspective today.”
With long-time Spike-Jonze producing partner Vincent Landay’s involvement in Unbranded officially confirmed this week, Toronto will be the company’s de facto “coming out party,” says Moretti, adding they plan to announce three projects.
“After working with 3,000 employees, I was ready to reduce the scale of the operation and the complexity of decision-making,” he says. “We want to channel our energy into the filmmaker, and let the film itself be the brand.”
On the flipside of scale, Vancouver-headquartered Bron Media Corp., which has been growing since its founding in 2010 by husband-and-wife team of Aaron L. Gilbert and Brenda Gilbert, has one of the more robust commercial slates of any company on the ground here: from Todd Philips’ Venice showstopper “The Joker” on the Gala screen, to a slew of titles in the wings — Jay Roach’s “Bombshell,” Lena Waithe’s “Queen & Slim,” David Lowery’s “The Green Knight” plus the recently wrapped “Harry Haft” from Barry Levinson and Taylor Sheridan’s “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” Bron has both a party and project announcements planned for Toronto.
While Bron has been putting more focus of late on non-theatrical and its TV business (8-parter “Shadowplay” with Studiocanal’s Tandem) and is also investing in a game company, film is key. “Our strategy is to remain active with traditional major studios,” says Bron chair and CEO Aaron Gilbert. “And we are fortunate to work closely with many of them.”
Since Jason M. Cloth of Ontario-based Creative Wealth Media, which specializes in gap financing for film and TV, joined Bron in 2014 in a key financial and investor management role (he is now a Bron director), the two companies have collaborated on more than 70 features; since last year’s festival, Bron Creative (a joint venture between the two companies) has inked $100 million, multi-picture co-financing deals with both Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.
“The reality is that we’re in the IP business,” Gilbert says. “We’re forming partnerships with companies around the world to help tell incredible stories in many different ways.”
For David Gross of production and financing company No Trace Camping (“Room”), which launched its first feature, the hockey-themed “Goon,” in Toronto in 2012, while making commercially viable films means being global facing and open to partnering, it is important to sell the film when it makes the most sense for the film.
Case in point is romcom No Trace Camping’s “The Broken Heart Gallery,” the feature bow of Canadian-born Natalie Krinsky (writer and story editor on TV’s “Gossip Girl”), starring Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery and Utkarsh Ambudkar, which recently wrapped shooting in Toronto and New York.
“We took it to Cannes and got a lot of offers for single territories and decided to keep global rights to sell later once we screen the film,” Gross says. “That’s a decision we wouldn’t have made three years ago— it just shows how quickly the market is changing. ”