You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Neon’s Elissa Federoff Cuts Through Clutter With Specialty Pic Buzz

Neon’s distribution topper Elissa Federoff hits Toronto with some high-profile titles: Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or-winner “Parasite,” Alfre Woodard-starrer “Clemency” and Celine Sciamma’s Cannes prize-winner “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Neon has seen success in a subdued specialty pic B.O. climate with docs such as “Three Identical Strangers” and recently with “Luce,” “Honeyland” and “Wild Rose.”

The specialty film market is especially crowded in the fourth quarter, so how do you get your films in front of the public? What out of the box thinking comes with this territory now?

Neon is positioned as a significant 2020 awards season player, having picked up some of the hottest acquisitions out of Sundance and Cannes. … Each one of our films is unique and will get its own specialized campaign. A tailor-made campaign for each of these films will allow them to rise above the noise, and garner the attention they deserve, but it starts with choosing films that are unparalleled in their cinematic craft, and willing to go places that typical studio specialty fare isn’t willing to go. That’s how we stand out and appeal to audiences who might be bored with generic biopics and stuff they can see at home. From there, it’s about being bold with our marketing and letting exhibitors, voters, and the audience know that we’re serious about these films even though we’re not the norm.

What about the number of screens available? Are bigger chains opening up more screens for specialty pics? 

Popular on Variety

There has always been a place for niche and specialty films in the marketplace, and that hasn’t changed.  However, with some of the jaw-dropping success stories we’ve seen in the past few years, from films like “Three Identical Strangers,” the commitment from our theatrical partners has grown.  “Apollo 11” is a great example of a specialty release that launched in Imax in the major commercial circuits and continued to thrive in the marketplace for months, both in art houses and the commercial multiplexes.

How do you use festivals for marketing?

Festivals offer a great way to position and launch our films.  Neon is committed to the moviegoing experience and the excitement we see from festival audiences builds the film’s awareness and the buzz. Toronto is an excellent launch pad for a theatrical release; where we gauge the audience response and our campaign takes off from there. “Portait of a Lady on Fire,” Clemency” and Parasite” will all show at Toronto; we’re looking forward to the critical response and we’re excited to debut our films the way they’re meant to be seen, on the big screen.

Two of your TIFF films have Cannes heat — how do you turn that into box office and awards?

“Parasite” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” had amazing receptions in Cannes.  Critical response has been through the roof and both films are 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.  “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or and “Portrait” won best screenplay, so the premieres alone have pushed these films into the public eye and have made them some of those most anticipated this fall. There’s an upward progression that keeps building, and the release should only drive it further.

“Clemency” is heavy material but topical. Can you talk about why that film is important to Neon?

“Clemency,” which won the Grand Jury Prize out of Sundance, made a big impression on all of us at Neon. It’s a wonderful film with a career best performance by Alfre Woodard and a fresh new voice in Chinonye Chukwu, who wrote and directed the film. It’s an important film, but it’s also an extraordinarily emotional and cathartic experience that Chinonye manages to achieve without milking or manipulating emotions, but rather through a beautifully honest, restrained touch that gradually builds until you don’t even realize you’re in a puddle of tears. So this is both the celebration of one of America’s very best actresses and the discovery of a major director.


More Film

  • Kasi LemmonsNew York Women in Film

    Kasi Lemmons, Jane Rosenthal, Ann Dowd Talk Golden Globes Female Director Snub

    The absence of women among director nominees for the Golden Globes is another example of how much work remains to be done to achieve gender parity in the entertainment industry, honorees said Tuesday night at the 40th annual Muse Awards presented by New York Women in Film and Television. “Harriet” director Kasi Lemmons, “The Irishman” [...]

  • Queen & Slim

    How 'Queen & Slim' Production Designer Karen Murphy Mapped Out the Duo's Route

    “Queen & Slim” is a social commentary packaged as a film, beginning with a bang. It kicks off when Queen (Jodi Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) shoot a police officer in self-defense and find themselves on the run. Slim somewhat innocently thinks his action will be justified in court, but Queen, a weathered prosecutor, knows [...]

  • Kevin Costner Diane Lane

    Film News Roundup: Kevin Costner-Diane Lane Thriller 'Let Him Go' Set for August

    In today’s film news roundup, “Let Him Go” will open against “Bill and Ted Face the Music”; “Paradise Found” is in the works; “The Irishman” leads the way for AACTA International Awards nominations; and principal photography has wrapped on “Quiet in My Town.” RELEASE DATE Focus Features has set an Aug. 21 release date for [...]

  • Harriet Movie BTS

    How the Three-Part Arc Helped 'Harriet' Editor Wyatt Smith in the Editing Room

    It has taken us until 2019 to have a film about Araminta “Minty” Ross. Better known in history as Harriet Tubman. In Kasi Lemmons’ new film “Harriet,” the story breaks away from the typical slave narrative of an upward journey. Rather, we get a story that delves into the woman, her humanity and inspirational life. [...]

  • Awkwafina Jumanji Next Level Premiere

    'The Farewell's' Awkwafina on Her First Golden Globe Nomination, Female Director Snubs

    Awkwafina just might’ve had her best Monday ever. Shortly after 5 a.m., the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. announced that she’d earned her first Golden Globe nomination (as best actress in a motion picture – musical or comedy) for her performance in “The Farewell.” But she didn’t have a ton of time to celebrate, since she [...]

  • Bhumi Pednekar

    IFFAM-Variety's Asian Stars: Up Next Program is Helping Talent Cross Over

    Eight young stars accepted the “Asian Stars: Up Next” award on Tuesday intended to recognize and promote Asian on-screen talent who have established themselves in their home market but have the potential to cross borders onto the global stage. The awards are issued by the International Film Festival & Awards Macao and Variety, and were [...]

  • Mo'Nique

    Mo'Nique to Play 'Badass Black Woman' in New Film 'Mother Trucker'

    Mo’Nique has signed on for the lead role in the independent action-adventure “Mother Trucker.” The movie is written by J. Oyer Tomas, former HBO executive producer, and set during the Congressional impeachment hearings to remove President Richard Nixon from office. Nixon resigned in 1974. Mo’Nique will portray a mother, struggling with anger management issues, who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content