At this year’s Toronto Film Fest, indieWIRE interviewed filmmakers and stars at Live at the Lounge every day. In my talk with Conviction director Tony Goldwyn (video below), he admitted, as David Schwimmer had several days earlier with rape drama Trust, that serious dramas are the hardest films to finance.
“Dramas, particularly female-driven ones, are hard to get made,” said Goldwyn, who took nine years to make Conviction, based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters’ arduous fight to get her wrongly convicted brother out of jail. “Everything is all about money, about marketing. A studio needs to understand how they’re going to sell it. Movies like this are what producers call ‘execution dependent.’ That means, producers are saying, ‘don’t screw it up.’ If it doesn’t work 100 percent then it can be generic and tough to sell. It’s riskier from a marketing point of view.”
When Goldwyn initially met Waters, she told him and screenwriter Pamela Gray (who had also written A Walk on the Moon), “‘Okay, we’ve been talking about this, but how long will it take to make the movie?” Goldwyn recalled. “And we said, ‘well if it takes us 18 months that would be a miracle.’ She said ’18 months?!’ And here we are, nine years later in Toronto.”
Originally, Universal had greenlit Betty Anne Waters with Naomi Watts, but scheduling conflicts arose and the movie was put on hold. Meantime he saw Million Dollar Baby. “While I thought Naomi was a brilliant actress, I knew that Swank was right for the part.”
Even with two-time Oscar-winner Swank on board, Universal wouldn’t commit. So Goldwyn asked the studio to put the movie in turnaround. He raised indie financing and made it on a budget of $12.5 million, half of what it would have been at the studio. Fox Seachlight eventually picked up the movie, which co-stars Sam Rockwell in a heartrending, Oscar-worthy turn as the brother, a man with many faults, whose sister’s belief in him keeps him going. The climactic prison scenes had to be shot over again because the grueling 16-hour day’s shoot was ruined by an airport X-ray. But doing it over made it even better, said Goldwyn.
Fox opens the film limited on October 15.
Here’s my interview at the Filmmaker Lounge:
[Photo by Eugene Hernandez]