Fresh from Fox Searchlight’s exuberant Oscar celebration for Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (six wins) and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (two wins), Sean Berney is leaving his post as director of acquisitions to join Netflix’s original films division. He will report to acquisitions head Matthew Brodlie, and will be part of the Netflix contingent in Cannes.
Joining Searchlight in 2015 just before Cannes, Berney worked closely with the team that acquired Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie,” Geremy Jasper’s “Patti Cake$,” Amanda Lipitz’s “Step,” and David Lowery’s upcoming “The Old Man and the Gun.”
After its stunning Oscar run, Searchlight is expected to make a smooth transition to new Fox owner Disney, which does not have a specialty distribution arm and might want a presence at the Oscars. However, that’s not guaranteed and the division’s trajectory remains unclear, which made the lure of Netflix hard for Berney to resist.
Netflix has been quiet on the 2018 festival circuit to date, choosing not to buy titles out of Sundance, Berlin, or SXSW. Last week, Cannes confirmed that Netflix movies would be prohibited from screening in Competition.
Berney is accustomed to competing against his father, Amazon Studios distribution and marketing chief Bob Berney. Before joining Searchlight, Sean Berney was manager of acquisitions for IFC Films/Sundance Selects. He is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he majored in Cinema Studies.