With New Mamet Film SPC Continues Quiet Trend in Acquisitions; Bernard Offers Insight Into SPC and His Views on "Independence"
by Mark Rabinowitz
In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, following the announcement
that Sony Pictures Classics has begun principle photography on David Mamet's
latest writing and directorial effort "The Winslow Boy", Classics' Co-President
Tom Bernard clarified the distributor's position on production, offering that
his company's involvement with Mamet at the script stage is in keeping with
SPC's overall acquisitions plan. Finally, when the discussion turned to
of term "independent" as it is used in the marketplace today, Bernard offered
his blunt perspective on the subject.
On Sunday, Mamet and company began production on the second
film version of Terrence Rattigan's 1940's English play (the first
version was shot in 1950). SPC's acquisition of the "Winslow Boy"
script marks the continuation of a quiet trend in the company's
operations. SPC has been purchasing scripts, with directors attached, for
many years going all the way back to "Howard's End" and "Ran," a fact
that may take some by surprise given the general perception that SPC
is primarily involved in the acquisition of finished films. Among the recent
finished film acquisitions by SPC this year are the Berlin-winner "Central
Station," and "Wilde."
In the conversation yesterday, Bernard was quick to point out that when SPC
looks at a script, they "look at them when there's a director and a
We don't develop." He added that SPC is "a director oriented company,"
explaining, "We feel that the director is the one that's going to breathe the
life into the story -- that's going to make it great." He continued, "Once
director and a script," he continued, "that's when we start to get involved."
Bernard stated that while Sony Classics has been picking up films in the
script stage since the beginning, they "haven't really been banging their
drums as loud as some of the other (distributors)." Currently, SPC's
slate is split evenly between acquired finished films, and films
produced from scripts purchased by the company. Yet, not all scripts
acquired by the company are bought outright, nor do they always include
worldwide rights, Bernard explained. "Sometimes we'll go for just a piece
think makes sense," he clarified, "Our name is on (Pat O'Connor's upcoming)
'Dancing at Lughnasa.' We were the piece that got the movie made."
John Sayles' latest, "Men With Guns" was shot with some SPC financing,
but had other partners involved, as well. "We were a piece that I think
the financing," says Bernard. He added that they plan to finance an increased
number of films for worldwide distribution.
As the discussion shifted to the indie world at large, and the changing face of
"indie" distribution and production, Bernard had some definite opinions on the
use of the word independent. "A lot of the other companies that are sort of in
the specialized (realm) have decided that they want to compete with New
Line, now," he said, "we're glad to see them go by." Bernard concluded,
is a studio. To have them included in the independent arena is only