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Dealing With Cannes: A Conversation With Fine Line President Mark Ordesky

Dealing With Cannes: A Conversation With Fine Line President Mark Ordesky

President Mark Ordesky

By Anthony Kaufman

Fine Line Features has announced a handful of deals at Cannes: the
company scooped up the Irish production team of “I Went Down”,
director Paddy Breathnach and producer Robert Waypole, with a deal that
gives the Fine Line domestic and international rights on all projects from
the duo’s Treasure films. President Ordesky also announced the
pre-emptive purchase of a screenplay from British director Guy Jenkins
and Hat Trick Films — Fine Line hopes to have “The Sleeping Dictionary”
in shape to shoot soon with Ordesky stating, “We were very aggressive
about this material and have purposively put ourselves in the fast track.
We have been following this script for some time.” In addition to this
increasing participation with Euro-product, Fine Line also announced a
deal for acclaimed cinematographer Robert Richardson (“The Horse
Wisperer”, “Casino”, “JFK”)
to direct his first film, “White Jazz,” a crime thriller adapted from a
James Ellroy novel, starring Nick Nolte; and yesterday, word came that the
company was on board with an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “The
Talented Mr. Ripley”, to be directed by Tim Frywell and starring Rupert

Amidst these busy announcements, Ordesky took some time to talk with
indieWIRE about the Cannes Film Festival, the deals that go down,
and the potential for limited North American distribution pacts.

indieWIRE: So tell me what are you personally doing this week at Cannes?

Ordesky: I’m seeing the “hot” buzz films that were identified as such before
the festival began. I’m second screening films that my staff has seen that
they did. We’re making script deals, and talent deals…

iW: And those deals were made here?

Ordesky: Yeah. Some of them were started a little before though, but
they we’re closed here, in any case. And I’m having meetings about new
business, new scripts, new projects, meeting filmmakers, establishing
relations with agents, sales agents, literary agents, distributors in other

iW: So how do you think this year’s Cannes differs when compared with
previous years?

Ordesky: The general comment is that the volume of good or buyable finished
films for North America is diminished. But I think that’s not totally accurate.
The number of available North American films is diminished period, so
therefore, if the good films comprise a percentage of a smaller and smaller
number, so if you look at the catalogue, a lot of these films (are) financed or
co-financed by North American based companies. And the ones that aren’t,
that are available, there is a smaller number of them.

iW: What are your acquisitions people saying about this year’s crop, because
thus far, no officially selected films have been acquired for the United States?

Ordesky: Yes, the films in Competition, Fortnight, Un Certain Regard — they’re
have been films that have been well-respected for their filmic artistry, but
in terms of, being sexy buys, not so far. Obviously, the Ken Loach film was
incredibly well-received, “Head on” [Quinzaine des Realisateurs section] was
well-received. . . but yeah, no buys have resulted. But we’re really only half
way in. And it could be that the back 9 have some surprises. . . Of the films
that remain, “Illuminata” certainly still remains, “Claire Dolan” still remains.

iW: What have you heard about “Claire Dolan”?

Ordesky: You know, because of the nature of my job, buzz is no longer something
that I can accurately gauge. There are so many agendas when I speak to people,
and everyone’s speaking from their subjective kind of tastes and (in) addition to
people’s subjective tastes, people have different biases that they’re bringing
to the table, just because of their involvement with the project. Right now,
there is some clamoring, but it’s not that kind of rush, like those cartoons
where the journalists crash out the doors and dive into the phone booth. But
that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great buyable films on the back half of
this festival.

iW: Can you talk about Fine Line’s move to more production-oriented
activities since you became President?

Ordesky: What it stems from is that the finished film acquisition game
is not the same as it was even two years ago. We’re all so much more
aggressive at an earlier and earlier stage that what one frequently finds is
that the really good finished films are spotted as scripts and pre-bought
or they’re full-blown productions where a company like ours has financed
the production, controls all the worldwide rights, owns the copyright in
perpetuity, etc. Or in the case of some things, where we’re pre-buying
North American rights or a co-financing arrangement, a negative
pick-up arrangement where we are retaining certain rights, and we
still have a strong input in terms of approvals over script, cast, production
personnel, director, etc — the impetus is clearly that the good stuff is
rare and you have to secure it as early as possible.

iW: How do you feel about foreign co-productions?

Ordesky: We have no problem with them? We did create Fine Line International
and it’s always in our best interests to retain worldwide distribution rights
if we can. That said, if there is a particular piece of material where the
only way to get it is to not be able to have all the rights, one would never cut
off one’s nose to spite their face.

iW: Is the foreign market really strong now?

Ordesky: Strong and totally pivotal, because when you’re financing these
films, the international, at least, our international team, to make these films
work as productions, they need to carry an overwhelming majority of the load,
in terms of the money, the financing, and so without them, it would be very
difficult — it would certainly be much more difficult to successfully finance
worldwide production.

iW: What do you think about the fact that October Films is such a major force
at Cannes this year?

Ordesky: These are really talented, aggressive guys — we’re all aggressive. No
one would be in this business without it. Now they’ve clearly made a decision
to play, they’re more in a volume game than they used to be. I still like to see
Fine Line in this new regime as still remaining fairly opportunistic, but at a
more aggressive level. I’m not sure I would see us, you know — the volume
of deals that are happening here, is pretty substantial. Even if we don’t buy
a single, finished film here, we’ll have closed and announced at least 3-4 pieces
of business, but obviously, we’d love to do more, but not for the sake of it.

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