“Dramas, particularly female driven ones are hard to get made,” said “Conviction” director Tony Goldwyn, yesterday at Live at the Lounge with indieWIRE. He speaks from experience. It took Goldwyn a full nine years to complete working on “Conviction,” a true story account of a woman’s epic battle to free her wrongly convicted brother from prison.
“When I initially met Betty Anne Waters, who the movie is based on, she said to me and our screenwriter, ‘okay we’ve been talking about this but how long will it take to make the movie?” said Goldwyn, in a chat with indieWIRE’s Anne Thompson. “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.”
Goldwyn revealed that he was green lit to shoot the first incarnation of the project, simply titled “Betty Anne Waters,” a few years back with actress Naomi Watts attached to star in the lead role. Due to scheduling conflicts with Watts, the film “fell apart,” according to Goldwyn.
“We were put on hold,” he explained. “But while we were waiting, I saw ‘Million Dollar Baby.’ While I thought Naomi was a brilliant actress, I knew that Swank was right for the part.”
Although Swank signed on after reading the script, Goldwyn said that the studio backing the film at the time, Universal, would still not commit. Goldwyn in turn got the rights back to his film, and ended up independently raising the money needed to finance the project in 18 months. In the process, the budget was cut in half, from its original $25 million tag-line to $12.5 million.
“Conviction” now lies with Fox Searchlight Pictures, who are in Toronto this year with a host of other buzz worthy titles including “Black Swan,” “Never Let Me Go” and “127 Hours.” But even with a company like Fox behind the film, Goldwyn spoke of the challenges he faced in convincing the powers that be that the film would work.
“Everything is all about money, about marketing,” said Goldwyn. “With a studio like this, 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.”
The film had its world premiere over the weekend in Toronto. Fox is rolling out the film in limited release October 15, for awards contention.