ISA of the Day: Memento and We Are What We Are
ISA of the Day: Memento and We Are What We Are
Now that Sundance and Berlin are over, what do we have to look forward to? Cannes of course. However, in terms of continuing business, I want to put a spotlight on what to look forward to next Sundance (and Berlin) as an example of long lasting effects of filmmakers/ actors/ buyers and sellers. I will begin this depiction of a long journey beginning with my friend, Rodrigo Bellot — writer, director, producer and casting agent . Rodrigo made his first film, Sexual Dependency, in 2003 with producers Ara Katz and Sam Engelbart who brought us on to find festival and international representation. Rigo was pleased with the work and we have become fast friends since then. When I first spoke with Rigo about We Are What We Are, he referred me to Memento, his international sales agent.
During Cannes 2012, I went to Memento to write more about this film which is the first remake in a long time of a film from Mexico, Somos lo que hay by Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau. At Memento, Tanja Meissner ♀ and Emilie Georges ♀ referred me to their American colleague and producer of the film, Nicholas Shumaker who gave me more of the film’s history. During AFM 2011, Rodrigo and his professional partner Andrew D. Corkin who previously produced Martha Marcy May Marlene had come to Memento with the idea of remaking the English language version of this Mexican (Spanish language) film about a family of cannibals. They were, predictably, looking for financial partners. Memento said they would support the remake. They had wanted to work with the director Jim Mickle since seeing the TIFF 2010 Midnight Madness Audience Award winner, Stake Land which has become a cult vampire picture. Mickle has transposed the story to a poor part of the Catskills region in New York State.
Memento sees the horror genre as an ambitious genre when it is created with good ideas, not exploitative but an elevated sort of horror, along the lines of Let the Right One In. Memento wants to do horror films only with directors and authors they like. It has taken seven years to establish their brand, and the principals Emilie Georges and Tanja Meissner are not looking for horror per se. They long for smart horror because there is a consistent market for intelligent horror stories. Their horror films will stand out for their buyers because of the director-driven aspect, not for the horror itself. Memento is putting together two other films with bigger budgets for Jim which will go over the next six to nine months. These next two, Night Hunter and Cold in July were announced during by Screen International around the time of Cannes 2012 and are both being produced with Linda Moran’s ♀ and Rene Bastian‘s New York company Belladonna.
We Are What We Are will costar Ambyr Childers ♀ who was the milk skinned blonde in Gangster Squad and played Elizabeth Dodd in The Master, and Julia Garner ♀, who recently picked up rave reviews for her performance as a naïve Morman girl in Rebecca Thomas’ Electrik Children, a Berlinale 2012 hit. She will next be seen in Stephan Chobsky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and is in StudioCanal’s The Last Exorcism 2. Film industry veteran Jack Turner is also producing. MFI chief Emilie Georges and international sales head Tanja Meissner are executive producing alongside Mo Noorali and Linda Moran ♀ of Belladonna Productions, who previously produced Mickle’s other films, and Brett Fitzgerald. MFI’s Nicholas Kaiser has a co-producer credit.
We Are What We Are was shot in the Catskills, starting May 29, 2012 for a January 2013 delivery in time for its projected Sundance premier. With that intent, MFI began carefully preselling the film, first at Berlin’s EFM 2011 where it was prebought by Entertainment One for U.K, Scandinavia, South Africa and France. Koch Media prebought Germany. New York and Los Angeles-based Three Point Capital and HSBC provided additional funding. At AFM 2013, the film sold to Transformer for Japan and Zamie for So. Korea. Middle East is also been sold along with Turkey (Callinos Films).
Memento’s marketing and finance plan allowed for the U.S. to be sold during Sundance 2013 and as we all know now, (From Deadline Hollywood): “In a low seven-figure deal for U.S. rights, eOne acquired the Jim Mickle-directed We Are What We Are, which premiered last Friday at the Library Center Theatre in the Park City At Midnight section. The plot: a devastating storm washes up clues that lead authorities closer to unraveling the dark secrets of the Parker family, who are cannibals. That premise is NOT treated as slasher fare, it’s far more stylish and the buyer crowd and audience at the premiere screening ate it up and feel they’ve found a director with a voice worth hearing. The film stars Ambyr Childers, Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Michael Parks, Wyatt Russell and Kelly McGillis. It has gotten strong reviews beyond the genre crowd, and it gives eOne a good theatrical offering. Deal was finished on the flight back to Los Angeles. I’ve heard both the WME Global and eOne teams were on the same flight back from Park City. They haggled but by the time the plane landed, eOne hit the asks made by the agents, who denied this colorful story. Somehow, it fits with the frenzied pace of deals due to the influx of new buyers. eOne will put it out in a platform theatrical release.”
Since Cannes 2012, eOne acquired Alliance and is poised to make a very splashy release of this film. EOne had not pursued the film for U.S. until Sundance and the deal was verifiably finalized and upped on the plane as described above.
Memento has consistent relations with its directors. It is now transitioning though natural growth into handling larger films. It will still handle about 8 films a year and it will maintain the same strategy, though films of second and third time directors will be larger. Memento still wants newcomers and so it has 2 divisions with Artscope aiming more for the festival circuit for new directors like Natalia Smirnoff ♀ of The Puzzle which premiered in ’09 at San Sebastian and was picked up for U.S. by IFC, Circles (see my past blog), In the Name Of by Malgorzata Szumowska ♀ which won the 2013 Teddy Award for daring to “challenge the stereotypes of homosexuality versus religion with a personal story, told in a deeply humane way”. It was picked up in Berlin where it premiered in Competition by Film Movement, and Lore by Cate Shortland ♀.