Coverage of International Sales Agents (ISAs) has resumed for the Toronto International Film Festival. This segment covers inspirational companies that have officially selected films in the festival. SydneysBuzz features ISAs, as they play an instrumental and necessary role in helping filmmakers to share their visions and voices with the world.
Glen Basner’s FilmNation has knocked it out of the park at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival with Chris Rock’s comedy “Top Five” (taken by Paramount Pictures for world-wide rights), “While We’re Young” (picked up by A24 for U.S rights), and “The Imitation Game” which received a full-on standing ovation.
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One of the greatest stories of our time began back in the darkest days of the Second World War. Alan Turing was a brilliant Cambridge mathematician hired by the British military to break Nazi codes. His work leading a group of misfit geniuses didn’t only shorten the war, it pushed technology to the point where computers could be imagined. But Turing paid a price.
At Cambridge University, the young Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) quickly establishes himself as a groundbreaking thinker with his theories about the potential of computing machines. When war between Britain and Germany is declared, these theories are put into active practice. Turing easily passes a test to become a member of a top-secret group assigned to decode critical German naval communications. Much to the surprise of the commanding officers, so does a woman, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley also appearing at the Festival in Laggies). Turing and Clarke become fast friends, and are soon engaged to be married. But Turing is gay, struggling with his identity at a time when it is illegal and subject to terrible punishment.
Chris Rock doesn’t hold back. The comic made his name on sharp, uncensored observations about men, women, black people, white people, and the craziness we all get up to. As his work matured, his satire deepened and began to extend into both politics and love stories. But he never got any less raw. Chris Rock can still scandalize, which makes him more valuable than ever.
In Top Five, Rock plays Andre Allen, a successful comedian and movie star who, having had his work recently savaged by a New York Times critic, is now in need of a hit. His fiancé (Gabrielle Union) wants him to help boost her reality TV show, while his agent, played by the rocket-fuelled Kevin Hart, tries to guide him to the next blockbuster. But what Andre really wants to do is make a serious, important film about the Haitian revolution. So he lets the Times back into his life, hoping to revitalize his image with a profile written by a whip-smart, irresistible journalist (Rosario Dawson). It’s the beginning of a beautiful sparring match.
Rock and Dawson make an appealing pair, and Top Five reveals the real chemistry between them. But Rock tailors the movie to suit his own mix of up-to-the-minute social criticism and raw gutter comedy. Even better, he surrounds himself with a galaxy of comedy stars (Tracy Morgan, Jay Pharoah, Cedric the Entertainer, JB Smoove, and many more). Their scenes are a joy to watch as they riff on fame, sex, family, and that one question that always gets trash talk started: who are your top five hip-hop artists of all time?
Aging gracefully is never easy, and it may be worse for artists. Josh Srebnick (Ben Stiller) is a New York documentarian who never quite got his due. As he labours over the umpteenth edit of his cerebral new film, it’s plain that he has hit a creative dry patch. Josh and his wife, Cornelia (Naomi Watts), tried to start a family and were unable — and have decided they’re okay with that. Yet for Josh, there is something still missing.
Enter Jamie (Adam Driver, also appearing at the Festival in Hungry Hearts and This is Where I Leave You) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), who approach Josh after a class he teaches. A young artist couple, they are spontaneous and untethered, ready to drop everything in pursuit of their next passion — retro board games one day, acquiring a pet chicken the next. For Josh, it’s as if a door has opened back to his youth.
It’s not long before the unhappy fortysomethings Josh and Cornelia throw aside friends their own age — including Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz in a sly supporting role — to trail after these young hipsters who seem so plugged in, so uninhibited, so Brooklyn cool. “Before we met,” Josh admits, “the only two feelings I had left were wistful and disdainful.” But is this new inspiration enough to sustain collaboration with artists twenty years his junior?
Founded in 2008 by veteran international film executive Glen Basner, FilmNation Entertainment is a new kind of film company – global, versatile and full-service; and is a go-to destination for many of the world’s most renowned filmmakers (including Steven Soderbergh, Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodóvar, Jeff Nichols, Sofia Coppola, J.C Chandor and Anton Corbijn). FilmNation can board a project in a myriad of ways (as a producer, financier, sales agent, international distributor or marketer) and at any stage in a film’s lifespan including development.
FilmNation titles have grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office and the future looks to be even more successful with the company’s diversified global sales slate and the company’s own productions led by production vet Aaron Ryder. FilmNation has also forged a number of strategic relationships with some of the most prolific, respected producers and financiers operating in the film industry.