Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín knows he’s been fortunate during the pandemic. He just sold his Kristen-Stewart-as-Princess-Diana biopic “Spencer” to Neon and Topic Studios for a cool $4 million out of the virtual Cannes market. He also has an Apple TV+ series in the works with Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot, “Lisey’s Story,” which Stephen King adapted from his novel and stars Julianne Moore as a widow in free-fall after the death of her husband.
However, like everything else, production on “Lisey’s Story” shut down in mid-March. “We were [shooting] for six months in a row and we had a few weeks left, and we had to stop, so I guess we’re wondering and seeing how we restart, how are those conditions. I don’t have clarity today,” Larraín said during a recent Cannes market conversation with MUBI founder and CEO Efe Cakarel.
Perhaps an even greater concern, he said, is what the pandemic will mean for the future of independent and arthouse cinema. While VOD has become the primary platform for all new movies over the last few months, he recognizes that once theaters fully reopen their business needs mean they will rely on blockbusters more than ever.
“My concern is almost like a poetic darkness in terms of what happened with those movies that don’t get wide distribution because the cinemas are full of these major superhero movies?” he said. “What happened to those movies that used to have distribution and those movies aren’t bought by distributors? It’s like a cemetery of cinema. It’s terrible. I’m worried about those movies that don’t have a place and deserve to exist because they change culture. It’s a little bit disturbing.”
Larraín, best known for the Oscar-nominated films “Jackie” and “No,” said that the inability to work is a disorienting experience. “I do know that we want to go back to work and I think audiences from all over the world need new material to be part of the cultural process,” he said. “Can you imagine this world without cinema or television? … People want to stay healthy and careful, but they want to keep making movies, and that is so beautiful to see.”
Larraín is also serving as producer with Juan Larraín on Claudia Llosa’s Netflix film “Fever Dream,” an adaptation of Argentine author Samanta Schweblin’s surreal short story collection from 2017.
Eric Kohn contributed reporting.