Sony Pictures Classics


Heidi Ewing


Armando Espitia and Christian Vázquez


An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same.



IFC Films

Release Date

July 24, 2020


Dave Franco


Dave Franco & Joe Swanberg


Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White


Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light. 





Brad Ingelsby


Gabriela Cowperthwaite


Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck


Based on the National Magazine Award winning article, THE FRIEND tells the extraordinary true story of Nicole (Johnson) and Matthew Teague (Affleck) who, after learning that Nicole has just six months to live, receive the unexpected support of the couple’s best friend Dane (Segel) who decides to move into their family home and put his own life on hold. His impact on everyone is much greater – and more profound – than anyone could have imagined. 



Casey Affleck


Anna Pniowsky, Casey Affleck, Tom Bower & Elisabeth Moss

Release Date

August 9, 2019


A girl (Pniowsky) and her father (Affleck) journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out nearly all the world’s female population. As a father struggles to protect his daughter’s innocence, shielding her from newfound dangers, their bond and the character of humanity is tested.



Yuval Adler


Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman


Rachel (Kruger), a rogue spy from Israel’s feared national intelligence force Mossad, vanishes without a trace while attending her father’s funeral in London. The only clue to her whereabouts is a cryptic phone call she places to her former handler Thomas (Freeman), who is then summoned by Mossad. With Rachel’s life immersed in her assignments as part of a vast espionage effort against Iran’s nuclear program, Thomas must retrace her steps to determine what threats she may now pose to their operation, while also working to protect her.

Release Date

August 2, 2019

Melissa McCarthy’s ‘very graphic’ puppet movie ‘Happytime Murders’ kills at CinemaCon

LAS VEGAS — The clearest, laugh-out-loud reaction for a comedy at CinemaCon thus far has been for The Happytime Murders, an unapologetically raunchy puppet movie starring Melissa McCarthy (coming to theaters Aug. 17).

STX Films chairman Adam Fogelson had a twinkle in his eye when he introduced a “very graphic” first look at the R-rated film directed by Brian Henson, the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson that is more Team America: World Police than The Great Muppet Caper.

Fogelson said he loved the idea that most Muppets (not Elmo) were very different creatures when not entertaining families.

“You know in your hearts, when Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy go home at night and there are no cameras around and no children, it’s filthy,” said Fogelson, calling Happytime Murders “lovable, relate-able, but it’s filthy.”

The audience at the national convention of theater owners was laughing even before the restricted trailer started to the sounds of Kermit the Frog’s innocent Rainbow Song.

Then the f-bombs hit from McCarthy arguing with her puppet detective partner Phil Phillips.

It’s hard to describe the plot details of the murder mystery in a family publication. But it deals with the detective duo trying to find the murderer responsible for killing the stars of a 1980s show called The Happytime Gang.

At one point, McCarthy’s character snorts sugar (a puppet street drug), nearly killing her. She interacts with puppet prostitutes. We see puppet brain kill-shots. The trailer ends with puppet office sex featuring an effect seemingly involving endless cans of Silly String.

“I warned you,” Fogelson said as the lights went up.

The crowd loved it and Happytime Murders had more people talking afterward than Disney’s sneak peek of Solo: A Star Wars Story earlier in the day.

The movie was produced by The Jim Henson Company. McCarthy, a producer with husband Ben Falcone, contributed to Todd Berger’s screenplay. Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks co-star.



Todd Berger (Screenplay & Story), Dee Austin Robertson (Story)


Brian Henson


Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale, Maya Rudolph


When the puppet cast of an ’80s children’s TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case.

US Distributor:


Release Date:

August 24, 2018

Oscars: ‘Mudbound’s’ Rachel Morrison Makes History as First Female Cinematographer Nominee

After 90 long years, another glass ceiling has finally been broken at the Motion Picture Academy.

Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison made history Tuesday by becoming the first female director of photography to receive an Oscar nomination. The recognition comes on the heels of a similar milestone with the American Society of Cinematographers, which nominated Morrison’s “Mudbound” work earlier this month.

“I’m glad that people are recognizing the craft of it and not making decisions based on tokenism; Rachel’s work is on the screen,” “Mudbound” director Dee Rees said on a recent episode of Variety‘s “Playback” podcast. “Go to Sandi Sissel, go to Ellen Kuras, go to Rachel Morrison — women have been making interesting images for a long time.”

Morrison won the New York Film Critics Circle’s cinematography prize in December. She was also nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award along with recognition from the Chicago and North Carolina film critics organizations.

“Mudbound” was also nominated for best supporting actress (Mary J. Blige), best adapted screenplay and best original song (making Blige a double nominee). The other cinematography Oscar nominees were “Blade Runner 2049” (Roger Deakins’ 14th nomination to date, the most among active lensers), “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk” and “The Shape of Water.”

Morrison’s work can next be seen in Marvel’s upcoming “Black Panther.”

Julia Roberts And Lucas Hedges Team For Black Bear & 30WEST-Backed ‘Ben Is Back’

Julia Roberts and Manchester By the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges are set to star in Ben Is Back. The drama is scripted and will be directed by Peter Hedges, the What’s Eating Gilbert Grape novelist-screenwriter, About a Boyscribe and Pieces of April and Dan In Real Life director who is the father of Lucas. The drama follows the charming yet troubled Ben Burns (Hedges), who returns home to his unsuspecting family one fateful Christmas Eve. Ben’s wary mother Holly Burns (Roberts) welcomes her beloved son’s return, but soon learns he is still very much in harm’s way. During the 24 hours that may change their lives forever, Holly must do everything in her power to avoid the family’s downfall.

Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson’s Color Force and Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures are producing alongside Hedges, with 30WEST and Black Bear fully financing the picture. CAA, which packaged and arranged financing for the film, will represent U.S. right, and Sierra/Affinity will be handling international rights for a film that immediately becomes the hot package at upcoming American Film Market.

Production begins December in New York. Roberts, who won an Oscar for Erin Brockovich, next stars in Wonder, the Stephen Chbosky-directed adaptation of the R.J. Palacio bestseller, which Lionsgate releases November 17. She will star in Ben Is Back, and then commence work on the Amazon Studios drama series Homecoming.

Coming off his breakout turn in Manchester By the Sea, Hedges next stars in the Oscar-season films Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, both of which received rave reviews out of Telluride and Toronto. Hedges is currently in production on the Joel Edgerton-directed Boy Erased starring opposite Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Edgerton.

Color Force, coming off the Emmy-winning FX series The People Vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, is currently in production on The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, and has upcoming the films The Goldfinch and Crazy Rich Asians. Schwarzman’s Black Bear has the Dee Rees-directed Mudboundand the George Clooney-directed Suburbicon upcoming, with the Casey Affleck-directed Light of My Life in post. 30WEST, founded by Dan Friedkin and Micah Green with former Black Bear exec Dan Steinman a partner, arranged financing for the upcoming Ridley Scott-directed All the Money in the World, and is teamed with Neon on the domestic release of the Craig Gillespie-directed I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie.

Peter Hedges and Julia Roberts are represented by CAA, and Lucas Hedges by CAA and Anonymous Content.



Peter Hedges


Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

US Distributor:

LD Entertainment / Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions

Release Date:

December 7, 2018


19 year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns home to his family’s suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben’s mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son staying clean. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother’s undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe.  Ben is Back also stars Courtney B. Vance (“The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) and Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird).

Netflix Paying $12.5M For Dee Rees-Directed ‘Mudbound’

While the Sundance Film Festival prizes were awarded yesterday, they’ve saved the biggest sale for last. Netflix has paid $12.5 million for Mudbound, the Dee Rees-directed drama that stars Carey MulliganJason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Garrett Hedlund, and Jonathan Banks. The deal closing is for U.S. rights and select other territories, after Good Universe sold other territories around the world. That exceeds slightly the $12 million that Amazon paid for U.S. and other rights to the Michael Showalter-directed The Big Sick. The film was financed by MACRO, Zeal, and Black Bear. The film is produced by Sally Jo Effenson, Cassian Elwes, and Carl Effenson, MACRO’s Charles D. King, Kim Roth, Chris Lemole, and Tim Zajaros. The exec producers include Black Bear’s Teddy Schwarzman and Daniel Steinman, Kyle Tekiela, Rees, Poppy Hanks, Kyle Tekiela, David Gendron, Ali Jazayeri, and Virgil Williams.

WME Global is brokering the deal with Elwes and King. The pact includes a simultaneous limited theatrical push for awards season for the acting performances. The film premiered January 21 at Eccles to rave reviews and the auction took all week. Several suitors competed, including Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, an underbidder last year for The Birth of A Nation.

Rees returned to Park City after making her splashy debut with the 2011 drama Pariah. Here, she got much more ambitious in scope and sale. She and Virgil Williams adapted the Hillary Jordan novel set in post– World War II South. Two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. The pioneer story touches on themes of friendship, heritage and the unending struggle for and against the land.

Iggy Pop Song “Gold” Nominated for Golden Globe

Iggy Pop is a Golden Globe nominee for the first time in his career. The music icon’s song “Gold,” which was written for the upcoming film of the same name, is up for the Best Original Song — Motion Picture prize at the 74th annual edition of the awards ceremony.

Pop co-wrote “Gold” alongside Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, plus Stephen Gaghan and Daniel Pemberton, the director and composer of the film Gold, respectively. The movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey as a man looking for gold in the jungles of Indonesia, opens wide in theaters January 27.

“What a year!” Pop tweeted in response to the nomination.  Oddly enough, the song itself has not yet been released.

The other Best Original Song nominees include Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the film Trolls, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, “City of Stars” from La La Land and the Stevie Wonder/Ryan Tedder co-write “Faith” from Sing.

The 2017 Golden Globe Awards will be held January 8.





Dee Rees


Virgil Williams with revisions by Dee Rees

Based on the novel by Hilary Jordan


Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell



Vikram Gandhi


Adam Mansbach


Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell, Ellar Coltrane and Ashley Judd.

Worldwide Distributor:


Release Date:

December 16, 2016


U.S. Distributor

Paramount Pictures

Release Date

October 27, 2017


George Clooney


Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac


Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.



Black Bear Pictures Backs George Clooney’s ‘Suburbicon’

Just hours before Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest, Hail, Caesar! has its premiere in Los Angeles, the brothers’ next project, which George Clooney will direct, is set up for sale in Berlin.

Suburbicon, which will star Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, will be fully financed by Black Bear Pictures, and Bloom has come onboard to sell international rights at the Berlin Film Festival. CAA is handling U.S. rights. Late last year, it seemed that Sony was circling the project, but heading into Berlin next week a studio is not currently attached.

Joel Silver will produce under his Silver Pictures banner alongside Clooney and Grant Heslov under their Smokehouse Pictures label, and Teddy Schwarzman for Black Bear Pictures.

The film, set in a quiet family town, follows a seemingly picture perfect family that turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal after a home invasion turns deadly.

“Clooney is an incredible force in the industry. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the teams at Silver Pictures, Smokehouse Pictures and Black Bear Pictures. The script is written in true Coen Brothers fashion, which Clooney and the starry cast will bring to life,” says Bloom’s Alex Walton.

Weinstein Company Wins 8-Figure U.S. Rights Auction For Matthew McConaughey Starrer ‘Gold’

The Weinstein Company has acquired U.S. rights to Gold, the Stephen Gaghan-directed film that will star Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez. The deal is in the vicinity of a $15 million minimum guarantee and a P&A guarantee north of $20 million to properly market a release on at least 2500 screens. That is one of the biggest commitments of it kind for a picture package that is ready to go into production. CAA brokered the deal in a hot and heavy auction, and Black Bear Pictures’ Teddy Schwarzman is backing the film. This puts him back in business with the Weinsteins after they collaborated on Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game. The picture will be released under the TWC-Dimension label.

Black Bear is fully financing and shooting begins June in Thailand, New York and New Mexico. Open Road, Focus Features, STX were also in the bidding at those numbers.

For TWC, this makes two buys of major pre-sale titles unveiled for foreign sales at the Berlin Film Festival, where TWC bought The Imitation Game in a festival-record deal in 2014. TWC separately acquired The Founder, the story of McDonald’s franchiser Ray Kroc that will star Michael Keaton. Neither Gold nor The Founder are expected to be ready for this coming Oscar season, but both are the kind of prestige pictures that do well in that Oscar corridor.

Gold has a script by Patrick Massett & John Zinman that is inspired but isn’t the actual story of the 1993 Bre-X Mineral Corporation mining scandal, in which vast amounts of gold were reportedly discovered in the Indonesian jungle. It brings Gaghan back to topical volatile subject matter he covered in his Oscar-winning script Traffic. Schwarzman is producing with Michael Nozik, McConaughey and Masset & Zinman, the writers behind the TV series The Blacklist and Friday Night Lights. Nozik’s Hwy61 partner Paul Haggis is exec producer with Richard Middleton and Black Bear’s Ben Stillman.

Sierra/Affinity is selling foreign territories on the film, and Nick Meyer’s sales company nearly sold this one out to the walls at Berlin. The big deals included Studio Canal (UK, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand), Eagle Pictures and Leone Film Group (Italy), Scanbox (Scandinavia), Feel Good (Greece), with many other territories spoken for. At that time, CAA was in no rush to broker the domestic rights, and they clearly made a smart move by brokering a near record deal, if in fact it isn’t a record deal.

Teddy Schwarzman

Teddy Schwarzman serves as President & CEO of Black Bear Pictures, and oversees all operations of the company, including development, production, finance and strategic planning.

Schwarzman has produced a range of content, including THE IMITATION GAMEAcademy Award winner for Best Adapted Screenplay and nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture; Academy Award nominee Peter Hedges’ BEN IS BACK, starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, ALL IS LOST, directed by J.C. Chandorwhich earned Robert Redford a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor; SUBURBICON, directed by George Clooney and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, and GOLD, starring Matthew McConaughey, and nominated for one Golden GlobeSchwarzman also served as Executive Producer of Dee Rees’ MUDBOUND, nominated for four Academy Awards. 

Schwarzman earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Duke University School of Law, where he now sits on the Board of Visitors. Schwarzman also sits on the Board of Directors of Elevation Pictures Corp., Canada’s leading film and television distributor, and serves on the Leadership Committee of the antipiracy nonprofit, CreativeFuture.

He resides in Los Angeles with his wife, children and dog.

The Imitation Game Gets 8 Nominations Including Best Picture

The Imitation Game Gets 8 Nominations Including Best Picture

By Lisa Weseman

The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, is a 2015 nominee for Best Picture. The film also received 7 other nominations, including Benedict Cumberbatch for Actor in a Leading RoleKeira Knightley for Actress in a Supporting RoleDirectingFilm EditingMusic (Original Score)Production DesignWriting (Adapted Screenplay).

In The Imitation Game, as World War II engulfs Europe, a group of English mathematicians are assembled at Bletchley Park to work in secret on cracking the code of a captured German Enigma encryption machine. With England’s fate hanging in the balance, the group’s leader, the brilliant, eccentric Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), must hide his homosexuality or risk arrest and persecution by the country he is fighting to save.

‘The Imitation Game’ For Real: Year’s 2nd-Best Debut Per Theater

The Weinstein Company’s The Imitation Game proved it’s the real thing, winning the specialty box office this weekend with a spectacular opening. Taking the same Thanksgiving weekend slot as previous TWC Oscar winners The King’s Speech and The Artist, the title bowed with the year’s second-best per-theater average, flying past Birdman‘s mid-October opening.

The Imitation Game grossed over $482K in four theaters, giving the feature a whopping $120,518 PTA. Fox Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel still reigns over 2014 with a $202,792 PTA, though its early-March launch did not have the same crowd of awards contenders vying for attention. The Imitation Game‘s debut is also TWC’s second-highest PTA ever, falling just behind the September 2012 debut of The Master, which grossed over $736K in five theaters, giving it a $147,262 PTA. That film, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, went on to cume $16.37M.

“We had a tremendous opening. Clearly, audiences loved it in New York and Los Angeles this weekend,” said TWC’s president of distribution Erik Lomis. “To do this in this crowded marketplace with serious contenders speaks a lot.” 

Lomis said The King’s Speech, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2010, opened on Nov. 26 in four locations, averaging $88,863. That film went on to cume $135.4M. The Artist, also a Best Picture winner, opened a year later on Nov. 25 with a $51,220 PTA en route to a $44.6M cume. 

The Imitation Game received an A+ CinemaScore and only a handful of films get that result,” said Lomis. Both male and female audience-goers gave it a large majority of definite-recommends, he said. The audience was 52% female.

The biopic tells the story of Alan Turing, a British cryptographer and computer-science pioneer credited with breaking the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code used by the German military during WWII. Though his code-breaking work is credited with hastening the war’s end, afterward the British government hounded Turing into suicide because he was gay. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, with Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, and is directed by Morten Tyldum,

“I think it strikes a chord with the art-house crowd, fans of historical film and gay audiences love this film,” Lomis said. “Also, to tech-heads, Alan Turing is a god-like figure and fans of Benedict Cumberbatch are excited for this.”

Following a route similar to The King’s Speech, TWC will expand The Imitation Game to six additional markets and about 25 theaters by Dec. 12. The film is going into wide release on Christmas Day.

Review: ‘Imitation Game’ a crackerjack tale about Enigma buster Alan Turing

The disturbing, involving, always-complex story of British mathematician Alan Turing is a tale crafted to resonate for our time, and the smartly entertaining “The Imitation Game” gives it the kind of crackerjack cinematic presentation that’s pure pleasure to experience.

Turing, exceptionally well-played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was a brilliant man, often considered the father of computer science, whose top-secret work as a code breaker of genius shortened World War II by years, saved millions of lives and was so central to the Allied victory that it was said the war could not have been won without it.

But Turing was also a homosexual at a time when that was an out and out crime in Britain, and as a result (a bit like the politically suspect atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in this country), he was humiliated and destroyed by a postwar establishment that would have perished without his efforts.

Named after a paper Turing wrote about artificial intelligence, “The Imitation Game” does not lack for conventional elements. But they are handled with such depth and emotion by a top cast that includes Keira Knightley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance that we end up impressed by the level of intelligent storytelling it provides.

Stories this involving invariably start with a persuasive script, and Graham Moore’s is so good, filled with on-target dialogue that’s as explosive as any wartime munitions, that it landed at the top of the 2012 Black List for best unproduced scripts.

“Imitation Game” goes back and forth between three time periods, starting in 1952 in Manchester with a startling monologue (“Pay close attention, I will not pause, I will not repeat myself” is how it begins) that Turing delivers to a busybody police detective (Rory Kinnear) during the interrogation that follows his arrest for “gross indecency.”

Things then flash back to 1939 at Bletchley Park, the site of Turing’s code-breaking exploits and the film’s central location, as well as retreating even further in time to Turing’s miserable 1929 schoolboy days at the Sherborne School.

Giving Turing’s wartime exploits, as well as the entire film, the unexpected pacing of a thriller is the work of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, whose crackling “Headhunters,” adapted from the novel by Jo Nesbo, became the highest-grossing film in that country’s history.

The same qualities that the director exhibited in that picture, including a fascination with narrative structure, the creation of a frisson of danger and an ability to handle personal situations as well as action moments, give “Imitation Game” more high tension than its outline would have you believe.

Helping in this, as he does in all things, is star Cumberbatch. For years, he’s been excellent in smaller roles in films like “Amazing Grace,” “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” but he didn’t become a major player until he became Sherlock Holmes on British TV.

Good as he’s been in the past, however, the richness and complexity of Turing’s character make this portrayal of an arrogant, difficult, sure-of-himself individual the role of Cumberbatch’s career. His performance makes Turing accessible, even palatable, and gives us a sense of how smart, how impossible, yet how finally human was this man whose idea of a compliment was to say, “That is not an entirely terrible idea.”

The wartime sections of “Imitation Game” open with Turing, as he often was, in an adversarial mode. Only 27 but one of the world’s best mathematicians, he has come down to Bletchley Park to offer his services as a code breaker, but the spit-and-polish man in charge, Cmdr. Denniston (a splendidly apoplectic Dance), takes an instant dislike to him and is about to show him the door — until he mentions Enigma.

Nazi Germany’s code creator, the super-secret Enigma machine was considered all but unbreakable because of the millions of options possible for the codes it created daily. Turing believes he knows how to beat it, but it won’t be easy.

The British have put together a team to break Enigma’s code, including the suave national chess champion Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and the empathetic John Cairncross (“Downton Abbey’s” Allen Leech).

But being on a team is definitely not Turing’s style, and because the culture of personal small talk is one code he will never break, he is totally at sea in human relations. Turing hopes to best Enigma by creating another machine, one that can think, but he is such a pain that his teammates almost hope he fails.

Turing’s fortunes begin to change when key people start to believe in him, including MI6 honcho Stewart Menzies (Strong) and a diffident female math whiz named Joan Clarke (Knightley) he hires as the result of a newspaper crossword puzzle competition.

The level-headed but invariably cheerful Clarke, who frankly tells the difficult Turing, “I’m a woman in a man’s job. I don’t have the luxury of being an ass,” is some of Knightley’s best work. She sees Turing for what he is, attraction to men included, but his personality does not stand in the way of their closeness.

As a marvelous-looking computing machine gradually gets built (Maria Djurkovic is the production designer), the truth of “Imitation Game’s” Turing-generated theme becomes more and more apparent: “Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” A too tidy sentiment, perhaps, but a top-notch film nevertheless.

Toronto: ‘The Imitation Game’ Named Festival’s People’s Choice Winner – Oscar Harbinger?

The Toronto International Film Festival gave its top prize Sunday to The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and distributed by The Weinstein Company.The announcement brings the huge festival to a close after hundreds of film screenings over 10 days. The Imitation Game, a biopic about gay computer pioneer and code-breaker Alan Turing, won the Grolsch People’s Choice Winner, AKA, the audience award for favorite feature-length film shown.

The acclaimed film, which had its World Premiere at Telluride over Labor Day weekend and its unveiling at TIFF on Tuesday, also stars Keira Knightley and was directed by Norwegian helmer Morten Tyldum.

Unlike other festivals that throw their weight behind juried prizes, TIFF prides itself on the fact that their most important honor is chosen by actual moviegoers (although they do hand out some juried awards in other categories).

At the beginning of each film, the audience is reminded that they can vote. Volunteers with easily identifiable ballot boxes are impossible to miss at each theatre’s exits.

Oddly, though this award is voted on by fans rather than industry insiders, it can be a real harbinger of things to come in Oscar season. In fact, last year’s eventual Best Picture winner, 12 Years A Slavetook the same prize.

That was especially significant because the very intense Slave wasn’t the kind of obvious crowd-pleasing film that has won the prize in the past. It had to beat, among others, Gravity for the honor.

First runner-up to Imitation Game was a bit of a surprise: the charming, but little-buzzed about, drama  Learning To Drive starring Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson. It does not yet have a distribution deal, but obviously, it connected with TIFF audiences.  Second runner-up was the crowd-pleasing St. Vincent starring Bill Murray. All told, it made for a very good day for The Weinstein Company, which releases St. Vincent Oct. 10.

Past Oscar-winning Best Pictures that also took Toronto’s top award include 1981’s  Chariots Of Fire, 1999’s American Beauty, 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire and 2010’s The King’s SpeechSeveral other Best Pic nominees have also shared this honor, including  Shine (1996),  Life Is Beautiful (1998), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000),  Precious (2009)  and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

In all, well over 100 nominations and 40 Oscars have come to films that have won Toronto’s top prize, coming as it does so early in the season. But in terms of Oscar prognostication, the TIFF top award has had fallow periods in the past, such as between 2001 and 2007, when its winners rarely went on to the Academy Awards in any significant way.

And proving it isn’t always the best Oscar benchmark, TIFF’s audiences really took a left turn in  2011 when they awarded their People’s Choice prize to Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now?, which was chosen by Lebanon as their official Academy Award Foreign Language Film entry, but didn’t make the cut even as a nominee. I don’t expect the same fate for The Imitation Game ,  a terrific film with certain Academy Award potential.

Here’s TIFF’s news release listing all the festival’s winners:


TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival® today announced award winners from the 39th Festival which wraps up this evening.

The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List; Beth Sá Freire, deputy- director of the São Paulo International Short Film Festival; and visual artist Floria Sigismondi.

The winner of the Vimeo Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Randall Okita for The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer. The jury remarked, “For its bold blend of live action and digital animation to produce a striking meditation on the nature of memory and its legacy, the jury awards the Vimeo Award for Best Canadian Short Film to Randall Okita’s The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

The jury gave an honourable mention, “For its entirely unexpected development of a science fiction high concept into something alternately heartbreaking and humorous, the jury gives an honourable mention to Rob Grant’s What Doesn’t Kill You.”

The winner of the Vimeo Award for Best International Short Film goes to Sotiris Dounoukos’s A Single Body (Un seul corps). The jury remarked, “For its extraordinary exploration of the value of friendship, hope, and aspiration in an unusually brutal and austere environment… and world — made especially heartbreaking by striking performances by Doudou Masta and Mexianu Medenou — the jury awards the Vimeo Award for Best International Short Film to Sotiris Dounoukos for A Single Body.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

The jury gave an honourable mention, “For its charming absurdist comedy about loneliness, identity, and the art of finding yourself, the jury gives an honourable mention to Atsuko Hirayanagi for Oh Lucy!.”

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of filmmaker Michael Dowse (The F Word); director, writer and producer Ingrid Veninger (The Animal Project); producer Jennifer Jonas (Gerontophilia); and film critic Jason Anderson.

The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Maxime Giroux’sFelix and Meira (Félix et Meira). The jury remarked, “For its immense sophistication and craftsmanship in telling a brave story bridging two disparate worlds, its generosity of spirit, masterful use of music, and exquisite performances that fuel the film’s power as both an intimate love story and a profound statement on the value of passion, family and community, the Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Maxime Giroux’s Felix and Meira.” This award is made possible thanks to Canada Goose and comes with a cash prize of $30,000.

The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Jeffrey St. Jules for Bang Bang Baby. The jury remarked, “For its ingenious mixing of genres, sophisticated blend of tones and ability to create its own strange, tragicomic and original world without sacrificing any richness in regards to story, character and emotion, the jury recognizes as Best Canadian First Feature Film Bang Bang Baby by Jeffrey St. Jules.” The award carries a cash prize of $15,000.


The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 23rd year. The jury members consist of jury president Dana Linssen (Netherlands), Marco Lombardi (Italy), Ola Salwa (Poland), Télesphore Mba Bizo (Cameroun), Jorge Gutman (Canada) and Thom Ernst (Canada).

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind. The jury remarked, “For Oren Moverman’s sensitive and human depiction of homelessness, and Richard Gere’s remarkable performance, the FIPRESCI jury is pleased to grant the Special Presentations prize toTime Out of Mind.”

Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Abd Al Malik for May Allah Bless France! (Qu’Allah bénisse la France!)The jury remarked, “The FIPRESCI jury is pleased to grant the Discovery prize for a story of a youth displaced in their own country, struggling to find the balance between chaos and serenity, on the strength of art, music and human spirit. While the startling cinematography is purely black and white, the director Abd Al Malik managed to show the different shades of grey in his daring debut May Allah Bless France!. Félicitations.”

As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Shonali Bose for Margarita, with a Straw. Jury members include Lekha Shankar (India), Hannah Fisher (China) and Anderson Le (Hawaii). The jury remarked, “Margarita, with a Straw is both universal and groundbreaking. Director Shonali Bose and actress Kalki Koechlin have jointly created a character and a world that embody a love letter to life, with all its highs and lows, in spite of overwhelming physical limitations.”

This year marked the 37th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film, with the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Grolsch. The first runner up is Isabel Coixet’s Learning to Drive. The second runner up is Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent.

The Festival presents a free screening of the award-winning film The Imitation Gametonight. The screening takes place at 6 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 4 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement for What We Do in the Shadows. The film follows three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles — like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. First runner up is Kevin Smith for Tuskand the second runner up is Jalmari Helander for Big Game.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Hajooj Kuka for Beats of the Antonov. Beats of the Antonov follows refugees from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan as they survive displacement and the trauma of civil war. Music, a cornerstone of their traditions and identity, becomes itself a vehicle for survival. First runner up is David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay? and the second runner up is Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction.


July 22, 2014




TORONTO — Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes of the 39th Toronto International Film Festival®.

Of the 13 Galas and 46 Special Presentations announced, this initial lineup includes 37 world premieres from directors including Noah Baumbach, Susanne Bier, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, David Dobkin, Philippe Falardeau, Mia Hansen-Løve, Ning Hao, François Ozon, Christian Petzold, Lone Scherfig and Chris Rock.

“Toronto can anticipate another remarkable lineup of films,” said Handling. “Cinema’s collective and transformative experience lives at the heart of our Festival — a sentiment that inspires the global dialogue rippling throughout the selections revealed today.”

“We can’t wait to present the new films from some of cinema’s brightest talents,” said Bailey. “This year we’ll welcome filmmakers from France, Germany, China, the UK, the US and more to red carpets in Toronto.”

The 39th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 4 to 14, 2014.


Black and White Mike Binder, USA World Premiere

Black and White is the story of a widowed grandfather who is left to raise his bi-racial granddaughter. When the little girl’s paternal grandmother seeks custody, a bitter legal battle ensues that forces the uneasy family members to have an honest conversation about life, death, anger and America’s racial divide. Starring Academy Award-winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, as well as Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr, Andre Holland and Jillian Estell.

The Equalizer Antoine Fuqua, USA World Premiere

In this big-screen adaptation of the cult ‘80s TV show, McCall believes he has put his past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri, a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by –— he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to extract vengeance upon anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer. Starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller, USA Canadian Premiere

Based on true events, this film tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller.

Haemoo Shim Sung-bo, South Korea International Premiere

The ragtag crew of a fishing boat takes on a dangerous commission to smuggle a group of illegal immigrants from China to Korea, in this tense high-seas adventure co-scripted by South Korean genre-movie guru Bong Joon-ho. Starring Kim Yoon-seok and Park Yoo-chun.

The Judge David Dobkin, USA World Premiere

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth, and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton.

.Closing Night Film. 

A Little Chaos Alan Rickman, United Kingdom World Premiere

A landscape gardener with a taste for the unconventional is invited to design one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles. As she battles with the weather, the perilous rivalries at the court of Louis XIV and her own private demons, she finds herself drawn closer to the formality and enigma of the architect who hired her. Starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Alan Rickman and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Maps to the Stars David Cronenberg, Canada/Germany North American Premiere

David Cronenberg forges both a wicked social satire and a very human ghost story from today’s celebrity-obsessed culture. Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson.

The New Girlfriend (Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon, France World Premiere

When her best friend Lea dies, Claire falls into a deep depression. However, after making a surprising discovery about her late friend’s husband, she’s given a new lease on life. Starring Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier and Raphaël Personnaz.

Pawn Sacrifice Ed Zwick, USA World Premiere

In this remarkable true story set in the height of the Cold War, chess legend Bobby Fischer is locked in a gripping championship clash with the Soviets as he struggles against his own psychological demons while the whole world anxiously awaits the outcome. Starring Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber.

The Riot Club Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom World Premiere

A privileged young man is inducted into the exclusive, debaucherous company of Oxford’s elite “Riot Club,” in this scathing dissection of the British class system. Based on the hit play Posh, the film stars Natalie Dormer, Max Irons, Sam Clafin, Jessica Brown Findlay and Douglas Booth.

Samba Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, France World Premiere

Samba migrated to France 10 years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burnout. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives — Samba’s willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track — until fate draws them together. Balancing light-hearted moments with heavier emotion, Samba is a story about two strangers on a new path to happiness. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Sy and Tamar Rahim.

This is Where I Leave You Shawn Levy, USA World Premiere

Shawn Levy’s dramatic comedy follows four adult siblings who return home after their father’s death to spend a week with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and frayed relationships among those who know and love them best, they reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn.

Wild Jean-Marc Vallée, USA International Premiere

After years of reckless behaviour, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed makes a rash decision. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. Wild powerfully reveals Cheryl’s terrors and pleasures as she forges ahead on a journey that maddens, strengthens and ultimately heals her. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann and Kevin Rankin.


99 Homes Ramin Bahrani, USA Canadian Premiere

After his family is evicted from their home, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver, the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him. Starring Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Michael Shannon.

American Heist Sarik Andreasyan, USA World Premiere

Two brothers with troubled pasts become embroiled in a high-stakes bank robbery, in this indie action thriller. Starring Adrien Brody, Hayden Christensen, Jordana Brewster and Akon.

Before We Go Chris Evans, USA World Premiere

Set in Manhattan, the story follows two strangers after their serendipitous meeting in Grand Central. Over the course of one night, they form an unlikely bond and the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for exploration into each other and themselves. Starring Chris Evans and Alice Eve.

Breakup Buddies Ning Hao, China World Premiere

Recently cuckolded and reeling from a messy divorce, a hapless former singer hits the road — and the bar — with his all-too-helpful best bud, in this hilarious romantic comedy.

Cake Daniel Barnz, USA World Premiere

Cake tells the story of the acerbic Claire Bennett who has managed to alienate everyone from her life, with the exception of her loyal housekeeper. When Claire becomes fascinated with the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group, she develops a poignant relationship with the woman’s grieving husband and comes to terms with her own personal tragedy, catapulting her forward into life. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman and Sam Worthington.

Coming Home Zhang Yimou, China North American Premiere

Lu Yanshi and Feng Wanyu are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labour camp as a political prisoner, just as his wife is injured in an accident. Released during the last days of the Cultural Revolution, he finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize Lu, she patiently waits for her husband’s return — until Lu determines to resurrect their past together and reawaken his wife’s memory. Starring Chen Daoming and Gong Li.

The Dead Lands (Hautoa) Toa Fraser, New Zealand/United Kingdom World Premiere

Hongi, a Maori chieftain’s teenage son, must avenge his father’s murder in order to bring peace and honour to the souls of his loved ones after his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery. Vastly outnumbered by a band of villains led by Wirepa, Hongi’s only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden “Dead Lands” and forge an uneasy alliance with a mysterious warrior, a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years. Starring Xavier Horan, Raukura Turei, Rena Owen, James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare and Te Kohe Tuhaka.

Dearest Peter Ho-Sun Chan, China/Hong Kong North American Premiere

Drawing on remarkable true stories, Peter Chan delivers a moving drama about child abduction in China. Huang Bo stars as a father whose young son disappears in the streets of a big city. He sets out on a search across China, stopping at nothing to find him. In this star-studded cast, Zhao Wei plays the role of a mother from a poor rural area.

The Drop Michael R. Roskam, USA World Premiere

The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski through a covert scheme of funnelling cash to local gangsters in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv, Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living — no matter the cost. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts and John Ortiz.

Eden Mia Hansen-Løve, France World Premiere

In the ‘90s, French electronic music is developing at a fast pace. Entering this exciting Parisian nightlife, Paul and his best friend form a DJ duo called Cheers. But just as they rapidly find their audience, they are caught up in a euphoric and short-lived rise to fame. Eden retraces the steps of the “French touch” generation from 1992 to today — a generation that still enjoys outstanding international success thanks to DJs like Daft Punk, Dimitri from Paris and Cassius. Starring Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani, Laura Smet and Vincent Lacoste.

Far From Men (Loin des Hommes) David Oelhoffen, France North American Premiere

Algeria, 1954. While the rebellion rumbles in the valley, two very different men thrown together by a world in turmoil are forced to flee across the Atlas mountains. In the midst of an icy winter, Daru, a reclusive teacher, has to escort Mohamed, a villager accused of murder. Pursued by horsemen seeking summary justice and vengeful settlers, the two men decide to confront the unknown. Together, they fight to gain their freedom. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb.

Force Majeure Ruben Östlund, Sweden/Norway/Denmark/France North American Premiere

A Swedish family’s ski trip in the French Alps is cut short by news of an oncoming avalanche, during which an impulsive decision by the father Tomas drives a wedge between him and his wife, Ebba — he has run for his life, while she has stayed to protect her children. When the anticipated disaster fails to occur, reality and embarrassed relief returns to the mountainside resort, but the family’s world has been shaken to its core. Force Majeure is an observational comedy about the role of the male in modern family life. Starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius.

The Gate Régis Wargnier, France World Premiere

Two decades after forging an unlikely alliance in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, a French ethnologist and a former Khmer Rouge official meet again after the latter is arrested for crimes against humanity, in this drama from top French director Régis Wargnier.

Good Kill Andrew Niccol, USA North American Premiere

A Las Vegas-based fighter pilot turned drone pilot fights the Taliban by remote control for 12 hours a day, then goes home to the suburbs and feuds with his wife and kids for the other 12. But the pilot is starting to question the mission. Is he creating more terrorists than he’s killing? Is he fighting a war without end? This story follows one soldier’s tale with epic implications. Starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones.

The Good Lie Philippe Falardeau, USA World Premiere

Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and an ensemble of young Sudanese actors — all of whom have direct personal ties to the war in their country — bring the inspiring and uplifting story of The Lost Boys of the Sudan to the screen in a film about heartbreak and hope, survival and triumph. Also starring Corey Stoll, Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany, Emmauel Jal and Femi Oguns.

Hector and the Search for Happiness Peter Chelsom, Germany/Canada North American Premiere

Hector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. Deciding to break out of his deluded routine, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive formula for true happiness… and so begins his larger-than-life adventure with riotously funny results. Starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård and Jean Reno.

The Humbling Barry Levinson, USA North American Premiere

The Humbling tells the story of a legendary stage actor who has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age at a secluded country house in Connecticut. Based on Philip Roth’s final novel, it is a tragic comedy about a man who has lived inside his own imagination for too long. Starring Al Pacino, Mandy Patinkin, Dianne Wiest and Greta Gerwig.

Hungry Hearts Saverio Costanzo, Italy International Premiere

Mina and Jude meet while stuck together in the restroom of a restaurant, marking the beginning of a true love story. They move in together. They get married. And anticipate the arrival of their baby — until a spiritual guide tells Mina she is bearing an “indigo” child. Starring Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher and Roberta Maxwell.

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, United Kingdom/USA Canadian Premiere 

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. 

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Canada/France/Lebanon/Qatar/USA World Premiere

Roger Allers, Gaëtan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz,Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar and Michal Socha

Inspired by the beloved classic, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is a richly-animated story and celebration of Gibran’s book, created by artists, animators and musicians from around the world. Starring Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek-Pinault, John Krasinski, Frank Langella, Alfred Molina, John Rhys-Davies and Quvenzhané Wallis.

The Keeping Room Daniel Barber, USA World Premiere

Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women — two sisters and one African-American slave — must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.

Starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller.

The Last Five Years Richard LaGravenese, USA World Premiere

In this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie, a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy, a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. The film, told almost entirely through song and a beautiful pop music score, portrays an honest, heartbreaking, often funny, exploration of love and its consequences on individual identity. Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Learning to Drive Isabel Coixet, USA World Premiere

As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other’s company, they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel. Starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

Love & Mercy Bill Pohlad, USA World Premiere

Focusing on Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys, Love & Mercy paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments in his life, from his artistic genius to his profound struggles, and the love that keeps him alive. Starring Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

Manglehorn David Gordon Green, USA North American Premiere

Angelo Manglehorn is a small town locksmith who never got over the love of his life. Clara was a beautiful, idealized woman who left him heartbroken 40 years ago. He still writes her letters obsessively as he tries to find her and get back the woman of his dreams. Manglehorn is the journey of this magical man, his son, his cat and a beautiful new woman trying to help him put the pieces of his heart back together. Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Chris Messina.

Mary Kom Omung Kumar, India World Premiere

Glamorous Indian star Priyanka Chopra completely transforms herself to play Mary Kom, world champion in women’s boxing. From traditional village life in remote Manipur state to high-stakes bouts in India and around the world, this is a remarkable story of triumph.

Men, Women and Children Jason Reitman, USA World Premiere

Men, Women and Children follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. Starring Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler and Judy Greer.

Miss Julie Liv Ullmann, Norway/United Kingdom/Ireland World Premiere

A country estate in Ireland in the 1880s. Over the course of one midsummer night, Miss Julie explores the brutal, charged power struggle between a young aristocratic woman and her father’s valet. Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton.

Mr. Turner Mike Leigh, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere

This biopic explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, until his death. Throughout his life, the popular — if anarchic — member of the Royal Academy of Arts travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Joshua McGuire, Ruth Sheen, David Horovitch and Karl Johnson.

My Old Lady Israel Horovitz, USA World Premiere

A down-and-out New Yorker inherits an apartment in Paris from his estranged father and is stunned to find a refined old lady living there with her protective daughter. Starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Ned Rifle Hal Hartley, USA World Premiere

Ned Rifle is the third and final chapter of Hal Hartley’s tragicomic epic begun with Henry Fool (1997) and continued with Fay Grim (2007). At once a saga concerning the Grim family of Queens and how their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the self-proclaimed genius Henry Fool, the trilogy is also an illustration of America’s grappling with ideas, art, politics, and religion over the course of 20 years. In this swiftly paced and expansive conclusion, Henry and Fay’s son Ned sets out to find and kill his father for destroying his mother’s life. But his aims are frustrated by the troublesome, sexy and hilarious Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even his arrival in the lives of the Grim family.

Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy, USA World Premiere

Lou Bloom, a driven young man, discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem, Lou makes his own place at the table, aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news. Blurring the line between observer and perpetrator, Lou finds his calling in a murderous world reduced to transactions. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton.

Pasolini Abel Ferrara, France/Italy/Belgium North American Premiere

Rome: on the night of November 2, 1975, the great Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is murdered. Pasolini is the symbol of an art that’s fighting against the power. His writings are scandalous, and his films are persecuted by the censors; many people love him and many hate him. The day of his death, Pasolini spends his last hours with his beloved mother and later with his dearest friends, until he finally goes out into the night in his Alfa Romeo in search of adventure in the eternal city. At dawn Pasolini is found dead on a beach in Ostia on the outskirts of the city. In a film dreamlike and visionary, blending reality and imagination, it reconstructs the last day in the life of this great poet. Starring Willem Dafoe.

Phoenix Christian Petzold, Germany World Premiere

Nelly Lenz is a concentration camp survivor who has been left with a disfigured face. Following facial reconstruction surgery, Nelly begins the search for her husband Johnny. When she finally does find him, he does not recognise her. Nevertheless he approaches her with a proposal: since she resembles his wife, whom he believes to be dead, he asks her to help him claim his wife’s considerable inheritance. Nelly agrees, and becomes her own doppelganger — she needs to know if Johnny ever loved her, or if he betrayed her. Starring Nina Hoss.

The Reach Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, USA World Premiere

Ben, a young man who works as a hunting guide, gets a job of a lifetime when he is hired by Madec, a wealthy businessman from Los Angeles, to hunt a bighorn sheep. Their excursion in the Southwestern desert quickly goes from bad to worse when overly-eager Madec gets trigger happy, accidentally killing an old prospector. He attempts to bribe Ben for his secrecy, but Ben staunchly refuses. Outraged, Madec turns on Ben, determined to eliminate the only witness to his crime. Trapped in a sadistic cat-and-mouse game, Ben has to rely on his basic survival skills to make it out alive. Starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Hannah Mangan, Lawrence and Ronny Cox.

Red Amnesia (Chuangru Zhe) Wang Xiaoshuai, China North American Premiere

A retired widow has her daily routine derailed when she starts receiving mysterious, anonymous phone calls, in this scintillating thriller from Chinese “Sixth Generation” master Wang Xiaoshuai. Starring Lü Zhong, Shi Liu, Feng Yuanzheng, Qin Hao and Amanda Qin.

Return to Ithaca Laurent Cantet, France North American Premiere

A terrace overlooking Havana. Five friends gather to celebrate the return of Amadeo after 16 years of exile. From dusk to dawn, they reminisce about their youth, the group they used to form, the faith they had in the future — also their disillusionment.

Rosewater Jon Stewart, USA Canadian Premiere

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with the true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal), whose appearance on Stewart’s show in 2009 precipitated his five-month imprisonment by the Iranian government.

A Second Chance (En chance til) Susanne Bier, Denmark World Premiere

How far are decent human beings willing to go, when tragedy blurs the line between just and unjust? Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen have crafted a startling yet moving drama, about how easily we lose our grasp on justice when confronted with the unthinkable, and life as we know it hangs by a thread. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lykke May Andersen.

Still Alice Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, USA World Premiere

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested. Alice’s struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Starring Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Julianne Moore.

The Theory of Everything James Marsh, United Kingdom/USA World Premiere

The extraordinary true story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Hawking receives an earth-shattering diagnosis at age 21. Together, Stephen and Jane defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis and Emily Watson.

Time Out of Mind Oren Moverman, USA World Premiere

George, a man on the decline, enters the New York City homeless shelter system when he runs out of options. George struggles to navigate his way through this new world with the help of Dixon, a shelter veteran while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Maggie. Starring Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeremy Strong, Yul Vasquez, Coleman Domingo, Geraldine Hughes, Michael Kenneth Williams and Steve Buscemi.

Top Five Chris Rock, USA World Premiere

Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, Top Five tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Anders Holm and Michael Che. And featuring music by Questlove.

While We’re Young Noah Baumbach, USA World Premiere

Noah Baumbach’s exploration of aging, ambition and success, stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz.

Whiplash Damien Chazelle, USA Canadian Premiere

Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability — and his sanity. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Max Kasch and Damon Gupton.

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) Damian Szifron, Argentina/Spain Canadian Premiere

More than living up to its title, director Damián Szifron’s compendium of outrageous, hilarious and truly bizarre anecdotes offers a subversive, blackly comic portrait of contemporary Argentina. Starring Ricardo Darin, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg and Dario Grandinetti.

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The Imitation Game will open the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The 58th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express®, is delighted to announce that this year’s Opening Night film will be The Imitation Game, a dramatic portrayal of the life and work of Alan Turing, one of Britain’s most extraordinary unsung heroes, and one of the world’s greatest innovators.

The film will receive its European premiere on Wednesday 8 October at the Odeon Leicester Square with a live cinecast from the red carpet and simultaneous screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK. Stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and director Morten Tyldum are expected to attend the London event.

The pioneer of modern-day computing, Turing is credited with cracking the German Enigma code and the film is a nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.

Clare Stewart, BFI London Film Festival Director, comments:

We are thrilled to announce one of the most anticipated films of the year – The Imitation Game – as this year’s BFI London Film Festival Opening Night gala. Featuring extraordinary performances from the British talent in front of the camera and vividly directed by Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game does cinematic justice to Alan Turing’s vision, determination and personal story as well as his enduring impact on British history and contemporary life.

Director Morten Tyldum comments:

I am thrilled to be returning to London to share The Imitation Game with the audience of the BFI London Film Festival. The experience of directing this film has been so tremendously rewarding, and I am humbled to share Alan Turing’s incredible story on Opening Night.

Producer Teddy Schwarzman comments:

We are truly honoured that The Imitation Game will be opening the 58th BFI London Film Festival. The film, shot in various locations throughout England, tells the story of an incredibly gifted yet unsung British hero. We look forward to sharing this film with audiences across the country, and couldn’t imagine our European Premiere anywhere but London.

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, TV’s Sherlock) and Keira Knightley (Atonement) as close friend and fellow code-breaker Joan Clarke, alongside a top notch cast including Matthew Goode (A Single Man), Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Charles Dance (Gosford Park, TV’s Game of Thrones), Allen Leech (In Fear, TV’s Downton Abbey) and Matthew Beard (An Education).

Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum, 2012 BAFTA nominee for Headhunters, directs from a screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. Black Bear Pictures’ Teddy Schwarzman produces alongside Bristol Automotive’s Nora Grossman and Ido Ostrowsky, with Moore as executive producer and Peter Heslop (The King’s Speech) as co-producer. Behind-the-camera talent includes director of photography Óscar Faura (The Impossible), editor William Goldenberg (three time Oscar® nominee and winner for Argo), production designer Maria Djurkovic (BAFTA nominee Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ (Kick-Ass), hair and make-up designer Ivana Primorac (six time BAFTA nominee including Anna Karenina), casting director Nina Gold (Les Miserables) and composer Alexandre Desplat (six time Oscar® nominee including Argo).

FilmNation Entertainment is overseeing international distribution. STUDIOCANAL release the film in UK cinemas on 14 November, 2014.

The 58th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express runs from Wednesday 8 October-Sunday 19 October. The full programme for the Festival will be announced on Wednesday 3 September.

Take Note, Hollywood: The New Movie Money Is Here

Want film backers with real bona fides? From Russian grocers to Wall Street princes (there’s even the son of the scandal-plagued Sultan of Brunei), there is a fresh crop of high-net-worth individuals with serious designs on the industry.

Almost 75 years ago, Howard Hughes spent nearly $4 million of his own money to make Hell’s Angels, upsetting the studio ecosystem. The dusty path he forged has since become a highway for high-net-worth individuals seeking a foothold in Hollywood. Today’s rising stars include Molly Smith, whose Black Label Media partially is funded by her father, FedEx founder Fred Smith; Teddy Schwarzman, who scored a $7 million deal in February from Harvey Weinstein for the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer The Imitation Game; and AustralianJames Packer, who now runs RatPac Entertainment withBrett Ratner. They’re joining indie players such as Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison; and Worldview Entertainment, backed in part by stockbrokerage heiress Sarah Johnson Redlich, in financing and producing prestige projects that studios are afraid to make or to fully finance.

Among producers and indie agents, these folks are superheroes. Says New Regency chief Brad Weston, who is working with Packer and Worldview: “They are infusing money into the system and giving us the ability to make more movies. It provides a full set of choices.”

For high-net-worth individuals, says film finance lawyer Jordan Lichtman, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, movies are “an asset class they can understand because of the mechanics, yet there is a lot that is unique, such as ancillary revenues” like merchandising. But sometimes working with the very rich gets messy. Remington Chase and Stepan Martirosyan, the financiers of Lone Survivor who are backed by Russian oil money, became radioactive earlier this year when an LA Weekly story detailed cocaine trafficking convictions, prison time and stints as federal informants. And the plans of Brunei’s Prince Azim to become a major player (he recently financed indie dramaYou’re Not You, starring Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum, as well as part of Dark Places,Charlize Theron‘s upcoming film) could be complicated by the outcry over the May 1 implementation of Sharia law — which dictates the stoning to death of gays — in his country by his father, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.

Jumping into film financing can cause small-scale drama, too. Says Arcadiy Golubovich, who is financing Tom Hanks‘ A Hologram for the King: “It was a bit of a scandal when my family found out I wanted to study theater and film in college, but they grew to support me.”

Even for the very rich, Hollywood’s wild swings can be uncomfortable — billionaire Steven Rayleshas pared back his film company, Indian Paintbrush, although he’s expected to continue financingWes Anderson‘s films — but that isn’t dissuading a new generation from setting its sights on Tinseltown.

Teddy Schwarzman, Black Bear Pictures

Money Source: He’s the son of Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of investment banking firm Blackstone who boasts a net worth of at least $10 billion.

Film-Biz Cred: Schwarzman, 34, worked as a PA on Natalie Portman‘s 2009 film The Other Woman before taking a job at John Sloss‘ company Cinetic Media, where he arranged financing for indie titles. While earning his stripes, Schwarzman, who lives in New York, kept his Wall Street roots secret.

Buzz: Schwarzman’s 3-year-old boutique business is hitting its stride: He won a heated battle to finance and produce The Imitation Game after Warner Bros. put the project, which stars Cumberbatch as World War II cryptographer Alan Turing, into turnaround. Schwarzman dazzled buyers in February with a reel, sparking a bidding war that resulted in a $7 million deal with Weinstein for U.S. rights. Black Bear also is financing and producing Gold, based on a real-life Indonesian mining scandal, and has come aboard to pay for 70 percent of Eli Roth‘s $5 million Knock Knock, starringKeanu Reeves. Little-known fact: Black Bear helped save Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg‘sBroken City from being discarded. And Schwarzman was the major financier of J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost. As for expansion, Black Bear is now the owner of Elevation Pictures, the No. 2 independent distributor in Canada after eOne.

Molly Smith, Black Label Media

Money Source: Black Label, which Smith runs with ex-soap star Thad Luckinbill and his twin brother, finance lawyer Trent, is backed with help from her FedEx founder father, Fred (the multibillionaire financier of Alcon Entertainment, currently smarting over box-office bombTranscendence) and a private equity fund.

Film-Biz Cred: Savvy and well-connected, the 33-year-old Molly — one of 10 children — started working at Alcon at 19 in physical production, a job she held for five years before forming 2S Films with Hilary Swank.

Buzz: “We don’t intend to be passive,” says Smith, and in fact in just over a year, her L.A.-based company has become one of the most active financing-production ventures in Hollywood for indie prestige fare. Black Label’s mission is to make three to four films a year budgeted between $3 million and $35 million. First up is Sudanese refugee drama The Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon(partnering with Imagine, Black Label picked up the languishing project from Paramount). Smith and the Luckinbills will head to New Mexico, where Denis Villeneuve, who directed Prisoners for Alcon, begins shooting the $30 million Sicario, starring Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt and set to be shopped at Cannes. And Black Label is backing Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee‘sDemolition, as well as Salinger’s War, which marks the directorial debut of screenwriter-actorDanny Strong (Lee Daniels’ The Butler). The trio also is intent on acquiring titles to build a directors stable, and partnered with Roadside Attractions to scoop up U.S. rights to ’71, the well-reviewed debut from filmmaker Yann Demange.

James Packer, Ratpac Entertainment

Money Source: Packer, 46, son of late media mogul Kerry Packer, is Australia’s third-richest person with a reported worth of $6 billion. He’s also chairman of the Crown Resort conglomerate.

Film-Biz Cred: Packer, who lives in Sydney suburb Bondi Beach, may have virtually none, but he shrewdly teamed up with Brett Ratner, a veteran with instant access to the major studios.

Buzz: Last year, Packer and Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, in partnership with Dune Entertainment, struck a lucrative, multiyear slate financing deal with Warner Bros. that’s valued at $450 million (Gravity was the first film financed under the deal), becoming instant studio darlings who will soon move into Frank Sinatra‘s old offices on the studio’s lot. RatPac also has a deal with New Regency and Brad Pitt‘s Plan B and is helping to back a diverse slate of projects, including two New Regency titles: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and David Michod‘s The Operators, a potential vehicle for Pitt.

Arcadiy Golubovich, Primeridian Entertainment

Money Source: Golubovich is the son of Russian oil billionaire Alexei Golubovich and grocery mogul Olga Mirimskaya. His parents made headlines with a messy divorce battle last year over their $10 million London home.

Film-Biz Cred: Golubovich, 26, began his career as an actor before teaming with former studio executive and indie finance agent Tim O’Hair.

Buzz: The year-old Primeridian’s first film is Tom Tykwer‘s A Hologram for the King, starringTom Hanks and based on the novel by Dave Eggers. The $35 million-plus comedic drama is headed to the Cannes market. Golubovich and O’Hair’s company has ambitious plans and is developing a dozen projects, including a feature based on the life of Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

David Boies, Boies/Schiller Film Group

Money Source: Lawyer Boies represented Al Gore in the contested 2000 presidential race, and his legal practice has made him a multimillionaire.

Film-Biz Cred: Boies, 73, is just getting into the movie business. Partner Zack Schiller, the son of Boies’ law partner, Jonathan Schiller, has been working in the industry for more than a decade, having spent his early years as an assistant.

Buzz: After forming the outfit in 2012, Boies and Schiller rescued Portman’s troubled Western Jane Got a Gun, by fully financing the $25 million film when it nearly was shut down during production (one source says Boies, who loves Westerns, was negotiating the terms for Gun on the very day he was preparing for his U.S. Supreme Court fight to overturn Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage initiative). Boies/Schiller is funded by a private equity group in which Boies is a participant. Otherwise, Boies, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., has kept a decidedly low profile regarding his foray into film financing. His daughter, Mary Regency, also has done some producing. Boies/Schiller Films is developing star-driven, sci-fi action films or high-concept R-rated comedies.

Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Faliro House Productions

Money Source: He’s the son of the late Vassilis C. Konstantakopoulos, a Greek captain turned billionaire entrepreneur who founded Costamare Shipping.

Film-Biz Cred: The shipping heir, who calls Athens home, quietly has been helping to finance smaller U.S. indie titles for more than five years while also bolstering Greece’s film industry.

Buzz: Founded in 2008, Faliro has been involved with a wide array of smaller indie titles, includingJeff Nichols‘ Take ShelterJim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left AliveTerrence Malick‘s Knight of CupsRichard Linklater‘s Before Midnight and Alex Ross Perry‘s critically acclaimed 2014 Sundance Film Festival entry, Listen Up Philip. Faliro is partnering with France’s Haut et Court and the Netherlands’ Lemming Films on The Lobster, the English-language debut from Oscar-nominated Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. The low-key Konstantakopoulos doesn’t make the rounds in Hollywood much, but is nonetheless carving out a niche.

Berlin Record Deal: Harvey Weinstein Pays $7 Million For Alan Turing WWII Tale “The Imitation Game”

In what I am told will go down as the highest price paid ever for U.S. rights on a movie at the European Film Market, The Weinstein Company has locked a deal to pay $7 million for The Imitation Game, the Graham Moore Black List script that Morten Tyldum directed with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Keira Knightley also stars in a film that will be shaped as a major release for the next awards season.

CAA brokered this deal based on a promo reel that had five bidders going after it hard before TWC just took it off the table, with the feeling that it has one of its major Oscar hopefuls for the next race. TWC currently hasPhilomena in the Best Picture race that will be decided next month.

Compared to the small sales of Sundance, this is a whopper. Harvey and Bob Weinstein and their team headed by COO David Glasser bested five competitors that sparked to a 15-minute compilation of scenes on a picture that has just gone into postproduction. The film also stars Mark Strong and Matthew Goode, and it’s produced by Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman. It was Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures label that took the risk on the film after Warner Bros let it go. The TWC acquisition team of Robert Walak, Negeen Yazdi and Dan Guando chased this script for a year. TWC’s Michal Steinberg closed the deal.

While the temptation is to liken this to TWC’s last period Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, Turing’s tale doesn’t end happy. After WWII, Turing was rewarded for his heroism by being prosecuted for being a homosexual. Disgraced and forced to choose chemical castration or else imprisonment, he eventually took his own life.

Harvey Weinstein confirmed the deal and said he was blown away by the footage. It was the same sum that TWC paid the last time there was a title with this much heat, when the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life? sold at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. That one also has Knightley starring.

“Teddy Schwarzman and Morten Tyldum took a script that Bob and I loved but were worried about its tone because if you got it wrong one inch to the left or one inch to the right, you would have major problems,” Weinstein told me. “These guys got it so perfect, they did a better job than I ever could have. Benedict is unbelievable, and this is going to be a big year for Keira. Between this and Can A Song Save Your Life? she is going to be a major star. We look at this as a major release and we’re thrilled to have it.”

Toronto: New Canadian Distribution Shingle Inks Deal with Black Bear

Veteran distribution exec Laurie May is launching Canadian distribution company Elevation Pictures at the Toronto Film Festival, it was announced Saturday.

The company’s first move is a strategic alliance and output deal with Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures, the Gotham production company behind “Broken City,” the upcoming Robert Redford-starrer “All Is Lost” and Sundance hit “A.C.O.D.” CAA brokered the deal.

Elevation’s first release under the deal will be “The Imitation Game,” directed by Morten Tyldum (“Headhunters”) and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Pic starts lensing this month.

“I am thrilled to be in business with Teddy Schwarzman, who has creative vision and produces films that will bolster the slate of Elevation Pictures,” said May, who was co-founder and co-president of Maple Pictures, the Canadian indie distributor spun off by Lionsgate in 2005, and acquired by Alliance Films in 2011.

May served as an exec at eOne—which bought Alliance in January 2013—until April of this year.

“There is a tremendous opportunity in the Canadian distribution landscape following the consolidation of Maple, Alliance and Entertainment One,” she said.

Added Schwarzman: “Laurie is filling a very important hole in the top tier of the Canadian marketplace, and brings with her years of experience, ethics and taste. I couldn’t be more excited for Black Bear to partner with Elevation Pictures.”

Film Arcade And Paramount Team on Sundance Comedy ‘A.C.O.D.’

The Film Arcade and Paramount Home Media Distribution announced today the acquisition of the breakout Sundance comedy A.C.O.D. The Film Arcade will release the film theatrically throughout North America and Paramount Home Media Distribution will manage domestic home entertainment, television licensing and digital distribution, as well as all international distribution.

A.C.O.D., which comedically explores the world of Adult Children of Divorce, marks the directorial debut of Stuart Zicherman (creator of J.J. Abrams/ABC’s “Six Degrees”), who co-wrote the script with Ben Karlin, a producer and writer on “Modern Family” and previously on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”. The film features an all-star cast of comedic talent including Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”, Friends with Kids), Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers), Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration), Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”), Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four), Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Clark Duke (“The Office”) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World). Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures (Broken City, upcoming At Any Price) fully financed A.C.O.D. and Schwarzman produced the film alongside Karlin and Tim Perell.

A.C.O.D. follows Carter (Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parents’ (Jenkins and O’Hara) divorce, Carter now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend (Winstead). But when his younger brother (Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return.

“A.C.O.D. is one of the funniest Sundance films we’ve seen and the audience at its premiere laughed the whole way through”, said The Film Arcade partners. “Stu and his incredible cast have shown us that divorce hurts until you laugh. We look forward to bringing this entertaining film to audiences and adding ‘A.C.O.D.’ to the pop-culture lexicon.”

“We are thrilled that The Film Arcade and Paramount are distributing A.C.O.D.” said Schwarzman. “We look forward to working closely with both companies, and are so excited for audiences worldwide to see this memorable comedy.”

Mark Ankner from WME Global represented on behalf of the filmmakers.

Black Bear Promotes Ben Stillman, Amanda Greenblatt

Black Bear’s Ben Stillman and Amanda Greenblatt have been promoted to vp and creative executive at the New York-based production and financing company.

“I’m beyond appreciative of the creativity, dedication and wisdom Ben and Amanda consistently demonstrate,” said Black Bear founder and principal Teddy Schwarzman. “These promotions are much deserved.”

Stillman joined Black Bear as creative executive at the company’s inception in 2011 and has served as co-producer on A.C.O.D. and the thriller Broken City. Prior to Black Bear, he worked at Cinetic International.

Greenblatt joined the company in August and has worked closely with Schwarzman and Stillman on all creative aspects of the slate. Prior to Black Bear, Greenblatt worked for LA-based Chernin Entertainment and served as an assistant at 20th Century Fox.

Black Bear’s pipeline of upcoming projects includes the Benedict Cumberbatch drama The Imitation Game, 2010 Black List screenplay Gold and JC Chandor’s All Is Lost.

Sundance: …’A.C.O.D.’ is the comedy that Adam Scott Fans Have Been Waiting For

Adam Scott has a highly controlled, almost overly impeccable charisma. Handsome, with small facial features that make him look like the son of Liberace, he’s a very regulated personality, with a witty, cut-and-dried, hiply downcast delivery that, on screen, can often turn him into a unit unto himself. (He’d be perfect in a Whit Stillman film, or as Sheldon’s older brother on The Big Bang Theory.) Scott is a caustically funny and winning actor, yet there’s something almost preternaturally detached about him, which is why he’s so ideally cast in A.C.O.D. (The title stands for “adult children of divorce.”) He plays Carter, who has spent his whole life trying to crawl out from under the wreckage of his parents’ hateful, ugly divorce. In a huge counterreaction to their savagely childish bickering, he moves forward with extreme caution, and is honorable and upstanding. He owns a restaurant, has a devoted girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and also a happy blob of a little brother (Clark Duke), whom he helps support. He lives responsibly, without any visible problems. As it turns out, that’s his whole problem.

A.C.O.D. is a bubbly-smart romantic comedy with a new subject: the generation of kids who grew up with divorced parents, and therefore found no stigma in that situation, but who had to do so much precocious, faux-parental managing that it did a mind-game number on their emotional lives. Carter is an expert at managing his own life; he’s just not so great at letting go and living it. When his bro announces that he’s getting married, it means that their parents, who haven’t spoken in 20 years, are going to have to be brought together, at least for a little while. This, of course, is Carter’s job, and it takes him where he doesn’t want to go: into the messiness of how he grew up. The parents are played by Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara, who pelt each other with amusingly below-the-belt insults that just get lower and lower; they square off and fight like two scraggly old jungle cats. But then their angry reunion takes a twist, rekindling their relationship. The smartest thing that the director, Stuart Zicherman, did was to keep this ha-ha situation in the background, and to foreground Carter’s relationship with his old therapist (Jane Lynch), who wrote a book-length study of him and several other children of divorce, and is now planning the sequel, about how those former kids are faring as adults. Lynch, less farcical than usual, speaks hilarious truths in her lightly hostile way. So does the movie. A.C.O.D. is like some wild and woolly French family drama that hums along in fast motion. The film sprawls, at times a bit too much, but it gives Adam Scott his punchiest big-screen role yet.

Amy Poehler and Adam Scott Reteam in Excellent Divorce Comedy ‘A.C.O.D.’

Divorce is no laughing matter. Just ask Meryl Streep’s Oscar from Kramer Vs. Kramer. Yes, it is a very serious thing that rips apart families, destroys children, and is disintegrating the moral fabric of this country. Well, that’s what movies always lead us to believe. The funniest thing about divorce comedy A.C.O.D. is that it shows that divorce has been around long enough that we can now laugh about it. And watching this movie, you will laugh plenty.

The title stands for “adult children of divore” and the premise of the movie shows exactly why its time has come. Adam Scott stars as a man whose parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) had a vicious divorce when he was 9 years-old. Now that his brother (Clark Duke) is getting married he has to forge a truce between the two. He also was the subject of a book about children who were screwed up by divorce and now the pyschologist who wrote the book (Jane Lynch) is interviewing him for the follow up.

Yes, Scott’s character Carter is part of a generation where divorce is just a part of the world. In classrooms growing up half of the students were from “broken homes,” and now that generation has come of age and society has changed. We’re finally at a point where we can joke about divorce.

Many of the jokes in director Stu Zicherman‘s debut feature land quite well. But when you’re dealing with comedy vets like O’Hara, Lynch, and Amy Poehler, who plays Carter’s bitchy step mother, of course the hilarity is going to be off the charts. What makes the movie great is that the subject matter is fresh, dealing with the interactions, jealousies, and grievances of a sprawling family, but the structure is familiar. A.C.O.D.is set up like your standard rom-com (for Christ sakes there’s even a small part for Jessica Alba as the hot girl who threatens to rip it all apart) except what Scott is falling in love with and out of love with and in love with again is his family.

This movie has not only a handful of belly laughs but a few twists and turns up its sleeve. The greatest weapon in its arsenal, however, is Scott, who has proven himself to be the American Hugh Grant (a higher compliment, I can not pay) who is goofy and befuddled while also being very earnest and totally dreamy. Just like in last year’s Friends with Kids he proves himself an adept straight man in a cast of crazies, trying to anchor things down even as he sees them falling apart. He doesn’t have the range of many other comic actors, but his product is one we should all buy stock in, because it would make all of us very rich. And then when we’re all rich and want to divorce our husbands (or wives) then at least we’ll be able to laugh at it. A.C.O.D. opens a door for all of that, and I can’t wait to see the brave new world of what divorce comedies will follow.

‘A.C.O.D.’ Review: Divorce Has Never Been This Funny [Sundance 2013]

With three days remaining, A.C.O.D. is my favorite film of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by first-timer Stuart Zicherman, it’s about “Adult Children of Divorce” and stars Adam Scott as Carter, a man whose parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) had a brutal breakup on his 9th birthday. Decades later his brother (Clark Duke) decides to take the plunge into matrimony and it brings up some major issues caused by the traumatic breakup. Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Alba andJane Lynch are also along for the ride.

Co-written by Zicherman and Ben Karlin, the script for A.C.O.D. is a Swiss watch. Everything is economical, hilarious, perfectly-paced and never in-your-face obvious. There are loads of big laughs wrapped around unexpected plot points, resonant emotion and great character development. The cast all bring such vigorous life to the film that it almost makes a sad and touchy subject, divorce, into something to be envious of.

A.C.O.D. is a special, miraculous film and the exact reason why you come to the Sundance Film Festival. It’ll leave you happy and high on the power of comedic cinema.

As the star of A.C.O.D, Adam Scott proves once again he’s leading man material. This isn’t just a rehash of Party Down or Parks and Recreation. Carter is confident yet vulnerable. Having your parents separate in such a traumatic way – at your ninth birthday party – changed him forever and while he seems to be put together on the surface, he’s broken underneath. That pain is on his face in every scene. Which is why when his brother Trey (Duke) decides to get married, things begin to bubble up that Carter can’t stop. He tries his hardest to deal with it but it sets off a chain of events that will challenge his divorced parents, his girlfriend (Winstead), his former therapist (Lynch) and much more.

When a script is as well-thought out as this one is, a great cast will only elevate it. While Scott easily carries the load, O’Hara and Jenkins are simply hilarious as his parents. Lynch is much more subdued than we’re used to seeing her, same for Duke, and both Winstead and Alba play characters that’ll challenge Carter to his core.

All of that is aided by a directorial style and script that forgoes many traditional Hollywood tropes, letting the audience most of the work. Several plot points and reveals are shown, not told, and if you’re not paying attention, important pieces could be missed. The film also demands you not only laugh, but think and feel, especially with an ending that’s so poignant and perfect, I can’t believe they pulled it off.

There’s very little bad to say about A.C.O.D. It’s one of those special films you watch and feel amazing about as you walk out of the theater.

/Film rating: 9 out of 10

The Young Moguls

When director Paul Thomas Anderson began working on “The Master,” a thinly veiled critique of Scientology, he proposed shooting it on 65-millimeter film—a costly option that delivers unusual depth and clarity.

Rather than seeking clearance from a phalanx of movie studio executives, Mr. Anderson needed to convince only one person: 26-year-old Megan Ellison.

Ms. Ellison, the daughter of billionaire Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison, single-handedly financed the $42 million project and signed off on the request without hesitation.

“Most studios now, you have to fight to shoot something on film,” says Daniel Lupi, who produced the film with Ms. Ellison. She said, “‘Great, let’s do it.’ Basically, all of the decision making is with her.”

Over the past two years, Ms. Ellison has emerged as an important source of financing for Hollywood’s most high-profile, and high-risk, projects.Through her independent company Annapurna Pictures, she fully financed “The Master” as well as the $45 million “Zero Dark Thirty,” the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that is nominated for five Academy Awards. She backed this year’s Prohibition-era drama “Lawless,” and has movies in the pipeline from directors including Spike Jonze, David O. Russell and Bennett Miller.

She is also reviving “The Terminator,” one of the most lucrative film franchises ever, paying $20 million for the right to make future installments and signing Arnold Schwarzenegger to star.

Ms. Ellison is part of a new crop of young scions with deep pockets who are changing the way Hollywood makes movies. Among the others: Teddy Schwarzman, the 33-year-old son of billionaire Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman; Michael Benaroya, the 31-year-old son of a prominent Seattle-based real-estate family; John P. Middleton, the 29-year-old son of Philadelphia Phillies part-owner John S. Middleton; and Ms. Ellison’s 30-year-old brother, David, whose company has a $350 million co-financing deal with Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures. The younger heirs join Jamie Patricof, 37, son of a private-equity pioneer, and Andrew Lauren, 43, son of designer Ralph Lauren, who are also involved in film production.

The road to Hollywood is littered with wealthy young financiers who lost their fortunes in starry-eyed quests to make movies. Newcomers with money “can tap out quickly because if you’re not smart about it, it’s a very expensive game,” says “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell, whose next movie, about a 1970s FBI sting, is backed by Ms. Ellison.

What distinguishes today’s crop, and in particular Ms. Ellison, is the depth of their pockets. On her 25th birthday, Ms. Ellison gained access to as much as $2 billion of her father’s fortune, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new Hollywood investors are also determined to be less star-struck and more practical with their checkbooks. “The idea is for dumb money to be smarter,” said Mr. Schwarzman, who founded Black Bear Pictures at the start of 2011. His company’s first major theatrical release, “Broken City,” about a former police officer (Mark Wahlberg) hired to investigate the wife of a New York City mayor (Russell Crowe), opens Friday.

Mr. Schwarzman says his company has made a concerted effort to avoid the appearance of dilettantism. For instance, Black Bear has a formal policy that it will respond to all scripts within a week. “It’s bringing a diligence and respect to the process that we think is deserved,” he says.

The argument for why these producers are a boon to Hollywood is that they are filling a void. In recent years, major studios have largely shuttered their art-house divisions, concentrating instead on producing big-budget, special effects-laden movies which have a higher likelihood of big returns at the global box office. Even when studios do get involved in serious dramas or smart comedies, they often try to limit their risk by partnering with financiers or buying films after they’re finished, in what is called a negative pickup deal. Meanwhile, banks, where independent producers once turned to finance their films, have backed away from lending for projects with questionable returns.

That leaves an opening for the new batch of producers who can pick up the tabs for ambitious, small- and mid-budget movies that can be financially risky but offer potentially rewarding payoffs.

“I think we’re in a really good time for opportunistic financiers,” said Mr. Benaroya, whose Benaroya Pictures produced 2011’s “Margin Call,” starring Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons and made for $3.5 million. “There’s not a ton of money out there, especially not equity, and there’s not a lot of people who are writing significant checks for independent film.”

Mr. Benaroya said he emphasizes sensible budgets and making effective use of tax credits and foreign pre-sales. Over the next two years, Mr. Benaroya’s company plans to release more than half a dozen films, including a drama starring Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce.

Ms. Ellison’s brother, David, gravitates toward big budget mass-market Hollywood fare. His recent films include the Tom Cruise vehicles “Jack Reacher” and “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.” He will executive produce the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” set for release in May.

Even within this rarefied group, Ms. Ellison stands out for her staggering wealth: Her father’s net worth is $41 billion, according to Forbes, making him the third-richest American, trailing only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. “She’s in a different financial stratosphere than the rest of us,” said Mr. Benaroya.

Beyond her lavish budget, Ms. Ellison’s willingness to take on creatively ambitious but risky material regardless of its profit potential has caught the attention of many filmmakers. With no formal business education and very little filmmaking training—she spent less than a year at the University of Southern California film school before dropping out—she nevertheless calls the shots on projects herself.

In a famously flashy industry, Ms. Ellison shuns red-carpet glamour. Her signature look, even in business meetings—a vintage T-shirt emblazoned with an AC/DC or Led Zeppelin logo—is invariably one of the first things any studio executive mentions when discussing her. She avoids Hollywood hangouts like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Chateau Marmont, and attends her own premieres in a demure black pantsuit and flats (or sometimes Converse sneakers).

She has never granted a formal interview and declined to comment for this article.

“You would never know that Megan Ellison, if you met her on the street, is behind all of these films,” said Mark Duplass, the actor and director who has a brief role in “Zero Dark Thirty.” “Your first guess would be that she’d be hanging out at a 7-Eleven, smoking with her friends—and that she might ask you to buy beer for her.”

Whether Ms. Ellison can translate her taste in movies into a viable business remains to be seen. She is known to offer directors generous terms that can jeopardize a film’s profitability. She also tends to grant coveted “final cut” privileges to filmmakers to entice them to work with her, a liberty that can frustrate distributors.

“The Master”—distributed by Weinstein Co., which has released three of her films—has earned just $16 million at the domestic box office. It cost about $42 million to make, according to people familiar with its budget. (A spokeswoman for Ms. Ellison says it cost closer to $32 million.)

Some of her other films have fared better. “Lawless,” starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf and written by Nick Cave, took in $37.4 million in domestic box office receipts on a budget of $26 million. Ms. Ellison financed two-thirds of the film.

But getting “Lawless” into profitable shape was a struggle. After Weinstein Co. executives and other producers on the film first viewed a cut, they decided it needed to be re-edited. Ms. Ellison resisted the suggested changes, arguing that director John Hillcoat’s cut shouldn’t be altered, according to people familiar with the matter. Weinstein executives ultimately won out, these people said.

With “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ms. Ellison’s biggest bet to date, she appears likely to turn a profit. The movie grossed $24 million in its first weekend in wide release, with $34.7 million in cumulative domestic earnings. The distributor, Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, expects it to bring in more than $90 million.

Still, the movie is a significant gamble. Ms. Ellison is on the hook for the entire budget, although she has recouped some of it through foreign presales.

The film’s prospects are complicated by a national debate about whether it condones the use of torture as an interrogation technique, as well as whether it falsely depicts torture as having produced information that resulted in the CIA’s ability to locate bin Laden.

While director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal won Academy Awards for directing and writing 2008’s “The Hurt Locker,” they are also famous for making the lowest-grossing film to ever win a best picture Oscar. That distinction didn’t deter Ms. Ellison, who last week became one of the youngest producers to be nominated for a best picture Oscar. “A lot of financial entities would have backed the film but demanded a more vanilla product in exchange for this risk,” Mr. Boal said.

At the movie’s premiere in Los Angeles in December, Ms. Ellison shied away from the party’s glitterati, lingering with the smokers on the patio. Meanwhile, her father held court by the bar, engaging in a boisterous conversation with actor Jason Clarke, who plays a CIA agent in the film.

Her indifference to business formalities occasionally surfaces, such as Annapurna’s notice on its website that it doesn’t accept unsolicited material, for “very super-boring legal reasons.”

When Ms. Bigelow failed to secure an Oscar nomination, Ms. Ellison took to her Twitter account, which is typically populated by inspirational quotations from Shel Silverstein or Muhammad Ali, to declare: “Kathryn Bigelow was robbed. So f— up.”

Ms. Ellison’s office is a “hippie palace,” as a recent visitor put it, a compound of homes nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Employees of Annapurna work out of two houses, both with sweeping views of Los Angeles. (One of the homes is on the market for $15.5 million.)

When her filmmakers are finished shooting, they sometimes come to the complex to complete work on their movie in postproduction.

The process is often a relief to directors like Mr. Jonze, who is finishing his next movie, “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, with Ms. Ellison now.

Mr. Jonze’s last feature film, “Where the Wild Things Are,” spent years mired in development at a major studio, Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Pictures.

His experience with Ms. Ellison has been a sharp departure. “I finished the script, I sent it to her, she said she wanted to make it,” Mr. Jonze recalled. “It feels really simple, working at this company.”



Lionsgate & Roadside Attractions


J.C. Chandor


Robert Redford


ALL IS LOST follows the exhilarating journey of one man fighting to survive.



20th Century Fox


Allen Hughes


Brian Tucker


Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones


An ex-cop trailing the wife of New York City’s mayor finds himself immersed in a larger scandal.




The Film Arcade & Paramount Pictures


Stuart Zicherman


Ben Karlin & Stuart Zicherman


Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch


A.C.O.D. is a feature comedy focused on seemingly well-adjusted Carter, who’s been caught in the cross-hairs of his parents’ bitter divorce his entire life. When Carter is unexpectedly forced to organize his younger brother’s wedding, he soon discovers he was the central figure in the definitive book on children of divorce, and decides to set the record straight.


venice2012      toronto2012      telluride2012


Sony Pictures Classics


Ramin Bahrani


Hallie Elizabeth Newton and Ramin Bahrani


Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, Maika Monroe


Set in the competitive world of modern agriculture, AT ANY PRICE centers on ambitious Henry Whipple (Quaid), who wants his rebellious son Dean (Efron) to help expand his family’s farming empire. However, Dean has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business unfolds, father and son are pushed into an unexpected crisis that threatens the family’s entire livelihood.

Ben Stillman

Ben Stillman is Senior Vice President of Black Bear Pictures, where he has worked since the company’s formation.

Ben has been a part of the creation and production of a number of films while at Black Bear. Most recently, Ben produced BARRY, directed by Vikram Gandhi, which sold to Netflix after premiering at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. He is Executive Producer of GOLD, directed by Steve Gaghan and starring Matthew McConaughey, Co-Producer of BROKEN CITY and A.C.O.D., and Associate Producer of AT ANY PRICE. He was also actively involved in the development and production of eight-time Academy Award-nominated THE IMITATION GAME, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

In 2016, Ben was named one of Variety’s Ten Producers to Watch. He has also served on the Board of Directors for prominent Canadian distributor Elevation Pictures.

Prior to Black Bear, Ben worked at Cinetic International, selling international distribution rights for such films as EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, MEEK’S CUTOFF, and Diego Luna’s ABEL.

Ben earned a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies and English with a concentration on Creative Writing from Stanford University. He lives in Los Angeles.

Michael Heimler

Michael Heimler serves as Vice President, Production & Operations at Black Bear Pictures, where he has worked since 2013.

At Black Bear, Michael is actively involved with all projects on Black Bear’s slate, focusing on physical production, post production, business & legal affairs, finance, reviewing creative submissions and working closely with Canadian distributor Elevation Pictures.

Most recently, Michael Produced J Blakeson’s I CARE A LOT starring Rosamund Pike & Peter Dinklage, and Executive Produced Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s THE FRIEND starring Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, and Casey Affleck,and Dave Franco’s THE RENTAL starring Alison Brie & Dan Stevens.

Previously, Michael was an Executive Producer on BEN IS BACK, written & directed by Peter Hedges and starring Julia Roberts & Lucas Hedges, LIGHT OF MY LIFE, written, directed by and starring Casey Affleck, and a Co-Producer on GOLD, directed by Stephen Gaghan and starring Matthew McConaughey.

Prior to Black Bear, Michael worked in the motion picture talent department of United Talent Agency in its New York office.

Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts – Film and Television from The University of Wisconsin – Madison.

After making the cross country move with the company, Michael now resides in Los Angeles, California.



The Weinstein Company

Release Date

November 28, 2014


Morten Tyldum


Graham Moore


Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance and Mark Strong


Based on the true story of British mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing.




U.S. Distributor


U.S. Release Date

January 27, 2017


Stephen Gaghan


Patrick Massett & John Zinman


Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard


GOLD is the story of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a modern-day prospector, hustler, and dreamer, desperate for a lucky break. Left with few options, Wells teams up with an equally luckless geologist (Edgar Ramirez) to execute a grandiose, last-ditch effort: to find gold deep in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.





Black Bear Pictures To Finance Mining Scandal Drama ‘Gold’

EXCLUSIVE: Black Bear Pictures has stepped up to finance production of Gold, a script by Patrick Massett & John Zinman that is based on a true story about the 1993 Bre-X Mineral Corporation mining scandal in which vast amounts of gold were reportedly discovered in the Indonesian jungle. Black Bear’s Teddy Schwarzman will produce alongside Paul Haggis and Michael Nozik under their Hwy61 production banner. Massett and Zinman will also produce.

After launching last year, Black Bear produced the Allen Hughes-directed Broken City with Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta Jones; At Any Price, the Ramin Bahrani-directed drama that stars Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron; Adult Children Of Divorce with Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba and Jane Lynch; and the J.C. Chandor-directed All Is Lost with Robert Redford starring. Black Bear recently acquired the Graham Moore Black List script The Imitation Game, based on the tragic tale of heroic British WWII code cracker Alan Turing, who was later prosecuted for homosexuality.

Massett and Zinman, the writers and co-exec producers of Friday Night Lights, are represented by CAA, Industry and attorney Adam Kaller. CAA, which reps Hwy61 as well, will rep domestic distribution.

Stalking the Next ‘Paranormal’ Blockbuster

Looking to score with the next “Blair Witch Project”? You might wind up backing the next “con the rich” project instead.

Just ask all those investors who put thousands of dollars toward, say, their nephew’s project and even attended a screening—but never got a penny of their money back.

Now, firms that help pool investors’ money, often investing in multiple projects, are hoping to burnish the business’s image. They say the independent film industry, which operates outside of the studio system, should be considered its own asset class, one that isn’t tightly correlated to other investments. And they are devising new ways to invest in film that can reduce the risk.

“This investment can make more sense, especially as investors have gotten smarter and the industry has become more transparent,” says John Sloss, a principal at media-advisory firm Cinetic Media in New York, which helps structure film investments. Mr. Sloss and others structure investments that rely on conservative strategies, such as lending money against tax credits and investing in so-called print and advertising funds.

Major studios are making fewer movies, most of them blockbuster productions. But markets like Russia, Brazil and China are “growing at huge rates” and want “Hollywood-quality movies,” says Ben Browning, CEO of Wayfare Entertainment Ventures, a film production and financing company that is backed by private capital. That creates an opportunity for independent films financed by high-net-worth investors to fill the void, he says.

The fact that film isn’t directly tied to stock, bond and other markets is often used by promoters to show that film can be a viable part of an investment portfolio. Those claims may or may not pan out during the next market crisis. But global box-office receipts for the entire industry totaled a hefty $32.6 billion in 2011, up 3% over 2010 and 24% over 2007, according to the most recent data available from the Motion Picture Association of America. The increase from 2007 was driven in large part by international box-office figures.

The classic—and riskiest—way to invest in a film project is equity investing: funding some or all of a project in return for an ownership stake. That can be lucrative. For example, the surprise horror hit “Paranormal Activity,” released in 2009, was made for $15,000 but raked in more than $190 million world-wide. The movie “Precious,” which was funded with around $12 million from investors, made more than $63 million world-wide.

All too often, though, seed money can disappear, never to be repaid. If a movie doesn’t acquire a distributor, for example, the investor might never get back their original investment. And much like hedge funds, there are no reliable outside data about companies’ track records.

The new ways of investing in film products carry their own risks, says Lisa Andrews, a fee-only wealth adviser in Madison, Wis. She views such investments as a hobby, not as a way to generate retirement security.

One of her clients, Wissam Mattar, a 33-year-old gastroenterologist, has invested $20,000 with his brother to make an independent film and plans to put in an additional $30,000 by year-end. He says it was money he otherwise would have put in a real-estate deal or hedge fund.

Ms. Andrews keeps the investment in its own “sandbox,” outside of Dr. Mattar’s portfolio. “The odds of making money on his brother’s independent film are better than the lottery, but worse than blackjack,” she says. “His financial security cannot rest on investments like this.”

Such investments are best suited for people who already have put aside between $3 million and $5 million to retire and have between $5 million and $10 million in net worth, says Christopher Jones, a fee-only financial adviser in Las Vegas.

There are safer ways to invest to ensure your money has a greater chance of being protected. These include lending money against tax credits in certain states that will give filmmakers incentives. For example, an investor might offer to front a producer $8.4 million contingent upon the state giving incentives worth $10 million. The investor would keep the difference, and receive the money after the producer proves the money has been spent according to the state’s specifications.

Investors also can invest in “finishing funds,” which step in when a film needs more money to be completed. In return, they are the first to be repaid, Cinetic’s Mr. Sloss says. Returns can be as much as 50%, he says.

Another strategy: investing in a print and advertising fund, which raises money after a film has been completed and helps fund marketing and advertising costs. Investors can expect about a 15% return without taking a lot of risk, Mr. Sloss says.

Contributing to finishing funds and print and advertising funds is considered one of the safest ways to invest, as those are senior debt loans that get repaid before riskier “mezzanine loans” and equity.

Another way to invest is to lend against presold domestic and foreign distribution rights, says Christopher Woodrow, chairman and CEO of Worldview Entertainment, a production and investment company whose investor base includes high-net-worth investors and family offices. All of those strategies have one thing in common: They don’t rely on box-office returns, so investors can recoup their investments earlier and still earn a premium. All four films that Worldview has produced have averaged double-digit returns, Mr. Woodrow says.

Worldview consults with foreign sales agents to compile estimates of how much they can sell distribution rights for overseas, says Ethan Lazar, business development manager at the firm. It relies on those estimates to make decisions about whether the cost of the budget can be recouped before the film is released. It takes about a year for investors to get their money back, along with any premium, Mr. Woodrow says. Another film-financing firm, the New York-based FilmNation Entertainment, uses a similar model.

Technological changes also are enabling production companies to rely on other avenues for returns. For example, some technologies that weren’t available before, such as distributing the film via iTunes or video on demand, are proving effective ways to get returns in addition to the box office, says Mr. Sloss.

Investing before production means development funding can be tied up for years, says Mr. Jones, the adviser. While it can take a number of years for other strategies like hedge funds and mutual funds to produce the expected returns, he points out that those funds are a lot more liquid than investments in film.

Before allocating any funds toward a film, investors need to be mindful of the producers they approach and should ask basic questions about their track records to protect themselves, says Teddy Schwarzman, founder of Black Bear Pictures, an independent film-production and financing company, and the son of Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman.

Investors can approach producers on their own, but Mr. Jones recommends pairing with a wealth manager or family office with experience in the sector.

Investors also can work with intermediary companies whose job is to match equity with producers. For that service, those companies often will take a fee in the form of a percentage amount of the overall budget for the film. Investors don’t need to pay those companies directly, though ultimately their investments will help cover the fee.

Putting your money in a film can pay out in other ways, says Mr. Schwarzman. Unlike art, which arrives already completed, film production is a collaborative, dynamic process investors can witness up close.

It also offers other perks, such as set visits, dinners with actors and directors, tickets to film festivals and on-screen credit.

“Perks aren’t a reason to invest in film,” says Steven Samuels, a real estate developer who invested in the new film “House at the End of the Street.” “But when your product is finished and you take it to a film festival, it feels good to be able to show your work and be proud of it.”

Black Bear Pictures Wins Graham Moore Black List Script ‘Imitation Game’

EXCLUSIVE: When I was covering Toronto, the big talk was all about deals for completed films. But the one script buyers were talking up was The Imitation Game, Graham Moore’s heralded screenplay about Alan Turing, the English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist who single-handedly helped crack the German “Enigma Code” during World War II that helped the Allies stave off defeat. In a competitive situation, Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures has come aboard to finance production of the film, with Schwarzman producing with Ampersand Pictures’ Nora Grossman and Ido Ostrowsky, with Moore exec producing.

Turing’s story, which topped the 2011 Black List, is hardly a happy hero tale. Not long after Turing made his contribution to toppling the Nazis in WWII, Britain criminally prosecuted him in the early 1950s for being homosexual. He chose chemical castration over prison and was so demoralized that he eventually committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple (legend has it that Turing’s advancements for what became the computer so inspired Steve Jobs that he named the company Apple).

The script originally sold in a seven-figure spec deal to Warner Bros, when it appeared that Leonardo DiCaprio was interested in starring. The studio put J Blakeson on the project, but the deal had a quick trigger and the rights reverted back to the screenwriter, who then got the job of adapting The Devil In The White City for Warner Bros. That’s being crafted for DiCaprio to play serial killer Dr. HH Holmes, with DiCaprio and Appian Way partner Jennifer Killoran and Double Feature partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher.

Moore is repped by CAA and managed by Tom Drumm of The Safran Company. His attorney is Fred Toczek. CAA put the financing together and will rep distribution rights. Attorney Alan Wertheimer repped the producers and Schwarzman for Black Bear.

Black Bear launched early last year, and is a producer of Broken City, the Allen Hughes-directed drama that stars Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with Emmett/Furla financing and Fox distributing. Black Bear also produced the Ramin Bahrani-directed At Any Price with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, with Sony Pictures Classics releasing; Adult Childen Of Divorce, the comedy that stars Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba and Jane Lynch; and All Is Lost, the survival tale written and directed by Margin Call‘s J.C. Chandor, with Robert Redford starring.

The Cast and Crew of ‘At Any Price’

Director Ramin Bahrani shares how he came up with the idea for making the movie: “I was interested to know where my food came from, and that let us to Iowa, which is corn country — GMO genetically modified corn. We lived together with farmers researching the project, and we kept hearing the same two expressions over and over again: ‘Expand or die,’ ‘Get big, or get out.’ And these seemed like mantras that the world was living by.”

View the video here.

Toronto 2012: ‘At Any Price’

Maybe the best picture I’ve seen this year, “At Any Price” signals the arrival of Iranian-American New Yorker Ramin Bahrani in the ranks of major U.S. directors. Switching gears from his neo-realistic slices of New York life like “Chop Shop,” Bahrini turns his laser eye on the surprisingly cutthroat world of Midwestern farming for this classical American tragedy with echoes of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.”

Dennis Quaid, who deserved an Oscar nomination for “Far From Heaven,” may finally get one for his finely limited portrait of Henry Whipple, a third-generation farmer who keeps the family spread going by selling genetically modified seeds. But neither of his sons is interested in carrying on — the oldest is off climbing mountains in Argentina and the younger one (a fine Zac Efron) is a stock-car driver who can’t wait to get out of their small Iowa town. Glad-handing Henry is starting to lose longtime customers and his retired dad (Red West) is strongly suggesting that Henry is losing his competitive mojo. The younger son gets involved with dad’s mistress (Heather Graham’s best work in years) and Henry comes under investigation for illegal activities. Things get worse from there.

This is a heightened style of drama that’s not particularly popular with many critics these days — think “Giant” — but in Bahrini’s skillful hands, it couldn’t be rendered more skillfully. The performances, the staging, the editing, the script are expert all across the board and it all builds to a solid dramatic payoff and devastating comment on contemporary American society. Sony Pictures Classics, which picked up North American rights before its premiere in Venice, hasn’t announced a release date for the wonderful “At Any Price.”

Coin flowing again to indie features

It is neither the best of times nor the worst, as the climate for indie film financing steadily improves after drying up in the 2008 global financial meltdown.

That’s the consensus of panelists who will speak at the Winston Baker Film Finance Forum East presented in association with Variety.

Executives say all the components of indie film finance are again available — bank loans, gap financing, bridge loans, mezzanine — for features that have a foundation of equity capital and also generated pre-sales traction. Equity is the highest risk layer of capital in film financing since it is usually last in line to recoup.

“There is not a great availability of equity right now,” says Michael Benaroya, chief exec of Benaroya Pictures. “But those with equity can drive more favorable deals” since other types of financiers are willing to step up once they see a fat cushion of equity as the foundation.

Hollywood can pitch equity investors that movies are an “alternative investment class” not correlated directly to the general economy. “You can find interesting opportunities in the film business,” says Teddy Schwarzman, principal of Black Bear Pictures. “It’s not tied into market forces.”

OddLot Entertainment chief operating officer Bill Lischak says distribs open doors wide to any partner with ready financing to co-produce high end films.

“There is a real opportunity to match the product with the talent to come with reasonably priced film projects,” Lischak says. “Even the major studios will become more flexible and expand opportunities for independent producers.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, budgets shrank to sizes that many see as much more reasonable, given that prices being paid for films overseas had also taken a hit. “The problem was the foreign buyers weren’t buying for a while,” says Jay Cohen, head of film finance and distribution at the Gersh Agency. “They focused on local-language production, which was a much safer investment. Now they’re back strong buying global films, though there are still issues in Spain, Italy and Japan.”

Toronto #2: Victory at any price?

By Roger Ebert

Ramin Bahrani, the best new American director of recent years, has until now focused on outsiders in this country: A pushcart operator from Pakistan, a Hispanic street orphan in New York, a cab driver from Senegal working in Winston-Salem. NC. His much-awaited new film, “At Any Price,” is set in the Iowa heartland and is about two American icons: A family farmer and a race car driver. It plays Sunday and Monday in the Toronto Film Festival.

This is a brave, layered film that challenges the wisdom of victory at any price. Both of its central characters would slip easily into conventional plot formulas, but Bahrani looks deeply into their souls and finds so much more. He finds a father and a son who are both challenged to question the assumptions on which they have based their lives. Yet this is not a “message picture,” its theme is never spelled out, and it communicates by the most effective means, life experience. It evokes elements of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Death of a Salesman,” and how it moves from one to the other is subtly persuasive.

Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron star, in performances that both use and challenge their screen personas. Quaid plays Henry Whipple, who farms more than 3,500 acres and also represents the Liberty Seed Co., which sells genetically-modified seeds. He inherited the business from his father and hopes to pass it along to his son, Dean (Efron). Quaid’s winning smile is famous in the movies, but never has it been used to better effect than here, where it has a slightly forced, even desperate quality. It’s as if he’s running for office.

Henry is the kind of man who will attend the funeral of a neighbor, express his genuine sympathy, and then try to buy the rights to the man’s land right there at graveside, without missing a beat. He finds himself in trouble with Liberty Seed, and at home–where his older son, Grant, has run away from the family to climb mountains in South America, and Dean would rather be a NASCAR driver than a farmer and salesman. Henry’s wife Meredith (Kim Dickens) is a good woman, loyal and patient, and there’s much she needs to be patient about.

There is a lot more to the movie, including repercussions from the land sale, implications involving copyrighted seeds, Henry’s relationships with old neighbors, and the death of the son of a rival. All of this you will discover in the film, which isn’t a simplistic fable but novelistic in its events and characters. I’d rather focus on the moral transformations of Henry and Dean.

For Henry, life centers on the fortunes of Whipple Seeds, and a battle for control of sales in a nearby county. For Dean, life centers on regional race tracks that could provide a stepping-stone to NASCAR. Boldly, shockingly for an American story, by the end of the film both men discover there are some things they will not do to succeed, some steps they are unwilling to take. It exists in a landscape populated by dozens of Hollywood films in which the heroes unthinkingly murder countless people to achieve their goals (and they are the good guys). The buried code of many American films has become: If I kill you, I have won and you have lost. The instinctive ethical code of traditional Hollywood, the code by which characters like James Stewart, John Wayne and Henry Fonda lived, has been lost.

Dennis Quaid gives one of the performances of a lifetime, and it is important to note that he is not a hero here, but a flawed man with selfish values, a man for whom business success has seemed desirable no matter what its human cost. Zac Efron, as his son, is more targeted in success on the track, but he comes to realize that he and his father are both making the same mistakes.

Ramin Bahrani was born and raised in North Carolina, of Iranian parents. He has a deep feeling both for traditional American types and more recent arrivals. In “Goodbye Solo” he gave us a 70-year-old, hard-bitten, no-nonsense white man and a naturally cheerful taxi driver from Africa, who find themselves disagreeing about whether life is worth living. Red West, the onetime Elvis bodyguard (!) who played the old man, plays the Whipple family patriarch in “At Any Price,” again representing a more traditional way of seeing things.

Bahrani has used the same cinematographer, Michael Simmonds, on all four of his films. They found locations near DeKalb, IL for their Iowa farmland, and the film’s visuals look effortlessly authentic. This isn’t a movie set of a farm, but a working farm, representing a considerable financial investment, hard work, heartbreak and sweat. Henry spends hours in the air-conditioned cabin of an enormous combine, checking the crop prices on his cellphone as his land slides past like a backdrop. Then there’s a little scene where Henry’s wife Meredith takes some potatoes from her kitchen garden, and the film establishes its closeness to the earth.

None of Bahrani’s films are simple. They inspire reflection. When this film played at the Venice Film Festival a week ago, one British critic complained that the Efron character’s racing career “ultimately peters out.” That suggests the critic understood exactly nothing about the movie. If it had ended with Dean Whipple winning a big race and becoming a NASCAR champion, that would have signified that “At Any Price” was just one more simple-minded formula picture. But this film doesn’t wrap things up in a tidy package. It is a great film about an American moral crisis.

Ramin Bahrani’s ‘At Any Price’ Is My Favorite Film Of Telluride 2012

Ramin Bahrani‘s most accessible film to date ends up being my favorite film of the 2012 Telluride Film Festival (yes, besting Ben Affleck‘s Argo).

Ramin has developed a cult following from his three minimalist slice-of-life micro-budget films starring non-professional actors (if you havent yet seen Man Push Cart or Goodbye Solo, put them on your “to see” list). But with At Any Price, Bahrani is gearing up to step out of the film festival shadows and find an audience beyond cinephiles. Indie filmgoers may be turned off by this but I welcome Bahrani’s attempt to tell more expansive stories.

Dennis Quaid plays a fourth generation farmer trying to survive in a time when big corporations are pushing in and devouring the American heartlands. Fighting to keep his family afloat, and losing the battle of keeping his family unit together, Henry comes face to face with the consequences of his amoral actions.

Some of my favorite movies are the stories of good well-meaning people who, when faced with difficult circumstances, are driven out of desperation to make one or two wrong choices that result in their lives spiraling out of control. In this story, Henry isn’t necessarily a good person (he cheats on his wife and adopts used car salesman-like tactics), but he is well-meaning.

You won’t necessarily agree with what Henry has done (or for that matter, what he does), but you’re with him for the journey. Sometimes you’ll be rooting for him to triumph, while other times you’ll be internally struggling with how you’re supposed to feel. And that’s a testament to Quaid’s performance, which may very well be the best performance of his career.

I must admit that I haven’t been a fan of Zac Efron, but his standout performance in Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts made me believe that Efron has a lot more to him than just teenie star label he has earned. This film continues to show Efron’s potential as a serious actor.

After I was done thinking about Quaid’s amazing performance, I found myself wondering who Maika Monroe is. Monroe is somehow able to steal the scenes she shares opposite Dennis Quaid, which is a very tough task in this film. It turns out that this is Maika’s first real performance, after appearing in a few bad indie horror films. Mark my word, this newcomer is going to make a huge name for herself in the coming years. We will see Monroe next in Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman‘s next film, an adaptation of Labor Day.

It’s also worth noting that Goodbye Solo star Red West reunites with Ramin, in a supporting role as Henry’s father. West is a character actor you should definitely recognize, credited with nearly 100 movies from Spartacus to Walking Tall, Road House to Natural Born Killers.

Ramin weaves an intricate family melodrama which acts as a metaphor for the bigger geopolitical problem facing the Midwestern farming communities.

Watch: Zac Efron & Dennis Quaid Share A Moment In Clip From Ramin Bahrani’s ‘At Any Price’

With reviews still coming in from Venice for Ramin Bahrani’s latest, “At Any Price,” critics largely seem to agree on one point — that the film carries with it a distinct vibe and feeling of classic cinema of yore. In our own breakdown of the film, our man on the Lido wrote the picture takes “the form of an good old-fashioned melodrama, closer to ‘Giant’ or ‘Death Of A Salesman’ then anything else,” and in this first excerpt from the film, that sensation is palpable.
The film tells the story of a corn farmer (Quaid) who is struggling to save his farm in the midst of a government investigation, and ropes in his son (Efron) to try and save and take over the operation. But he has own dreams of being a NASCAR driver, and things ultimately lead to a clash between aspirations and generations. This first glimpse is pretty solid all around, with a tremendous unease and tension already being felt between father and son. As we noted in our review, Quaid “is truly the center of the film, and he’s honestly terrific from the first frame to the last.” And certainly here, both earnest and heartbroken, he shines.

Sony Pictures Classics has picked up “At Any Price,” which screens at Telluride this weekend and will also head to TIFF. No release date yet, but is Quaid putting himself in the Best Actor race? As more word comes in over the next week or so, we’ll soon find out. [via The Film Stage]

View the video here.

At Any Price: Venice Review

VENICE – The characters played by Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron in At Any Price could almost be contemporary American agricultural family counterparts to Arthur Miller’s Willy and Biff Loman. Their conflicts don’t resonate on the same scale as Death of a Salesman, but Ramin Bahrani’s accomplished, well-acted film is an engrossingly serious-minded heartland drama, rich in moral ambiguity, that examines the challenging relationship of fathers and sons in the difficult terrain of modern commercial farming.

New York-based filmmaker Bahrani has developed a reputation as a sensitive storyteller with his features Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo. In his new film, co-written with Hallie Elizabeth Newton, he again shows a keen, compassionate understanding of complex character psychology, coaxing textured performances from a sturdy cast.

Particularly impressive is Quaid, who goes beyond his usual easygoing masculinity to convey the craggy gravitas of a man fixated on building his legacy and heedless of the compromises that entails. It’s to the actor’s credit that Quaid refuses to soften a blowhard character whose surface affability masks an encroaching unscrupulousness. Efron does equally strong work. Continuing to distance himself from his origins as a pretty-boy teen idol, he brings an intense, brooding stillness to the screen here, simmering with the frustrations of small-town entrapment.

The town in question is a rural community in the Southern Iowa cornfields, where traditional seed farming has been replaced by the more industrialized business of genetic modification, bringing with it increased professional competition and rendering certain agricultural practices obsolete. A quiet yearning for the simplicity of earlier times provides a melancholy undercurrent to the story of the Whipple family.

Years after assuming control of the family farm from his judgmental father (Red West), Henry Whipple (Quaid) lives by the credo “Expand or die,” swooping in on funerals to snap up additional land at bargain prices from offspring who want little to do with their parents’ hardscrabble way of life. He also pushes ethical boundaries in order to compete with aggressive rival Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) for area leadership in seed sales. And he blithely cheats on his tender, loyal wife Irene (Kim Dickens) with Meredith (Heather Graham), the embodiment of every former cheerleader whose plan to escape her stifling hometown didn’t pan out.
Henry’s sullen son Dean (Efron) has zero interest in farming. A talented stock car racer, he dreams of making it to NASCAR, but an early professional setback brings a cold reality check. It also prompts Henry to reassess his blind faith in the certainty that Dean’s absentee golden-boy brother will return to take up the family business.

The racetrack scenes recall the grit and excitement of Jonathan Kaplan’s underappreciated 1983 gem Heart Like a Wheel. But the chief dramatic engine is less Dean’s thwarted ambitions than the troubles that arise when Henry’s seed-sales operation is placed under investigation. This causes Dean to intervene with grave consequences, forcing the family to wrestle with challenging moral issues.

While the drama comes up a little short in emotional payoff, this is a thoughtful, nuanced film that vividly evokes life in a Midwestern community in which business often trumps friendship. It offers a rueful snapshot of the changing face of a quintessential element of American life.

The weight of inter-generational expectations, honor and loyalty is considered in the relationships of Dean, Henry and his father, but also Jim and his son (Ben Marten). Incidental scenes show the bitter lot of farmers struggling to eke out a living among ruthless competitors. And the limited roles available to women in rural communities are examined with intelligence through subtle work from Dickens, Graham and lovely newcomer Maika Monroe as Dean’s girlfriend Cadence.

There’s a pleasing old-fashioned quality to the film, which seems to hark back to a time when studios still made modestly budgeted stories about real people. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds captures the locations in crisp light and colors that show the beauty of the environment but also the sameness that characters like Dean and Meredith chafe against. And Dickon Hinchliffe’s somber score maintains a gentle approach, shrewdly allowing the darker dimensions of the drama to emerge unforced.

First Image: Robert Redford In J.C. Chandor-Directed ‘All Is Lost’

Here is a first look at Robert Redford battling the elements in All Is Lost, the film scripted and directed J.C. Chandor, who helmed the financial crisis thriller Margin Call.Chandor met Redford at the Sundance Film Festival, and was so taken by the indie film patriarch that he wrote a project specifically for him. And Redford, who can be elusive in committing, stepped up and put himself through quite an ordeal. Deadline was first to reveal this unusual project, which has just wrapped principal photography at Baja Studios in Rosarito, Mexico. It’s a man vs. nature drama, and it’s all Redford, all the time, as he goes Jeremiah Johnson after getting lost at sea and struggling against the elements to stay alive.

From the look of the photo, they put that giant water tank at Baja Studios to good use. Before The Door Pictures’ Neal Dodson and Washington Square Films’ Anna Gerb produced along with Justin Nappi and Teddy Schwarzman. The exec producers are Joshua Blum, Zachary Quinto, Corey Moosa, Cassian Elwes, Laura Rister, Robert Ogden Barnum, Glen Basner and Kevin Turen, a roster much longer than the cast list on this one. FilmNation is handling offshore sales and has already sold out the world, with Universal Pictures International distributing in a large part of the planet. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release stateside.

Sony Classics Buys Rights To ‘At Any Price’

New York (August 3, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all North American and Eastern European rights, excluding CIS and Russia, to AT ANY PRICE. Ramin Bahrani (GOODBYE SOLO, MAN PUSH CART, CHOP SHOP) directed and co-wrote the film with Hallie Elizabeth Newton. AT ANY PRICE stars Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens and Heather Graham.

The film was produced by Pamela Koffler, Teddy Schwarzman, Justin Nappi, Kevin Turen, Christine Vachon, and Bahrani. Executive Producers include Ron Curtis, Mohammed Al Turki, Brian Young and Eric Nyari. Black Bear Pictures and TreeHouse Pictures financed AT ANY PRICE, which is In Competition in Venice and will be a Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Set in the competitive world of modern agriculture, AT ANY PRICE centers on ambitious Henry Whipple (Quaid), who wants his rebellious son Dean (Efron) to help expand his family’s farming empire. However, Dean has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business unfolds, father and son are pushed into an unexpected situation that threatens the family’s entire livelihood.

“Ramin Bahrani is a major American film maker. We’ve wanted to work with him for some time. He is a great storyteller not afraid of serious or big subjects. When we read AT ANY PRICE we knew this would be a great leap forward for him as a successful director offering great roles for major actors. We are so happy to be bringing the film to the American audience and to be in business with him and his prolific producers Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Teddy Schwarzman, Justin Nappi and Kevin Turen,” said Sony Pictures Classics.

“I am very happy to be working with Michael, Tom, and Sony Pictures Classics who have been releasing some of the most important films for over two decades” said Bahrani.

“We are thrilled to partner with Sony Pictures Classics on AT ANY PRICE,” said Teddy Schwarzman of Black Bear and Justin Nappi of TreeHouse. “Tom, Michael and their team have made a strong commitment to this special film and its talented filmmaker. We look forward to working together in the days and months ahead.”

The deal was negotiated by SPC with CAA on behalf of the film.

Cannes 2012: New Investors, Foreign Sales Players Get in on the Game This Year

Business was as steady as the rain at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The fact that studios have cut back on midrange movies opened the gates to a flood of new financiers and sales outfits, rushing in to fill the void. That made for a relatively sunny mood even if a few Cassandras warned of possible storm clouds in the future if all the frenetic activity at this year’s market leads to a glut of finished — or, even worse, unfinished — movies that the market can’t absorb down the road.


Insiders were struck by the sheer number of financiers from around the globe hunting for projects. Teddy Schwarzman, son of Blackstone Group billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, who formed New York-based Black Bear Pictures last year, was among them. Black Bear backed Broken City, which stars Mark WahlbergRussell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones and sold out territories in September. But while seeing opportunity, Schwarzman warned that all the competition to board projects is driving up prices. “There’s one project that has at least four bids,” he lamented. One project drawing heated interest at Cannes was  Western Jane Got a Gun, whichNatalie Portman will star in and produce for director Lynne Ramsay. CAA is shopping Jane, seeking a mix of equity, foreign presales and a domestic distributor to finance the film — a popular recipe now that studios are cutting back on their slates.

Brian Oliver‘s Cross Creek Pictures, which backed 2010’s Black Swan, is another of the new financiers. On the eve of Cannes, Cross Creek and Exclusive Media — which are working together on Ron Howard‘s Rush — struck a three-year co-financing and co-producing deal, beginning with A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson. With Universal having bought domestic rights, Exclusive sold Tombstones to other territories at Cannes.


Partnering with financiers has been a boon for foreign sales companies. Some, such as Sierra/Affinity, IM Global and Exclusive, have access to equity as well.

Making waves were year-old Red Granite — backed by Malaysian money, it is financing Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s The Wolf of Wall Street — and a ramped-up eOne International. The U.K.’s Embankment Films, Tim Haslam and Hugo Grumbar‘s new international sales and distribution company, also turned heads with Mission: Black List, a Navy SEALs project starringRobert Pattinson.

Two new sales outfits were born out of the recent Lionsgate-Summit merger: Mister Smith Entertainment, formed by Summit veteran David Garrett and German production company Constantin Film, and Good Universe, launched by Lionsgate/Mandate alumni Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane. Mister Smith sold out its first projects — The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and the kidnapping tale 3096 Days. To fill up its international pipeline now that it is making fewer movies itself, Universal took a slew of foreign territories on two Good Universe titles: Spike Lee‘s Oldboy, starringJosh Brolin, and Jon Turteltaub‘s Last Vegas, starring Michael DouglasRobert De Niro andMorgan Freeman.

Megan Ellison — daughter of Oracle’s Larry Ellison — is bridging finance and sales: She first formed Annapurna Pictures, financing movies such as John Hillcoat‘s Lawless and Kathryn Bigelow‘s upcoming Navy SEALs drama Zero Dark Thirty. She then launched the sales company Panorama, which hit Cannes with American Bullshit, about a ’70s FBI sting operation that will star Christian Bale andBradley Cooper for director David O. Russell, and it sold out around the globe.

Cannes 2012: Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid Drama ‘At Any Price’ Makes Market Debut

CANNES — Exclusive Media has acquired all international rights to director Ramin Bahrani‘s Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid drama At Any Price and will launch the project to foreign buyers when the Marche du Film gets underway later this week.

At Any Price also stars Kim Dickens (Footloose) and Heather Graham. CAA represents domestic rights.

The film, currently in post-production, was written by Hallie Elizabeth Newton, who often collaborates with Bahrani.

At Any Price revolves around rebellious Dean Whipple (Efron), who is intent on becoming a professional race car driver at the expense of his obligations to his family’s farming empire. His father (Quaid) is intent on his son taking over the business, and when a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, the father and son are pushed into an unexpected situation that threatens their entire livelihood.

“The cast in the film is incredibly talented and the universal themes in the story are sure to resonate with our buyers,” Exclusive president of international sales and distribution Alex Walton said. “Ramin Bahrani is an exceptional filmmaker delivering compelling and socially relevant films and we are delighted to be able to present his next project to buyers in Cannes.”

Bahrani made his feature film debut at the Venice Film Festival with Man Push Cart, which won the prestigious FIPRESCI International Critics Award at the London Film Festival and received numerous Independent Spirit Award nominations. His other previous credits include Goodbye Solo and Chop Shop.

At Any Price is produced by Black Bear Pictures, TreeHouse Pictures, Killer Films and Noruz Films.

The deal with Exclusive was negotiated by Walton and Teddy Schwarzman of Black Bear.

At Cannes, Walton also will be shopping third-party titles ThereseHit and RunDisconnect, Sundance favorite Robot & Frank and Look of Love.

10 Producers Who Will Change Hollywood in 2012


Teddy Schwarzman

Having trained as a lawyer and then served as an apprentice in the packaging department of Cinetic Media, Teddy Schwarzman impressed his colleagues with his willingness to learn the fundamentals, despite being a son of privilege — his father is the Blackstone Group billionaire Stephen Schwarzman.

Last year, Schwarzman founded Black Bear Pictures, and already he’s drawn an impressive list of talent, including Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones for the upcoming “Broken City,” as well as Jeremy Renner for the slated “King of Heists.”

In addition, he’s teamed with other producers (including Before the Door Pictures) on “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford.

What Others Say: “Teddy decided he wanted to be a producer, and he was very methodical in acquiring the building blocks in order to optimize his natural talents,” John Sloss, head of Cinetic Media, told TheWrap. “He observed the financing of movies here,  and by the time he left was in a perfect position to go out and be an active producer — he was smart and pragmatic enough to realize he needed to acquire that knowledge.”

Upcoming Projects: The wry comedy “A.C.O.D.” starring Richard Jenkins should see release this year, while “Broken City” is in post-production, and “All Is Lost” is in pre-production. An untitled drama from Iranian director Ramin Bahrani (“Chop Shop”), cited by Roger Ebert as the filmmaker of the decade in 2009, stars Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron and should appear this year.

– Fred Schruers

Read the full article here.

Lionsgate nabs Redford starrer ‘All Is Lost’

Lionsgate has picked up U.S. rights to Robert Redford starrer “All Is Lost,” which Glen Basner’s FilmNation Entertainment is selling at the Berlinale.

Pic, which is the next feature from “Margin Call” writer/helmer J.C. Chandor, is a man versus nature drama that takes place on the water.

Story is set entirely at sea and has just one cast member.

Before The Door Pictures’ Neal Dodson and Black Bear Pictures’ Teddy Schwarzman are set to produce the pic with Justin Nappi from Treehouse Pictures, who are fully financing the project.

Before The Door will also produce with Anna Gerb and Joshua Blum from Washington Square Films, who were their partners on “Margin Call.”

Before The Door’s Zachary Quinto and Corey Moosa, Cassian Elwes, Laura Rister and Treehouse’s Kevin Turen will exec produce.

Pic is skedded to lense this summer in Mexico.

Elwes and Rister negotiated the financing deals on behalf of the film, along with Alexis Garcia from WME. Redford is repped by lawyer Barry Tyerman and CAA, while Chandor is repped by Rob Carlson and Simon Faber at WME.

FilmNation has a hefty slate going into the EFM this year: the outfit are pre-selling Steven Soderbergh’s “Bitter Pill,” toplining Rooney Mara, and Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man,” toplining Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Berlin 2012: FilmNation sells Robert Redford starrer ‘All Is Lost’ to Universal (Exclusive)

BERLIN — Marking another major Hollywood studio deal here, Universal has struck a multi-territory pact for Robert Redford’s next film, All Is Lost, directed by Margin Call’s J.C. Chandor.

Glen Basner’s FilmNation, which is shopping the newly announced project at the European Film Market, has virtually sold out world rights in less than four days, reflecting Redford’s continuing star status and the following Chandor enjoys in the wake of Margin Call, his directorial debut.

Lionsgate had bought up domestic rights to the film prior to EFM, but Universal made sure to secure the film for a number of key territories — including the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia — once the market got under way. All told, the deal includes 19 territories. FilmNation has also sold All Is Lost to HGC in China, Square One in Germany, Sun Distribution in Latin America and Pony Canyon in Japan.

The deals for All Is Lost, an at-sea adventure, are worth many millions, underscoring the strength of this year’s EFM for top companies like FilmNation. Basner’s shop also is expected to close a raft of deals for Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer A Most Wanted Man, directed by Anton Corbijn and based on John le Carre’s 2008 thriller, and for Steven Soderbergh’s Bitter Pill, starring Rooney MaraJude LawChanning Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The other major studio deal at EFM is for Foresight Unlimited’s Two Guns, the action-comedy that will pair Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions is picking up rights to most of the world, while eOne Entertainment snapped up U.K. and Canadian rights. Universal has domestic rights.

Basner’s FilmNation has enjoyed impressive box-office success during the past 18 months with titles including The King’s Speech and Sanctum. And earlier in the market, Basner screened director John Hillcoat’s hotly anticipated Wettest County, starring Shia LaBeoufTom HardyGary OldmanJessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska for distributors who prebought the movie last year.

All Is Lost is likewise a hot property and tells the exhilarating journey of one man’s fight to survive. The film is set entirely at sea, and Redford — last seen in theaters in 2007’s Lions for Lambs — is the only cast member. Universal also has bought rights to Eastern Europe, Benelux, Iceland, Portugal, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and South Africa. Italia has taken rights in India and Pakistan, Greece and Cyprus, Turkey and the Middle East. Chandor is set to begin shooting this summer at Baja Studios in Rosarita Beach, Mexico. Baja was built by Fox for Titanic.

Redford met Chandor at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, where the director’s Margin Call had its world premiere. Chandor is up for a best original screenplay Oscar for the film.

Neal Dodson is producing All Is Lost via his Before the Door Pictures banner, alongside Black Bear Pictures’ Teddy Schwarzman and Treehouse Pictures’ Justin Nappi. They are fully financing the project. Also producing are Anna Gerb and Jason Blum.

Before the Door’Zachary Quinto and Corey Moosa will executive produce with Cassian Elwes, Laura Rister and Kevin Turen.

Black Bear boards laffer

Black Bear Pictures will produce and finance the indie comedy “Adult Children of Divorce” also known as “A.C.O.D.”
The pic, which made the Black List of best unproduced screenplays, centers on a young man caught in the crosshairs of his parents’ bitter divorce. When he begins planning his younger brother’s wedding, he soon discovers he was the central figure in a book on children of divorce and jumps at the chance to set the record straight.

Stu Zicherman will helm from a script he co-wrote with Ben Karlin.

Teddy Schwarzman will produce through New York-based Black Bear along with Karlin and Tim Perell through Sperego Industries and Process Media. Bobby Cohen will exec produce.

Past credits for Zicherman include working on such skeins as FX’s “Lights Out” and ABC’s “Six Degrees.” Karlin most recently produced the Mandate/Summit comedy “50/50” starring Joseph Gordon Levitt.