It's hard to believe, but in less than one month, the Venice Film Festival will kick off with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s "Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," launching both the fest season and the awards calendar all at once. And while it's certainly a high-profile movie, and a major get for the fest, it can't be denied that the two movies every festival organizer wants this year is David Fincher's "Gone Girl" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice." And credit to New York Film Festival for snagging the World Premiere for both movies, but as you might guess, the reasons why they landed there versus Venice or Toronto or Telluride is complicated.
Speaking with Screen Daily, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera shared that he too was going after the Fincher and Anderson films, and while he doesn't know the exact reason why they skipped the Lido, he has an idea. “The reasons films don’t come is not always clear - sometimes it’s because Venice is too early for their release strategies, or perhaps the studios are focusing more on a US release rather than an international one," he said. “I get the sense that the US is increasingly focused on domestic productions and the local market rather than international.”
And then there are pragmatic reasons—that sometimes, the cost to spend big and send the director and cast to party in Europe doesn't have much benefit to the film in the end. "European festivals represent big costs without big returns," Barbera theorized, noting that China is now perceived as a more lucrative market.
In short, the reason movies are selected for one place over another are complex. It's not necessarily just about prestige or relationships with filmmakers, but it's also about release strategies and making the best use of awards campaigns that are planned months in advance. And as Barbera admits, he only got "Birdman" because Fox Searchlight thought bowing it at Cannes would be showing it far too early.
“I knew Fox Searchlight didn’t want to take the film to Cannes because it was too early for the US release in October,” Barbera revealed. “I kept asking and asking if could see it and Fox Searchlight eventually obliged....I loved it immediately [and] perhaps, my enthusiasm helped as well but we’re very pleased to have it at the festival.”
The Venice Film Festival runs from August 27th to September 6th.