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FilmNation's Basner Talks American Film Market Fatigue, Selling Malick, Penn, Soderbergh

Thompson on Hollywood By Liza Foreman | Thompson on Hollywood November 8, 2011 at 11:48PM

FilmNation's Basner Talks American Film Market Fatigue, Selling Malick, Penn, Soderbergh
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"To The Wonder."
"To The Wonder."

It’s no surprise that Glen Basner and his FilmNation team are exhausted. The former president of international at The Weinstein Company has risen through the ranks to emerge at the top of the pile of indie sales and production companies, with his three-year-old banner. The company, which spent this year’s AFM camped out at a beach-front residence across the street from the AFM headquarters at the Loews, has distinguished itself in other ways other than its office location. It has sold most international territories on a seductive line up of high-end arthouse films, top-lined by rarified directors, such as Terrence Malick and Steven Soderbergh and now, Sean Penn (who will direct Robert De Niro and Kristen Wiig in The Comedian). And the company has enough in development on the production side that Basner can’t quite remember what has been announced and what hasn’t. “I’m so tired,” he said, following a slew of stories indicating a busy deal-making spree around this year’s market.

His fatigue is, one hopes, temporary and a positive sign of what, in Basner’s words, is the state of play in IndieWood. From his perch between New York and Los Angeles, things don’t look bad at all. “The indie business is stable,” he said, reiterating sentiments from players around the market that for those with the right product, business is brisk. “There isn’t any one kind of film we can handle and we range from Malick titles to Peli who had a huge hit with Paranormal Activity," Basner said. Basner's FilmNation seeks to cater to filmmaker and audience needs alike. Keeping both happy is their recipe for success. “Terrence Malick likes to work in a particular way and we were able to offer him what he needed,” said Basner who is selling three Malick titles. His audience is also kept clearly in mind. “We get behind films that audiences want to see,” he added, keeping his bases covered.

FilmNation recently announced that it will be handling international sales on the Malick films Lawless, with Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and Knight of Cups, also with Bale and Blanchett. Both films will shoot back-to-back in 2012. The company recently announced multiple sales on Malick’s next, untitled, film, which is in the can with Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Rachel Weisz--until they are called back for reshoots.

Other sales news includes multiple deals on Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, based on star Channing Tatum’s real-life experience as an exotic dancer. And it has completed major sales on its first two productions, James McTeigue's The Raven (March 9), starring John Cusack and Luke Evans, and Mark Tonderai's House on the End of the Street (April 20), starring Jennifer Lawrence, which Relativity Media will release stateside. Both are being promoted on the colorful FilmNation, which has a club-like feel. The company’s in-house productions, like its sales slate, are individually tailored pieces, with financing for each film coming from a different source. New starts are gearing up on the production side. In Eastern Europe FilmNation's first fully financed film is untitled, from Oren Peli. Other FilmNation productions include Mud, Jeff Nichols’ Mississippi-set fugitive drama on which FilmNation is an executive producer and is also selling. The company is also producing Paul Solet’s thriller The Faces together with Sonny Mallhi.

How many films can the company handle?
“The limit is really how much energy and capacity I have to handle titles and I don’t need a lot of sleep,” he said.

Does Basner do anything differently now that he’s the boss?
“I have been lucky to work for some of the best people in the business. So I can’t say that I’m necessarily doing anything different to how I was working at those companies. I would have to think.”

By Liza Foreman
 
It’s no surprise that Glen Basner and his FilmNation team are exhausted.
 
The former president of international at The Weinstein Company has risen through the ranks to emerge at the top of the pile of indie sales and production companies, with his three-year-old banner.
 
The company, which spent this year’s AFM camped out at a beach-front residence across the street from the AFM headquarters at the Loews, has distinguished itself in other ways other than its office location.
It has sold most international territories on a seductive line up of high-end arthouse films, top-lined by rarified directors, such as Terrence Malick and Steven Soderbergh and now, Sean Penn (who will direct Robert De Niro and Kristen Wiig in The Comedian). And the company has enough in development on the production side that Basner can’t quite remember what has been announced and what hasn’t. “I’m so tired,” he said, following a slew of stories indicating a busy deal-making spree around this year’s market.
 
His fatigue is, one hopes, temporary and a positive sign of what, in Basner’s words, is the state of play in IndieWood. From his perch between New York and Los Angeles, things don’t look bad at all. “The indie business is stable,” he said, reiterating sentiments from players around the market that for those with the right product, business is brisk. “There isn’t any one kind of film we can handle and we range from Malick titles to Peli who had a huge hit with Paranormal Activity," Basner said. 
 
Basner's FilmNation seeks to cater to filmmaker and audience needs alike. Keeping both happy is their recipe for success. “Terrence Malick likes to work in a particular way and we were able to offer him what he needed,” said Basner who is selling three Malick titles. His audience is also kept clearly in mind. “We get behind films that audiences want to see,” he added, keeping his bases covered.
 
FilmNation recently announced that it will be handling international sales on the Malick films Lawless, with Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and Knight of Cups, also with Bale and Blanchett. Both films will shoot back-to-back in 2012. The company recently announced multiple sales on Malick’s next, untitled, film, which is in the can with Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Rachel Weisz--until they are called back for reshoots.
 
Other sales news includes multiple deals on Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, based on star Channing Tatum’s real-life experience as an exotic dancer. And it has completed major sales on its first two productions, James McTeigue's The Raven, (March 9), starring John Cusack and Luke Evans, and Mark Tonderai's House on the End of the Street (April 20), starring Jennifer Lawrence, which Relativity Media will release stateside. Both are being promoted on the colorful FilmNation website, which has a club-like feel.
 
The company’s in-house productions, like its sales slate, are individually tailored pieces, with financing for each film coming from a different source. New starts are gearing up on the production side. In Eastern Europe FilmNation's first fully financed film is untitled, from Oren Peli. Other FilmNation productions include Mud, Jeff Nichols’ Mississippi-set fugitive drama on which FilmNation is an executive producer and is also selling. The company is also producing Paul Solet’s thriller The Faces together with Sonny Mallhi.
 
How many films can the company handle?
“The limit is really how much energy and capacity I have to handle titles and I don’t need a lot of sleep,” he said.
 
Does Basner do anything differently now that he’s the boss? 
“I have been lucky to work for some of the best people in the business. So I can’t say that I’m necessarily doing anything different to how I was working at those companies. I would have to think.”
 
ENDS
  

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.