Magazine article Variety

Auteurs Go A-List

Magazine article Variety

Auteurs Go A-List

Article excerpt

FROM INDIES TO STUDIO FARE, genre films are being driven by auteurs in the Cannes festival lineup and marketplace as never before.

The trend comes on the heels of two record Cannes deals: Paramount's $20 million North America/China pre-buy of Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi pic "Story of Your Life" in 2014, and Focus Features'$20 million-plus worldwide pre-buy of Tom Ford's thriller "Nocturnal Animals" (with a hefty $10 million P&A commitment) last May. With directors like Colin Trevorrow jumping straight from his $4-million-grossing debut, "Safety Not Guaranteed," to the $1.67 billion-hauling "Jurassic World," producers are taking bigger chances on smaller, artier names in genre films. And buyers seem willing to gamble along with them.

"We are operating in a world where we typically have to find less-proven talent than studios," says Glen Basner of FilmNation, which co-produced and co-financed "Story" with 21 Laps Entertainment and Lava Bear Films, and negotiated the "Nocturnal" deal with CAA. "We don't often have the opportunity to attach a studio director, but we do have the opportunity to attach someone who's made a great first film."

But while some auteurs are reshaping the majors' genre slates, others are working to redefine what a genre film is. Cannes director winner Nicolas Winding Reñí (2011's "Drive") says his third competition film,"The Neon Demon," is "a teenage horror film without horror" that's "interesting, funny, beautiful, scary and sexyf First-time feature director Michael O'Shea describes his Un Certain Regard entry "The Transfiguration" as a "neorealist horror film" that will serve as a calling card for three more features he hopes to finance at the festival - "a slasher film, a ghost story, and a film about possession"- each of which also defies simple categorization.

Regardless of whether these helmers will have any of the impact on Hollywood fare that Christopher Nolan has had with his Dark Knight trilogy, more in the industry are giving them a try. J.A. Bayona, for one, -> jumped from his 2007 Spanish thriller "The Orphanage" to the true-life disaster pic "The Impossible" to Universal's 2018 "Jurassic Park" sequel with the support of Trevorrow champion Steven Spielberg.

"Perhaps because studios are making these big franchise films now, differentiating them and having directors speak with their own distinctive voice becomes more important," says Universal production president Peter Cramer. "Directors with a strong point of view do help put an imprint on these films that they might not otherwise have. You don't want them to ever feel cookie-cutter. And with the 'Jurassic' films, having Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall as producers gave us a level of comfort that the franchise would be well taken care or

Another indie talent pool advantage? "The best scary movies work because the spine of their story is a drama," says Intrepid Pictures founder Trevor Macy (STX's supernatural thriller "The Bye Bye Man"). "The scares land because you care about the characters, and the best directors to do that are the ones who've successfully executed indie dramas. It tends to be true for international directors - you've got a ton coming out of Spain and Mexico - because genre isn't a dirty word for them."

Hiring writer-directors known for their uncompromising visions and distinctive voices seems directly at odds with the late Blake Snyder's hugely influential 2005 book "Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. …

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