HanWay Films: A Year to Remember

By Wiseman, Andreas | Screen International, February 13, 2016 | Go to article overview

HanWay Films: A Year to Remember


Wiseman, Andreas, Screen International


"It was an all-nighter that carried on into the next day. We were exhausted," recalls HanWay Films managing director Thorsten Schumacher about Fox Searchlight's splashy multi-million dollar deal (brokered by CAA - Micah Green was intrinsic - and HanWay) for writer-director John Crowley's drama Brooklyn at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

"There is plenty of adrenaline on those all-nighters," the Cologne-born executive enthuses. "It's exciting when you have momentum but when you're talking in detail about amounts and careers, especially with studios, the laughs do evaporate."

The next day happened to be Schumacher's birthday and he had hoped to find an hour to hit the slopes. "[But] my wife had sent me a big birthday cake so instead of going up the mountain, I ended up eating the cake with Tony [Safford] and Ray [Strache] from Searchlight as we ironed out the deal. We still have those pictures."

It has been that kind of year for HanWay: one of momentum, firsts, adrenaline, serious deal-making and justified celebration. Heady deals have been matched by stellar critical reception for films such as Carol, Brooklyn and Anomalisa. "It has been the most successful year for us to date," says Schumacher, who joined the company in 2003, four years after it was founded by iconic producer Jeremy Thomas. Schumacher took the reins as managing director in 2010.

"Ten Indie Spirit awards, five Golden Globe nominations, 10 Oscar nominations and 15 Bafta nominations. That could be more than we've had in our entire history," says Schumacher, who predicts Brooklyn will become the company's biggest box-office performer to date, exceeding Woody Allen's 2005 thriller Match Point, which grossed $85m globally. The Wildgaze Films and Parallel Pictures-produced drama has already grossed $40m from its US and UK releases, with international roll-out to come.

Titles from Thomas' production company Recorded Picture Company (RPC) - Ben Wheatley's High-Rise and Matteo Garrone's Tale Of Tales - have also played their part (all RPC films funnel into the HanWay sales pipeline). The former, which debuted at Toronto International Film Festival, is amassing a cult following ahead of its UK release through Studi°Canal, while the latter garnered strong notices at Cannes. Both exemplify RPC and HanWay's skill for building relationships.

Keeping patience

Risk-taking and patience have been key to this year's success. "Keeping distributors engaged with films, not just at markets, but 12 months of the year, is always a challenge," says HanWay's head of marketing Jonathan Lynch-Staunton, who orchestrated the marketing behind major festival berths across the year and who with Empire Design crafted the Carol promo that would heavily influence the US and UK trailers.

"There were challenges on each of our films this year," says Schumacher. "The slate is the fruit of a lot of labour over years. …

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