At a rather dismal Berlinale in 2022, Emma Thompson – as expected – was one of the highlights. In town for a comedy special gala Good luck to you, Leo Grande along with her co-star, newcomer Daryl McCormack, the typically upbeat actress (and was even thanked by a reporter during a press conference for bringing the “party mood” to the show. a festival without parties).
Leo Grande — which first premiered at Sundance just a few weeks earlier and traveled to Berlin for its European premiere — is a stripped-down classic COVID production, a nicely told two-armed mannequin set in almost entirely in a hotel room and follows a widow who hires prostitutes to work as prostitutes. her first orgasm.
A year after hitting theaters in Berlin and with solid international box office sales (released on Hulu in the US), Leo Grande managed to stay motivated long enough to be an award nominee, and entered the BAFTA Awards this Sunday with an impressive four nominations, including a leading actor nomination for both. Thompson and McCormack (who also received a Rising Star nomination).
For Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder, the industry research behind Cornerstone Films sold Leo GrandeThis feature is the perfect example of a project that brings something new and unique to the market.
In Berlin this year, Cornerstone — based in London (Thompson) and LA (Gooder) and also behind Australian independent film distributor The Reset Collective — is releasing three films it hopes will do the same. — Kate Moss biopic Moss & Freud (produced by supermodel), revenge thriller Prima Donna starring Toni Collette, and Irish TV series Four Letters of Love starring Pierce Brosnan and Helena Bonham Carter.
Talking to hollywood reporterThompson and Gooder discuss working with Leo Grande writer Katy Brand on her next — and less lo-fi — film, how they get closer to IP thanks to a new creative partnership and why they know as little about Mike Leigh’s next-project-secret as anyone else (even though they’re the ones selling it).
For a movie that premiered more than a year ago, Good luck to you, Leo Grande had a phenomenal track record, receiving four BAFTA nominations.
Alison Thompson: It’s great to see the film being such a success, both in terms of critical acclaim and the fact that it’s a small film that has grossed $13 million at the international box office. In today’s world, that’s a pretty good number. And it’s completely over-indexed in our little reset company in Australia, which is awesome. It was a really lovely journey.
The BAFTA nominations for top performance for Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack must be very pleasant surprises, or do you see them coming?
Thompson: You never know, but you always hope. Even in the summer when the movie comes out and there’s a lot of love for it, you never really know how things will turn out. But this is a movie that was released very early in the season and has managed to maintain that momentum.
Leo Grande is basically two people in one room. Does its success show you what can be achieved with such a small scale of production?
Thompson: Sure. Yes, it’s a COVID movie so it’s shooting in 2021. But I think more than ever, it just proves — and Mark and I talk about it all the time — that it’s about ideas, about having that marketing relationship and something the audience can immediately identify with, whatever its genre. And that’s what Leo Grande did.
Mark Gooder: I think it’s geared towards the general market. You need ideas that have something to say, that have a new/original point of view or that have changed their mind. That’s the key, because it lifts everything.
You are working with Leo Grande writer Katy Brand in her next project, which is a movie about the street. Can you not convince her to make another movie in another room?
Better: She got the job done with just four walls.
You’ve got three pretty big name projects coming out in Berlin this time around, which is a great show of confidence in the market after a rough couple of years.
Thompson: We feel all three have a very different proposition to them, and we’re more focused than ever on that. We’re really pleased to have these three new titles — you have to work really, really hard for a very long time. The lead time is now longer than ever to get your ducks in a row and the raw material market is ready. So we’re crazy busy getting to that point. We will see how it plays out. But we feel pretty upbeat and optimistic about where we’re going to land.
You recently announced a GenStone content management company with Leo Grande Producer Genesius Pictures. What does that partnership give Cornerstone that you didn’t have before?
Better: Ultimately, it brings us more vertical integration and closer native intellectual property. So get those rights and develop the second stage. We come across a lot of projects that are already under development, but in our opinion are still underdeveloped. So if there’s a great idea embedded in the script, but it’s not ready, we’re likely to reject it. But we never had the money to be able to contribute to the process at the time and move it where we felt it was necessary to bring it to market. So in the end, GenStone is really taking the opportunity that we could have arrived earlier and rolled up our sleeves. And that’s the fun part of it. I think most companies need to be vertically integrated right now to be successful. This is an old model, but t is more important than ever. You cannot operate as a sales company in your own lane. It no longer makes sense. It’s not like we’re sitting there saying, ‘What do you want us to sell?’ We’re sitting there and saying, ‘What can we bring to market?’
There has been a noticeable change to the movie genre on your medium. You have launched the horror spider sting at Cannes last year, and there are recent titles like unexpected, starving acre And The tank. Is the switch to genre necessary to get the stage play or does it help secure ancillary revenue?
Thompson: Of course we’re not alone in this. If you look at this year’s EFM and the projects that have been announced, there are many genres of films for sale. But that’s because we’re all aiming for a space where we feel we can operate, and this genre space has been relatively successful over the last two or three years and during the COVID era. And movie genres also work very well in the backend space. Many of them really don’t need the kind of P&A spending you need to apply to a different kind of movie than movie stars.
Gooder: I think the important thing is talent. The model for bringing together a genre of film is a powerful script and a very sellable idea. You don’t need a cast. So your financial model is not affected by trying to reach someone and wait. And for sting, it was shot on stage in Sydney as an American film. It is set in Brooklyn. But it’s an Australian filmmaker so it makes up for it. It has also received investment from Screen Australian as an Australian film. So when you put all that together, it’s a very attractive financial model.
You launched Cornerstone in 2015, it feels like a lifetime ago. What has changed in the industry and how have you worked since??
Better: People don’t buy in bulk anymore. The film’s value proposition has become binary. We like to use that word a lot at the moment. A movie is worth it or not. The ‘no’ part is a shock factor that has been on the market for the past seven or eight years. You know, no value!
Alison: I think we’ve also seen that there’s a lot of resilience in our business, in the independent space. I think the entrepreneurialism that is present in so many people has really helped them survive through very difficult times and what will continue to be quite difficult times. I’m really, in some ways, surprised by how many of us are actually still here and making a living.
You are working with Mike Leigh on his next project secretly and still without his typical title. It has been secret and untitled for so long. Can you share any details?
Gooder: Who would have thought he would put it in deep space!
Thompson: But the short answer is ‘no’. It’s a Mike Leigh movie, that’s all. But that in itself gave it a concept and a differentiator in the market, and there were a lot of people who believed in that concept and loved Mike Leigh. But I’m glad he’s finally making the movie because he was planning to shoot it in 2020. And that didn’t happen because it was affected by COVID.
Gooder: But we are honored to work with such a master filmmaker as Mike Leigh. And you don’t need more than that. You can’t say that about many filmmakers. But in the space he works in, the stories he creates and the process he goes through, he is almost his own. And some buyers feel the same way.
I hope buyers know more about the film than I do when they’re looking to buy it
Better: No, not at all.
So are you in the dark as much as I am?
Better: Yes. And buyers. It is a beautiful act of faith.
You really don’t know what the movie is?