“Investing in independent films are financially very speculative, and generally anybody with a modicum of sanity stays away from them,” said Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, producer of “The Kids are All Right”.
The lesbian parenting film is on the 10-strong shortlist for best picture Oscar – at least half of which, including frontrunner “The King’s Speech” had to battle financially just to get off the ground. The British historical drama, in the running for 12 Oscars, only made it because the powerful Weinstein brothers took a shine to the film’s screenplay, about the stammering George VI. The same goes for boxing movie “The Fighter” which was saved when mini-major Relativity Media put $25 million on the table after the initial investor Paramount pulled out, as did many of the original actors. Films like Facebook movie “The Social Network” – vying to edge out frontrunner “The King’s Speech” at the Academy Awards – were always expected to be box office hits, but for others prospects were less clear. “The financing of ‘Kids’ was a long and winding road. Over the years studio divisions were interested, but ultimately none of them would greenlight the movie,” recalled Levy-Hinte. “In 2005 we entered preproduction only to have our financing evaporate. Ultimately, we brought in Celine Rattray who worked with us to bring in UGC-PH, Gilbert Films, and a dozen other equity investors to finance the movie.” The producer acknowledged that without the major league cast – Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo – the film could never have been financed. “Without a first rate and recognizable cast there would be no possibility of financing the film, and even after we assembled our incomparable cast, we were only able to raise about 5 million dollars,” he added. In the end they had to make the movie in 23 days. “At this breakneck schedule.. we had to greatly simplify the production of the film. The performances were never compromised, but we did not have the luxury of creating a more elevated, cinematic approach to the film,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next film where I anticipate more ample resources.” Black Swan faced similar path Meanwhile, “Black Swan” – the disturbing ballet thriller for which Natalie Portman is tipped to win best actress Oscar – faced a similarly bumpy path when trying to get off the ground. “We thought that we had a deal with somebody and they fell out at the last minute,” said producer Mike Medavoy, recalling how investors Cross Creek came in the last minute. “As usual in this kind of movie, it’s really hard to put the financing together.” Even having director Darren Aronofsky – who made the Oscar-nominated “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke in 2008 – did not especially help. “Nobody could have said that Aronofsky was about to do a movie that has done over 205 million dollars at this moment. Nobody in his right mind would have said that,” said Medavoy. He said films with medium-sized budgets – around $20 millions – “are always more difficult, because there is so much money to be spent on advertising and marketing. “It’s usually ten times the amount that you spend on making the movie. You really have to thread the needle. In this case, ‘Black Swan’ is a perfect example of a movie that threads the needle,” he added. Difficulties in getting finance Levy-Hinte lamented: “Every year it seems that financing is getting more difficult, and ‘Kids’ was by far the most difficult film that I have tried to finance. “My hope is that we have reached the low point and the next one will be easier. That said I am not interested in making formulaic films that fit into the financiers preconceptions, and thus it probably will never be that easy.” Medavoy added: “I’m on my 214th movie and it’s always difficult. There’s always been a balance between the business and the artistic part of it. “I’m never surprised in this business. It has always been difficult. If you look at almost every film that has won the Academy award, whether it’s ‘Amadeus’, ‘Platoon’, ‘Rocky’, ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, they are all difficult films.”