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Toronto 2015: The Year of ‘Let’s Not Make A Deal’

The market for the 2015 Toronto Film Festival has been a slow, cold trudge. The rainy nights that swept through Canada last weekend provided a perfect metaphor for buyers’ state of mind.

Just look at this year’s opening night feature, Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.” After premiering to strong reviews on Thursday evening, the political documentary received interest from a smattering of buyers but a deal still hasn’t been reached. Sources say that WME, the agency selling the title, was hoping to play Netflix against other distributors to drive up bidding. But Netflix was lukewarm on “Invade,” and Moore wants his movie to receive a large theatrical release, creating a potential stumbling block for a company that is interested in bolstering its streaming offerings.

“I’m trying to figure out the best place now,” Moore told Variety earlier this week at (ironically) the Netflix party. “This movie has to play in theaters with 100 other people watching.”

Following big sales at this year’s Sundance and Cannes, the theme for Toronto 2015 is “Let’s Not Make a Deal.” The word on the street describing this year’s festival has been sour, and descriptions like “weird,” “bad” and “slow” have been heard. Buyers are griping that the movies that don’t yet have distribution are very weak, and they don’t want to be manipulated by agencies into overpaying for films that tank at the box office.

“Have you seen the films?” said one studio executive when asked why checks weren’t being written. Another prominent buyer described the titles as average at best.

Meanwhile, producers, wary of the lessons of Sundance’s “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” which sold for hefty fees that they had trouble recouping, are cautious too. They’re not necessarily jumping at the first offer they receive, but meticulously weighing their options. Sources tell Variety that there are offers on a handful of projects, including Ellen Page’s “Into the Forest” (which was being screened to new buyers this morning), first person POV action film “Hardcore,” and the sci-fi drama “Equals,” but none of these deals have been finalized. “Amazing Grace,” which held a private screening for buyers over the weekend, is entangled in a lawsuit from Aretha Franklin that has derailed sales plans.

The festival also suffered from the absence of a major buyer in Relativity Media. Ryan Kavanaugh’s studio could reliably be counted on to pick up at least one major film out of Toronto, snagging the likes of “Oculus” and “Black and White” in prior years. Its bankruptcy meant that sales agents were down a bidder, complicating efforts to play buyers off of each other. And the Weinstein Company, which pulled out all the stops to land “Begin Again” two years ago, was quiet, preferring to spend money scooping up television projects like “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes’ “Doctor Thorne” and U.S. rights to the Icelandic TV drama series “Trapped.”

Not all news out of Toronto has been bad. The festival, which is traditionally a launching pad for the Oscar race, has been churning out its share of Academy Awards hopefuls — any one of which would have sparked heated bidding had they not all arrived with distributors in tow. Bleecker Street debuted what could be Bryan Cranston’s first Oscar-nominated performance in “Trumbo.” Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” wowed with a strong ensemble, including Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, that will appeal to actors come awards-season voting. “Black Mass” planted Johnny Depp in the lead actor race for the first time since 2007’s “Sweeney Todd.” Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander cemented their Oscar-contender status with Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl.” And Lenny Abrahanson’s “Room,” starring Brie Larson and 8-year-old newcomer Jacob Tremblay, received a rapturous standing ovation on Tuesday night.

PHOTOS:See the Stars at the Variety Fandango Studio

But on the buying side, there are further complications with even the deepest pocketed bidders. Netflix and Amazon Studios, the new players in the field, have the money to provide big paydays, but they don’t offer a theatrical component on every offer they make. If a theatrical release is important to a director, the haggling over the fine print results in an even more prolonged process than usual. Other filmmakers aren’t necessarily in a hurry to sell their movies, especially if they’ve got multiple offers. It took days for the team behind “Anomalisa,” the stop-motion project directed by Charlie Kaufman that won the Venice grand jury prize, to close a deal with Paramount Pictures, one of the few sales to emerge so far from Toronto. And Bleecker Street bought “Eye in The Sky,” a political thriller starring Helen Mirren.

Sometimes it helps to show up without a completed film. Some of the biggest sales were for films that were still in production or hadn’t started shooting. Biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins,” headlined by Meryl Streep, sold to Paramount Pictures for $10 million; and EuropaCorp bought world rights on the Jessica Chastain gun-control drama “Miss Sloane.” But these offers aren’t as big or splashy as the $12.5 million plus a heft marketing commitment that “Top Five” pulled in at last year’s Toronto.

As the festival winds down, it looks like winter and summer’s buying sprees have now finally caught up with the market. More deals will continue to trickle through in the days ahead, but suddenly the moral of Hollywood’s film-festival market is: buyer beware.

Source: Variety

Whites Goes Live: New Department at Whites Dedicated to the Coordination of National Efforts to Service Live Sporting Events, Concerts, Festivals and Awards Shows

Paul Bronfman, Chairman/CEO of Comweb Corp. and leading equipment provider, William F. White International Inc. (Whites), is pleased to announce the launch of ‘WHITES LIVE EVENTS,’ a new national department specifically dedicated to servicing live events across Canada. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about the launch of this new department at Whites,” states Bronfman. “Of course we’ve been servicing live events for many years now, however, consolidating our national efforts with Whites Live Events allows us to better service our clients across Canada. It’s a natural next step for the Whites brand, and represents the next phase of our expansion into the live event market.” 

The newly-launched department will coordinate and utilize all of Whites’ comprehensive live event gear, which includes offerings from their specialty equipment department along with sister companies Whites Location Equipment Supply Inc. (Whites LES) and Whites Telescopic Camera Cranes Ltd. (Whites TCC). 

Industry veteran Steve Morrisson, the company’s former GM, Whites Winnipeg for over 15 years, has been named the new Vice President/Whites Live Events. He will be based in Toronto.

“Whites Live Events aims to leverage our over 52 years of expertise and relationships in providing production services and equipment to the film and television industry as we continue to provide innovative technical production solutions to our clients,” said Morrisson. “I’m extremely excited to embark on this new chapter for both myself and the company.”

Whites Live Events caters to live sporting events, concerts, festivals and award shows across Canada. 

Current clients include: Rogers Broadcasting, FOX Television, TSN/Sportsnet, Dome Productions, Pan Am Games, True North Sports and Entertainment and many more.

Past live events supplied by Whites include: Rogers Hometown Hockey, Calgary Stampede, FIFA Womens’ World Cup, 2015 Pan Am Games, Vancouver Winter Olympics, Halifax Jazz Festival, Aboriginal Peoples’ Choice Awards and more.

Canada picks ‘Felix et Meira’ for the foreign-language Oscar category

Maxime Giroux’s “Felix et Meira” has been selected as Canada’s Oscar hopeful in the best foreign-language film category.

It stars Martin Dubreuil and Hadas Yaron and deals with the unusual romance between a married Orthodox Jewish woman and a young man mourning his father’s death in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood.
Telefilm Canada made it official at a Montreal news conference on Friday in the presence of its elated director.

“It’s difficult for me to say in English, but I guess ‘wow’ in English is OK?,” Giroux said laughing.

“It’s a Montreal film — it’s in French, in English, in Yiddish,” he added. “I’m really happy that I’m here to represent Canada and also Montreal.”

Giroux paid tribute to the entire team — from scriptwriters to technical staff to actors.

Co-producer Sylvain Corbeil noted the film was made on a budget of about $800,000 and was shot in Venice and New York City among other locations.

“We had to be really inventive to make it realistic and good,” said Corbeil.

Writing the script was very difficult because it was not easy to research the closed community. Corbeil also hailed the actors — many of them came from Hasidic backgrounds and had left the community.

“Through our research for this film, we discovered it was a very, very huge step to make because once you leave the community, you’re an outcast in your family, in your community,” Corbeil said. “For them to have this courage was a great source of inspiration for us.”

The selection was made Friday morning by a committee of 23 voting members representing major government agencies and national film industry associations.

Canada’s submissions for Oscar consideration have earned three nominations in the category in the past six years.

They are Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies,” Philippe Falardeau’s “Monsieur Lazhar” and Kim Nguyen’s “Rebelle.”

“In Darkness,” a Canada/Poland/Germany/ production directed by Agnieszka Holland, was also nominated after being submitted for consideration by Poland.

Last year, Canada submitted Xavier Dolan’s acclaimed feature “Mommy,” but it failed to earn a nomination.

Canada’s last win in the best foreign-language film category was in 2004 for Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions.”

For his part, Giroux was humbled to be associated with that star-studded crop.

“Those directors are inspirations,” Giroux said. “Being just beside them, it’s an honour.”
“Felix et Meira” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014, where it won Best Canadian Feature Film and was voted as part of TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top 10 Film Festival. It has been screened at more than 50 festivals.

Corbeil said the film may have a bit of an advantage as it was shown in the United States earlier this year, unlike may of its Canadian predecessors.

Since April, the film has been shown in New York City and Los Angeles and has been the subject of several dozen reviews — with Corbeil saying 90 per cent of them rated the film at very good or excellent.

“It’s going to be an honour and I think a lot of fun and I hope we’re going to go all the way through,” Giroux said. “It’s always tough, but you never know.”
A short list of nine films will be announced at the end of December and the Academy will announce the nominated films on Jan. 14.

The 88th Academy Awards will be held Feb. 28.

Source: CTV News

Technicolor acquires visual effects leader in THE MILL

Technicolor announced the acquisition of London-based The Mill, the world’s largest visual effects and content creation studio for the advertising industry, for €259 million on a debt-free basis.

Founded in 1990, The Mill is consistently recognized by peers and clients as a premier visual effects provider for both advertising agencies and brands, and has earned in excess of 1,000 industry awards. It has operations in the key markets of London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

This acquisition accomplishes many objectives set out in Technicolor’s Drive 2020 strategic roadmap:

·  Establishes leadership positions for visual effects and digital creation across all segments of high-end content, including cinema, TV and advertising;

·  Reinforces Technicolor’s strong portfolio of brands including MPC, Mr. X and Mikros Image servicing a broad range of customers across 10 global locations;

·  Brings significant talent and expertise around emerging technologies such as virtual reality content that will enable Technicolor’s to enhance its technology platform across the entire industry;

·  Adds significant financial contribution with a business that has grown revenues at a 16% CAGR since 2009 to reach €135 million in 2014 while delivering EBITDA margins of approximately 20%;

·  Allows Production Services to better balance its portfolio through increased exposure to advertising and strengthens the financial profile of the Entertainment Services segment. With this acquisition Production Services accounting for approximately 40% of Entertainment Services revenues.

“In acquiring The Mill, we are executing on our Drive 2020 strategic objective of enhancing our market position in visual effects while improving profitability and revenue growth concurrently with accelerating deployment of emerging technologies,” said Technicolor CEO, Frederic Rose. “In The Mill, we have found a company that aligns with our focus on excellence in talent, technology and operational performance. It is a perfect fit.”

With these two transactions, the Adjusted EBITDA floor that Technicolor has set for 2020 (at least €500 million) as part of its Drive 2020 strategic roadmap will be achieved by 2017 while maintaining a strong cash flow generation. The transaction combined with the acquisition of Cisco Connected Devices will translate into high double digit EPS accretion for the full year 2016. The Company will update its Drive 2020 financial objectives concurrent with its full year 2015 results.

Frederic Rose, CEO, and Esther Gaide, CFO, will hold a conference call and an audio webcast today, Tuesday September 15th, 2015 at 6:30pm (CEST).

Whites Lights Up the Rooftop of the TIFF Bell Lightbox

By John Pearson /
Photo by Tom Sandler /

On Tuesday, Sept 15th, the TIFF Bell Lightbox was the hottest rooftop in downtown Toronto as Whites held its annual VIP TIFF reception, celebrating another exciting year of production in Canada.

The venue, adorned with white silks, a bevy of black and white balloons, flat-screens displaying the company’s various brands and innovations along with an inviting red carpet, presented guests with the perfect setting for a celebration attracting over 300 of the country’s production industry heavyweights. Guests were treated to a savoury selection of signature Oliver and Bonacini cocktails and h’ors d’oeuvres, while enjoying a special singalong of ACDC’s TNT-led by Chairman/CEO, Paul Bronfman in between mingling with well-known production professionals, government dignitaries, media and celebrities.

On hand to lend his support was Honourable Michael Couteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, along with Mayor John Tory, who were both there in appreciation of the film industry’s contributions in Toronto and across Canada. Also in attendance was Oscar-nominated director Norman Jewison, (“Moonstruck”, “Fiddler on the Roof”) who has helped champion and nurture the continued success of Ontario’s screen-based industries for decades. Other notable guests included Film Commissioner & Director of Entertainment Industries, Zaib Shaikh, along with well-known screen stars Art Hindle, Eric Johnson, Michael Seater, Julian Richings and Colin Mochrie, to name a few.

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