Speaking from Toronto, Graeme Mason, Chief Exec of the Film Commission (NZFC), said the three Kiwi films there are faring a lot better than some of the reviews might suggest.
Leanne Pooley’s Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls has certainly fared best of the three entries when it comes to reviews. Mr. Mason said it received a standing ovation at its press and industry screening and could already have signed distribution deals with niche distributors, but producer Arani Cuthbert and the NZFC are in negotiations with other distributors looking for a wider release than the arthouse / festival circuit.
Deals are slow to emerge at the festival, as they were at both Cannes and Venice, not just for Kiwi films but across the board. The only major deal to date has been the Weinsteins’ pick up of Tom Ford’s A Single Man, an adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel that received positive reviews at the recent Venice Film Festival.
A number of the American buyers have already left Toronto, well before the festival winds down at the weekend, but that’s not a major concern for the New Zealanders.
The days of films being snapped up in bidding wars are gone, for the moment at least, and sales into the US are a long game.
Under the Mountain, which has already sold into the major territories of the UK, France and Germany, is negotiating with buyers at TIFF for other territories.
Niki Caro’s Vintner’s Luck has enjoyed two sold out screenings. It’s already sold into the UK and Japan, and is also in negotiation with buyers for other territories. Arguably skewed for an older, female audience, it’s pleasing to note that none of its less generous reviews have come from reviewers in that demographic.
Audience responses to all three features have been very positive, which is an important factor for buyers.
Similarly, Jane Campion’s Bright Star has also picked up mixed reviews but good audience response.
Graeme reported ongoing interest at TIFF in upcoming New Zealand projects that overseas buyers are tracking.
The in development adaptation of Lloyd Jones’ Booker-shortlisted Mr. Pip, to be produced by Robin Scholes and Taika Waititi’s feature development of his Oscar-nominated short, Two Cars, One Night, provisionally titled The Volcano and currently in post and due for release early next year, have been the subject of repeated enquiries.
Both films have received NZFC support, Mr. Pip through the devolved development fund.
Ex-pat Kiwi producer Finola Dwyer’s British feature, An Education, written by Nick Hornby (About A Boy, Fever Pitch) and directed by Dane Lone Scherfig, has picked up good reviews of its 1960’s set adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir.
Melanie Lynskey has been dashing around town, featuring in three films at the festival, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!