“My dream as a kid was to make movies and I never imagined I’d have my own company and business,” filmmaker Brett Ratner said today about his film finance label RatPac Entertainment. The comments came during Winston Baker’s eighth annual Cannes Film Finance Forum.
Since launching RatPac five years ago, Ratner is an anomaly in the business, a savior not just for the major studios but more so for filmmakers when their films are in need of cash — read Alejandro González Iñárritu, who reached out to RatPac during production on The Revenant.
“There’s not a filmmaker-run company that has invested in a studio slate,” said Ratner. The Rush Hour filmmaker said that some in the industry assumed that “if [film directors] had me investing in their films that there will be resentment, but, no, I’m friends with them as well. They always thought, studios don’t understand us, but I’m a creative guy who happens to be also financing their movie. They feel, ‘We can talk to him about the specifics of the process and our plight and he’ll understand.’ I was happy to be in that position to help my fellow filmmakers.”
During The Revenant, González Iñárritu reached out to Ratner when he feared New Regency was going to squeeze the production’s budget after it went over. The director was at risk of losing two major scenes, one where Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass ventures over the mountain and sleeps in the carcass of a horse, and the bear fight scene.
“Can you imagine that movie without the bear scene?” said Ratner, while also commenting on the pic’s production surge.
Ratner enjoys his position as a production catalyst for filmmakers, so much that he has delayed directing his next project. Not only because he’s been busy with RatPac, but also because he says he’s “picky” about material. Today he mentioned he looks forward to getting behind the camera later this year. A year ago, it was announced that Ratner is set to make The Libertine with Johnny Depp.
Also, Ratner mentioned that RatPac was in talks with a TV network to co-finance series.
“Banks will give incredible deals financing television,” Ratner said about the currently booming TV business. “Television is running the profit (at major studios) more successfully than their film divisions.” Ratner’s passion to foray into TV goes back to producing and directing on Fox’s Prison Break. “I’ll make millions personally off that show, but the network will make hundreds of millions of dollars because they own it.”
RatPac isn’t just providing financing to pre-established projects, but also rolling the dice on its own originals. Ratner said he’s behind Christoph Waltz’s directorial debut Georgetown; in addition, he spoke about interest in bankrolling content creators like Assaf Bernstein, after being wowed by his Netflix series Fauda about a deep-cover unit of the Israeli Defense forces.
Given how films at the box office are falling into a two-class system of have and have nots, with franchises surging, and Netflix gaining footing in the independent filmmaking sphere (they have two titles here at Cannes, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories), Ratner in response to a query by Deadline about this divide said, “The middle has fallen out,” but despite the dominance of franchise pics, “these smaller-budget movies that Blumhouse is making are doing very well.” Ratner has a couple of lower-budget titles he’s co-financing with Warner Bros: the upcoming New Line titles It based on the Stephen King bestseller, and Annabelle: Creation.
“The middle has fallen out especially in the drama space,” said Ratner, pointing to how HBO and Netflix have excelled in that area. “I like the opportunities that SVOD has. Some of the movies I produced that I like, Truth and I Saw The Light; in a way I wish they were made with Amazon or Netflix, because theatrically their success was determined only by box office. I did them theatrically and it’s hard to succeed in these genres. People weren’t racing to theaters for a biopic or a film about a country music singer, but they might in the horror genre.”
Recently, Access Entertainment, owned by Len Blavatnik, acquired James Packer’s stake in RatPac. The deal made Blavatnik partner with Ratner and gave him co-ownership of RatPac’s film, TV and documentary business, and a big chunk of the RatPac-Dune venture that helps co-finance Warner Bros’ movie slate.
Ratner also gave a shout-out today to his Deadline piece How Brett Ratner Learned To Love The Hotel Du Crap.