PGA Nominees Faced Financing Woes – Producers Guild Panel

PGA Awards

Nominees for the Producers Guild of America Darryl F. Zanuck award each had challenges financing their nominated films. They detailed their stories in a PGA panel on Saturday.

Sound of Metal producer Sacha Ben Harroche said financing fell through multiple times. Harroche said many financiers were promising writer/director Darius Marder unrealistic budgets.

“He had many financiers promising him the moon and giving him a price tag on his project,” Harroche said. “I knew no one would really finance this movie at this price because we were used to the market and reality of things.”

Harroche’s team helped Marder rework the script for a more conservative budget. Yet, they still had financing fall through shortly before beginning principal photography.

“Two and a half weeks prior to the shoot, we got rid of the financers we had,” Harroche said. “I had $500 in the bank [and] people working in the production offices.”

Ultimately a friend of Marder’s invested in Sound of Metal.

Marc Platt, producer of The Trial of the Chicago 7, said Aaron Sorkin’s film also faced near misses over the years, almost getting made with producers Walter Parkes and Laurie McDonald. Platt said Steven Spielberg finally encouraged them to make it.

“When we were finally able to get it together, it was about six weeks prior to shooting,” Platt said. “Accelerating into production with limited resources was the greatest challenge, particularly the larger sequences. Without protests, there really was no film.”

Minari producer Christina Oh said she also scrambled to assemble the film in a short time.

“I read the script in February, we were filming in June, and we premiered at Sundance the following January,” Oh said. “It was challenging. But also when you have support from people, you can get through it.”

Certain on-set challenges included a broken air conditioning unit in the trailer where the film’s Korean-American family live. It was over 100 degrees in Oklahoma.

“We were shooting in a period-appropriate trailer home, which came with very period air conditioning units that didn’t work, so we had to quickly scramble,” Oh said. “Nothing could really phase us because we all really believed in what we were doing.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom producer Todd Black said his biggest challenge, along with producer Denzel Washington, was moving studios. Washington originally set up the August Wilson adaptation at HBO. Netflix ultimately made the film.

Nomadland producer Dan Janvey said director Chloe Zhao asked him to produce because of his experience using nonactors in locations with limited resources. Janvey produced documentaries and narrative films like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Wendy.

Nomadland filmed scenes in an Amazon warehouse and at a beet harvest, with Frances McDormand interacting with real nomads. In Janvey’s case, Searchlight Pictures supported their unorthodox plan.

“We pitched an approach or a process on moviemaking that had a tremendous amount of risk built-in,” Janvey said. “How risky it was for the studio to sign up for the project and how they didn’t seem to blink at what we were doing was really empowering. They said, ‘We trust Chloe and Frances and the producing team to go make a great movie.’”

By comparison, Cean Chaffin’s experience on Mank was relatively smooth. Chaffin said Netflix simply said yes to director David Fincher’s film, based on his father’s screenplay.

“I think, in a weird way, you worry more because someone stepped up,” Chaffin said. “Everyone’s movies here are not the slam dunk easy to finance. Perhaps we feel more inclined to be so grateful that that makes it more challenging, because you care about it even more.”

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