Vincent Maraval, head of Wild Bunch International, describes backing a film in which Johnny Depp will play French King Louis XV as part of the risk-taking essential to the business.
In a keynote interview with CAA Media Finance’s Roeg Sutherland at the inaugural Creative Investors Conference in San Sebastian on Monday, Maraval spoke about his 23 years in the business — not counting on Black Swan, but with Depp’s first film since Amber Heard “. Study.
“The film [“Jeanne du Barry”] is that sometimes we have to take a risk and that risk is much higher,” said Maraval. “We’re doing Johnny Depp, who plays Louis XV. People said don’t do a movie with him, but we liked it. I remember the discussion we had with the producer behind it saying, ‘You think we’re doing something stupid?’ I said, “Probably, but what if not?”
Jeanne du Barry is based on a screenplay co-written by Frenchwoman Maïwenn, who will star and direct the French-language film.
Netflix is releasing this French-language production on SVOD after a theatrical release in France. Wild Bunch takes care of international sales.
Maraval said during the keynote that his Jeanne du Barry partner Netflix is positive for the business.
“Netflix is a real force for us,” he said. “Of course I work with them and I think their chance of survival is cinema. The studios controlled 90% of the market. For the first time in history there is an independent company in control. We know it won’t last and it will be a staple in history that the independents controlled the business. People complain about it, but I think this is our chance.”
He added: “We need to be able to leverage the streaming business to grow stronger. I think theatrical distribution will survive for sure, but it will be different.”
During the conversation, Sutherland described Maraval as a big risk taker. Maraval pointed out that this doesn’t mean he always makes the right decision. The company presented Black Swan to Darren Aronofsky’s Natalie Portman, which has grossed more than $329 million worldwide.
“If I had made this film, I would have been incredibly rich and could have funded independent films forever,” he said.
Like Netflix, Wild Bunch has made changes to adapt to the business. The international presale market has declined as streamers have arrived.
It merged with the German Senator in 2015 and has a network of other partners.
“Today we have a structure in Spain and Italy. We’re trying in Eastern Europe and Asia, but it’s more difficult in Asia now. The idea is to start outside of some small entities that generate intellectual property,” he said.
They’ve also evolved beyond international sales into what Maraval calls a “co-producer” to help producers produce films at an earlier stage.
“I think when we made changes, we knew that international sales was no longer the main business that we should be dealing with, so we decided to seek talent and become a co-producer,” he said. “We have decided that we need to control more at the source.”
In his brand of “radical cinema,” as he called it, taking risks has paid off in more ways than one. Maraval said Wild Bunch has weathered the pandemic much better than companies making mid-of-the-road films, even if its brand of cinema is riskier to make.
“We never realize when we’re taking risks, so we take risks,” he said.
“We failed in the development of the company, where we should take more time to think about the structure, but we always failed out of passion. By doing something we shouldn’t have done, we got somewhere. I don’t individualize the losses. If we’ve lost money, let’s say [Gaspar Noe’s)] “Enter the Void” led to us making other films.”
Although decisions sometimes give the wrong impression.
“It’s Wild Bunch. It’s the same guy who told me ‘Black Swan’ was weird,” Maraval quipped.
https://variety.com/2022/film/festivals/vincent-maraval-roeg-sutherland-san-sebastian-1235377301/ Vincent Maraval on a bet on Johnny Depp, the need to take risks