Earlier this summer, Paramount Pictures partnered with New Republic on “Mission Impossible: 7” and eight other movies.
New Republic, led by veteran producers Brian Oliver and Bradley Fischer, announced that it had closed a co-financing deal that included “The Tomorrow War,” “Infinite,” Michael B. Jordan’s “Without Remorse,” Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America,” “Transformers 7,” “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Under the Boardwalk.”
Oliver has spent the coronavirus pandemic getting productions into development and prepping for a restart. As America slowly reopens, Oliver provides insight about how he navigated the pandemic, setting deals up and expresses his concerns about insurance and bonds when it comes to film production.
Looking back to March, how did the lockdown impact your productions?
We had a couple of productions that were about to start, they got shut down. As a company, we focus most of our time in development, and we saw the writing on the wall that there wouldn’t be movies for a while.
We’ve been developing and prepping, getting a bunch of movies ready to go once everything is back to normal. We also set up a deal with Paramount, and we’re just waiting for the restart.
How do you navigate whether to shift a movie to VOD, stay with theatrical or hold it until later?
In our deal with Paramount, we had “Without Remorse” which was a theatrical release. It no longer made sense to release it when people weren’t going to theaters. So, it ended up selling to Netflix.
Netflix and some of the other companies have been very aggressive in acquiring films that I think would have been big theatrical releases. But in the marketplace, a studio can’t sit on them forever, they need cashflow. I think Netflix and the other places will pick up some good material because of the pandemic.
How do you see the next few months with winter coming and projections around another spike which will no doubt impact production?
The reality is nobody knows. Right? Everyone’s cautiously optimistic. But all it takes is a couple of mishaps in the beginning of the big movies and things can change.
Getting insured is impossible. Getting a bond is impossible because they’re not bonding anything COVID-19 related.
Hopefully, in the restart of production, everyone is really careful and they don’t blow it. As soon as someone blows it, it will impact across the board. If a $150 million movie shuts down for two to three weeks, the extent of that cost is $20-$30 million dollars easily. It’s not an insignificant figure.
I’ve spoken to filmmakers who say they’ve made a movie COVID-19 friendly. They’ll talk about changing locations, no extras and fewer people on set. People are trying to make this movie work in this environment. I’m just worried about the added cost and not having insurance.
I don’t know if people want to go and see a movie. If you scale it down, we want people safe, but at what cost to what we’re making?
Can you expand on the insurance aspect?
Other countries are setting up bonds and making money, so they can re-insure the insurance companies. People can make movies and know they have insurance.
The Federal government needs to have a plan to insure COVID-19 for production. They need to help with getting bank loans and the other things that independent film needs. I think we’re going to lose more productions to Canada and the U.K. and other countries that are helping filming resume and help the industry.
What extra precautions are you adding into your productions to ensure safety on set goes that much further?
Everyone has to abide by the protocols and the Guilds are micromanaging that. You’re going to have to shorten your schedule each day so you can do the testing and whatever else needs to be doing.
I don’t know about the insurance and bond stuff. But if you’re doing independent films it’s really scary.
I’m worried that everyone is re-writing scripts to make it work in a COVID-19 environment. I understand that everyone wants to get back into production, but if it’s not safe to do the movie you want to do, so you’re rewriting it for the sake of it, that scares me more.
I don’t want a big action movie with no action. Everyone needs to get back to work, but at what cost? If anything, we have to make sure we’re making good movies so theaters survive.
There’s still quality control. That’s the great thing about the movie industry, we make the best films. We don’t want to sacrifice complete quality control just to get it done.
How do you see the future of the theatrical business?
I believe in it. If anything positive comes of this, you’ll see the theatrical market is strong and that people in the United States like to go see movies at the theater. Hopefully, it will show that like theaters are here to stay. I think the bar might have changed a bit — the movies need to be even better and bigger than before.