Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Unjoo Moon at the TIFF premiere of ‘I Am Woman.’
In a sign of the times for independent distributors, Transmission Films expects to release approximately nine films in cinemas this year, down from 13 in 2019.
The more selective, cautious approach to acquisitions is Transmission’s response to the tightening market across-the-board for indie films, which co-founder Andrew Mackie estimates has dropped by 10-20 per cent.
That said, Mackie and co-founder Richard Payten are very confident about the 2020 slate, not least Unjoo Moon’s I Am Woman and Dean Murphy’s Paul Hogan comeback comedy The Very Excellent Mr Dundee.
Transmission has dated Moon’s Helen Reddy biopic starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey as the pioneering Australian feminist singer, which premiered at Toronto, on May 21.
Mackie says the release date for the film produced by Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight and scripted by Emma Jensen avoids the “post-Oscar season crush and allows enough time to execute a thorough word-of-mouth campaign. We love the film as do the audiences who’ve seen it so far.”
In the Dundee comedy scripted by Murphy and Robert Mond, which will open in the second quarter, Hogan plays a fictional version of himself as he is reluctantly thrust back into the spotlight in a desperate attempt to restore his sullied reputation on the eve of being knighted.
“It’s very broad, very commercial and has a brilliant international comedy cast including John Cleese and Chevy Chase,” says Mackie. “Paul Hogan loves the movie and will be here to support the release.”
Transmission’s stand-out title last year was Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl with $11.7 million, with handy contributions from Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan ($2.95 million), Red Joan ($2.6 million), Sometimes Always Never ($1.2 million) and The Nightingale ($500,000), plus Kiwi musical drama Daffodils, which grossed $NZ1.2 million across the ditch.
Asked about the elements Transmission looks for in acquisitions, Mackie says: “The marketing hooks need to be more obvious than ever to cut through the noise. There needs to be a compelling reason to leave home and go to the cinema, plus a clearly defined target audience, in order to get people to step away from their streaming subscriptions.
“There has been downward pressure on P&A budgets as other revenue streams have declined. There’s so much more advertising for TV/streaming launches these days so our challenge is to make a film feel ‘theatrical’ alongside comparable films from streaming platforms with often bigger launch budgets. They tend to spend and move on, whereas our campaigns need to be more focused and go deeper.”
The slate includes:
Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives (March 12), which follows a band of misfit women who form a choir on a military base. Mackie: “Emotional and very commercial, it has the potential to a breakout word-of-mouth hit.”
William Nicholson’s Hope Gap (April 9), which stars Bill Nighy and Annette Bening as a couple whose marriage hits the rocks after 33 years. “This is film made for a 60+ female audience.”
Andy Goddard’s Six Minutes to Midnight, a WW2 thriller starring Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy and Eddie Izzard.
Francis Lee’s Ammonite, which stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in a romance between an infamous fossil hunter and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea in 1840s England.
Edward Hall’s Blithe Spirit, a comedy based on the Noel Coward play, starring Judi Dench and Isla Fisher.
John Madden’s Operation Mincemeat, a WW2 drama based on a true story about two intelligence officers who use a corpse and false papers to outwit German troops, starring Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen.