Christopher Nolan’s tragedy

This article first appeared as a daily newsletter. To receive these direct to your inbox every morning sign up to The Industry Newsletter!

Sponsored by:

Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:​

Reliving Memento, Sundance Sales, Jesse Eisenberg is a beast, Triangle of Sadness typecasting, and a newborn lamb.

Let’s go!


CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S TRAGEDY

Christopher Nolan can’t escape Memento.

At the Sundance 2024 Opening Night Gala, which raised over $1.6M, Nolan recalled the nightmare of his post-Memento (2000) Sundance screening:

“A lot of people know that Memento came to Sundance. A lot of people know that it was a hit, and it enabled so much more that came after it for us. But not a lot of people know that what really happened with that film is we finished it, and… [we had a] screening for all of the independent distributors at the same time to try and sell the film, get a bidding war going or whatever. And they all passed.”

Nolan continued:

“No one wanted the film. In the year or so after that, we were in terrible limbo, we never knew whether anyone would ever see this film.”

Nolan praised Aaron Ryder (EP: Memento, Prod: Arrival), WME Managing Partner Dan Aloni, Bob Berney (EP: The Clovehitch Killer) and Stuart Cornfeld (prod: The Fly) for taking it upon themselves to essentially self-distribute the film.

Shockingly, Memento’s impact at Sundance was vital to his latest film, Oppenheimer, getting the green light.

Nolan discussed a frightening make-or-break-it call with the CEO of Comcast (parent company of Universal):

“We’ve just sold his studio, a three-hour film about quantum physics and the apocalypse, and it’s R-rated. I don’t know, maybe somebody finally figured out what we’d done or whatever.”

When the Head of Comcast opened the call by mentioning he’d attended the 1999 Sundance screening of Memento and loved the film, Nolan was relieved… and slightly crestfallen:

“I mean it’s a quarter of a century later and I’m still being f***ing discovered by Sundance. It’s like, oh what point do I get to move on to bigger things?…The experience you have here as a filmmaker is unique in all the world and you carry it with you through your whole career.”

It’s fascinating that Nolan, despite his meteoric career, appears burdened by the gravity of his first success.

Hopefully, this is, in part, what fuels Nolan to push his creative limits.

For more:

Watch Nolan tell the Comcast/Memento story at the Sundance Gala in this clip.

A young Nolan discusses his deep fascination with memory in this Memento interview from 2004.

A flashy modern re-cut of the Memento trailer.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Big sales at Sundance. It’s a little less than halfway through the Sundance Film Festival (Day 5), and there’s already been a flurry of sales:

  • Searchlight Pictures, A Real Pain
    • $10M sale for worldwide rights
    • Dir: Jesse Eisenberg
    • Starring: Kieran Culkin & Jesse Eisenberg
    • Review
    • Interview, Eisenberg and Culkin: “The brilliant spontaneity” of their collaboration.

Logline: Two cousins travel to Poland after their grandmother’s death to see where they came from and end up joining a Holocaust tour.

Logline: Explores the birth of Kneecap, a hip and naughty Irish rap group.

Logline: His parents mourned what they thought had been a lonely and isolated life when they started receiving messages from online friends around the world.

Parmount’s layoffs. Approximately 800 employees across all divisions will be axed by Feb 13th. The cost-cutting measures are due to the studio’s declining revenue, decreasing subscriber bases, and weak ad sales.

The company is now worth half of what it was in 2019. Offers from multiple companies like Warner Bros. Discovery or Skydance Media (Mission: Impossible 4, Top Gun: Maverick) may be imminent. Most recently, Apollo, a private equity firm, is considering an offer.

Alec Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter again for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, which was filmed in 2021, after new details came to light that conflicted with Baldwin’s account that he did not pull the trigger.

If convicted, Baldwin could face up to 18 months in prison.

Read the half-page indictment here.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Pedro Pascal gets Freaky. Pascal’s recent performance in HBO’s The Last of Us was astonishingly rugged yet kind-hearted. He brings that same grounded energy to the nostalgia-soaked Freaky Tales. Pascal discussed his wild enthusiasm for Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s (dir: Captain Marvel, Half Nelson, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) film was sparked from their graphic-novelesque lookbook:

“It’s this beautiful, kind of like visual storybook in chapters referencing all of the amazing movies (Scanners, Big Trouble in Little China, Repo Man) that I saw on repeat through my childhood way too early on cable. And just the idea of what you were after in terms of genre, in terms of what was personal to you guys, nostalgia, and this collage of styles.”

Here’s the official Freaky Tales logline:

Four interconnected stories set in 1987 Oakland, CA. will tell about the love of music, movies, people, places, and memories beyond our knowable universe.

Here’s a review.

Pascal will next be seen in the equally grounded yet stylized Drive-Away Dolls by Ethan Coen.

Dolly De Leon was the greatest part of Cannes Palme d’Or winner, Triangle of Sadness. She played Abigail, a toilet cleaner turned captain of the survivors of a marooned luxury cruise. Her newfound megalomania is marvelous to watch (clip).

Leon co-stars in two films at Sundance:

Despite giving two varied performances at Sundance, Leon raised concerns about getting typecast as her character from Triangle of Sadness.

“The downside is people still talk to me about Abigail. And sometimes, it’s like, ‘Can we just get over it?’ It’s like everyone’s expecting me to match that performance. But I’ve tried to not let that get in the way of how I work, because that’s going to screw me over. It’s time to let that go and just find the truth behind all the characters that I’m going to play in the future.”

Leon is about to start shooting the second season of Nine Perfect Strangers.

Jesse Eisenberg is a Sasquatch. In Sasquatch Sunset, there’s no dialogue, just a family of Sasquatch “eating, farting, and loving” their way through a year. But the creature’s half-animal, half-human nature holds a mirror to our own humanity.

To accomplish this, Eisenberg discussed what it was like to act in a heavy, furry Sasquatch suit:

“I mean, it’s a bit like overacting a little bit. You know, you act, you know, 10% or maybe 30% more than you normally would on a movie that’s picking up the nuance of your face muscles. So you have to exaggerate it a little bit.”

He continued:

“And yeah, so that was the challenge. Because as an actor, if you do work in movies a lot, you have this real strong sensor of do not be false. You know, feel something and let that guide your behavior rather than behaving, you know what I mean? And this you basically have to like stop filtering that because it requires a different kind of process.”

It’ll be fascinating watching Eisenberg, known for typically ultra-reserved performances (Social Network) take on something more stylized.

Sasquatch Sunset review here.

The famous Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot footage from 1967 is now AI stabilized.


FESTIVALS AND RESOURCES

NYU Tisch is offering their first online Master of the Arts Media Producing program.

The 15-month program will feature the following courses:

  • Producing Essentials
  • Script Analysis
  • Production Management
  • Entertainment Business Law
  • Deal Making and Business Development in Media / Creative Fundraising
  • Post Production / Marketing and Distribution
  • Electives
    • Media Mavericks
    • Festivals and Marketing
    • New Technologies
    • Internship

The thesis is a research paper or producing a short film, or a prospectus including:

  • Story outline
  • Production outline
  • Set safety outline
  • Days in production
  • Post-production plan
  • Budget

All courses for this master’s degree will be taken remotely and are fully online.

Coursework is asynchronous and follows a weekly schedule, allowing students to watch the pre-recorded lessons and participate in crew-based and individual assessment activities.

In each class, there will be weekly 75-minute synchronous sessions.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a curated experience at The Sundance Film Festival.

Producing is more than just a profession; it’s an art form that demands a global, forward-thinking approach to bring new, compelling stories to the silver screen.

Learn more about the instructors.

Check out a more detailed description of the program here.

The application deadline is February 1, 2024.

Apply here.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Jane Schoenbrun’s A24 film I Saw the TV Glow is the most well-reviewed film at Sundance. Schoenbrun’s previous movie, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, was meandering yet hypnotic, produced on such an anemic budget that it was a miracle that the producer Carlos Zozaya (Tendaberry) pulled it off.

Schoenbrun describes the philosophy behind I Saw The TV Glow:

“So for me it’s a movie about the ways in which television or really any kind of art can be there to make us feel less lonely to hold us through times when we’re not ready to be ourselves yet, but also about repression and about dissociation and as a trans person about realizing that I was looking for myself on the other side of the screen and that I needed to cross through it to get there.”

The film is being called a masterpiece.

Aronofsky’s protege is Jack Begert. Begert’s first feature, Little Death, just premiered at Sundance.

Before that, Begert directed a string of high-profile phantasmagorical music videos:

But it was his short film La Petite Mort that impressed Aronofsky because it was indicative of Pi and Requiem for a Dream.

Aronofsky discussed why he decided to produce Little Death:

“It was something new, something I haven’t seen, and I thought Jack in the short really proved himself as a filmmaker, so we decided to give him a helping hand… I remember the first time seeing it just being like, what the hell is going on? But I was just so excited by the choices.”

These are strong words for Aronofsky who has directed some of the most cerebrum-lacerating cinema of the past few decades.

Read the full interview with Begert and Aronofsky.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Saoirse Ronan’s demons. In The Outrun, which just premiered at Sundance, Ronan plays a recovering alcoholic who returns to her farm in Scotland. In the opening scene, her character delivers a lamb.

Per Ronan, this was not VFX:

“It’s really difficult to get ahold of the lamb and pull it out and keep it safe. I was so conscious of the fact that I might break the lamb’s neck. When you see one of those takes, that was probably the third lamb that I delivered, but the first couple, I was completely terrified and I had to look like I’d been doing this my whole life.”

Ronan’s uncanny ability to add a vivacious specificity to both the banal (Lady Bird) and the enthralling (Hanna) is what separates her from the majority of performers in her generation.

Read a review of The Outrun here.

Oscar-winning Chilean brothers expand their US slate. Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín and their production company, Fabula, have produced some incredibly visceral films about female royalty (Jackie, Spencer).

Yira Vilaro joins as the new VP of Film and TV.

Her pedigree is impressive:

  • WME (2011)
    • Assistant
  • Jerry Bruckheimer Films (2012-2015)
    • Executive Assistant
  • Macro (Fences) (2015-2020)
    • Director of Development
  • Amazon Studios (2020-2022)
    • Development Executive
  • Anonymous Content (2022-2023)
    • VP Film & TV

Continuing their trend of producing psychologically enthralling portraits of powerful women, Vilaro and the team just wrapped production on Maria, starring Angelina Jolie as the famous opera singer Maria Callas.

First look image of Jolie here.


ON THIS DAY

2018. Netflix becomes the largest digital media and entertainment company in the world, worth $100 billion.


See you tomorrow for the Oscar nominations.


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

Share the Post:

Other Editions

Become a Film Industry Insider!

Sign up for The Industry!

It’s a curated newsletter read by almost 100,000 film professionals.

We synthesize the latest film & TV news and send it to your inbox every morning. 

It takes less than 5 minutes to read.

Plus it’s FREE forever.