Supporting a film in which Johnny Depp plays France’s King Louis XV, Vincent Maraval, head of Wild Bunch International, describes as part of taking risk that is essential to this business.
In a keynote interview with CAA Media Finance’s Roeg Sutherland at San Sebastian’s first Creative Investors Conference on Monday, Maraval discussed his 23 years in the business — not betting on “Black Swan,” but going for it with Depp’s first film since the Amber Heard trial.
“The film [“Jeanne du Barry”] is that sometimes we have to take a risk, and this risk is much greater,” says Maraval. “We’re doing Johnny Depp as Louis XV. People said you shouldn’t make a movie with him, but we liked it. I remember the discussion we had with the producer behind it who said, ‘Do you think we’re doing something stupid? ‘ I said, “Probably, but what’s left if not?”
“Jeanne du Barry” is based on a screenplay co-written by the French 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 handles international sales.
Maraval said during the keynote that his “Jeanne du Barry” partner Netflix was positive for the company.
“Netflix is a real force for us,” he said. “Of course I work with them, and I think their chance of survival is film. The studios controlled 90% of the market. For the first time in history there is an independent company that has control. We know it won’t be long, and it’s going to be a hook in history that the independents controlled the company. People are complaining about it, but I think this is our chance.”
He added: “We need to be able to capitalize on the streaming business to get stronger. I think the cinema distribution will certainly survive, 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 passed on Darren Aronofsky’s Natalie Portman starrer “Black Swan,” who made more than $329 million worldwide.
“Had I made that film, I would have been incredibly rich and could have financed independent films forever,” he said.
Like Netflix, Wild Bunch has also made changes to adapt to the company. The international pre-sales market has declined as the 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 to do Eastern Europe and Asia, but it’s harder in Asia now. The idea is to create some small entities outside that generate IP,” he said.
They’ve also moved beyond international sales to become what Maraval calls a “co-producer,” to help producers make early stage films.
“I think when we made changes we knew that international sales were no longer the main activity we should be dealing with, so we decided to look for talent and become a co-producer,” he said. “We decided we needed to check more at the source.”
Taking risks with his “radical cinema” type as he called it has paid off in more ways than one. Maraval said Wild Bunch has survived the pandemic much better than companies that make mediocre films, even though its type of cinema is more risky to make.
“We never realize when we’re taking a risk, that’s why we take a risk,” he said.
“We failed when we were developing the company, where we should have taken more time to think about the structure, but we always failed because of passion. By doing something we shouldn’t have done, we got somewhere. I do not individualize the losses. If we were to lose money on say [Gaspar Noe’s)] “Enter the Void” led us to make other movies.”
Although decisions sometimes give the wrong impression.
“It’s Wild Bunch. It’s the same guy who told me ‘Black Swan’ was weird,” Maraval joked.