Weir on modern indie sector, potential ‘Way Back’ campaign

Posted by · 6:38 pm · September 3rd, 2010

Pete Hammond, newly of Deadline, is one of only a handful of people who has seen Peter Weir’s “The Way Back,” premiering here at Telluride in a matter of hours.  He sat down with the director this afternoon and in his piece, he notes how curious it was that the film is slated for a January 21 bow without a one-week Oscar qualifying run.

Weir told Hammond the film was ready for Cannes but that there was skepticism about whether a market exists for films of this sort.  And an Oscar campaign comes down to money, obviously, which is something Anne and I discussed in this morning’s Oscar Talk.

The whole interview, though, reads like an unfortunate requiem to the kinds of classic films Weir has built his career upon.  The independent market and business is in considerable flux these days.  The idea that a Weir film was a hair away from going straight-to-DVD is just…depressing.

Writes Hammond of the film:

The film, set in 1940, does have a bleak atmosphere and is not an obvious sell for today’s ‘what’s the easy hook’ movie marketers but tells a fascinating tale of a small group of multi-national prisoners who escape a snowy Siberian gulag, subsequently following their harrowing and impossible trek of thousands of miles through five different dangerous countries. Although it’s been  fictionalized, it is inspired by the real life tale of three men who turned up in India one day after reportedly making a similar journey…

[The film] is reminiscent of the kind of ambitious and sweeping epic in which Lean excelled. Of course, if Lean were working in  today’s film industry, he probably wouldn’t be working.

Great interview.  Read the rest at Deadline.

→ 9 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 9-03-2010 at 6:51 pm

    JJ said...

    This is absurd.

    I know I’m being naive, but can’t they just release it for one week in December, do a minor campaign or two and let the rest fall into place.

    Most members of AMPAS should want to see an all-too-rare Weir film with Ferrell, Harris, Ronan, anyway. No????

    Wouldn’t the film (studio) want the word ‘Oscar’ tied-on to their film, in one way or another (for marketing and/or eventual dvd renatsl/sales)?

    If this gets released in Jan. and only Jan. it might as well be straight-to-dvd; which, as said, would be a huge shame.

  • 2 9-03-2010 at 7:03 pm

    Mr. F said...

    “[The film] is reminiscent of the kind of ambitious and sweeping epic in which Lean excelled. Of course, if Lean were working in today’s film industry, he probably wouldn’t be working.”

    That right there made me sad. Weir can’t find a decent distributor, yet those “— movie” hacks keep getting work.

  • 3 9-03-2010 at 7:33 pm

    JJ said...

    Call me a sappy traditionalist. It’s the Lean/Weir sweeping epic types of directors and movies that got me into movies as a kid.

    It’s what I’ve loved, still love, and look forward to every year (the epic) – as long as it’s good. I don’t want them to go away. :-(

  • 4 9-03-2010 at 7:40 pm

    Sean said...

    Great read. Crossing my fingers that the film gets a good response over at Telluride.

  • 5 9-03-2010 at 8:24 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    All true, but bearing in mind: The Last Station was facing rumors of no Oscar run even past Telluride last year, and that turned out. And if anything, this “snatched from the jaws of obscurity” meme could play to the favor of an eventual qualifying release and low-cost Oscar campaign. Sympathy for the never-Oscar’d Weir could take many forms and the “We almost went to DVD!” refrain got beaten into the ground with Slumdog.

    I’m not hypothesizing that this is all strategic. The scary points in the interview all hold. But it would be conceivable (and very canny) for this to be the spirit of the Oscar campaign.

  • 6 9-03-2010 at 8:41 pm

    Glenn said...

    Yes, very sad. Especially with the 10-wide field I don’t see why a “Letters of Iwo Jima” style nomination couldn’t happen. But, as he says, it’s about money. Why no larger studio wanted to release a Peter Weir film (his last movie DID cross $100mil after all) is mindboggling.

  • 7 9-04-2010 at 4:21 am

    ninja said...

    Why is everyone surprised that this movie can`t find a distributor? Nobody but few movie buffs are going to see it. If it gets limited release in December, they shouldn`t bother with a wide one in January cause this won`t put butts in the seats. I`m not saying it isn`t a good movie, just but it has ZERO boxoffice prospect.

  • 8 9-04-2010 at 2:42 pm

    Mr. F said...


    With a proper distributor and a proper marketing campaign this could easily make as much money as There Will Be Blood or other recent movies that seem like though sales. But it does seem that studios only want to make movies with Boxoffice prospects, so enjoy your Twilight, Transformers, and Karate Kid, and your Rhiana-starring Battleship.