Brett Ratner in Cannes: 'Television is really obviously the future'

Brett Ratner in Cannes: 'Television is really obviously the future'
  1. Brett Ratner in Cannes: 'Television is really obviously the future'
    US producer and director delivered a keynote at the festival…

US producer and director delivered a keynote at the festival today.

In his keynote address at the Winston Baker Film Financing Forum today (May 19), an ebullient Brett Ratner revealed just how he rescued Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar winner The Revenant when it went over budget; why he will soon be returning to directing; his plans to enter the TV business in a major way; and why he thinks VR is ideal for porn.

Ratner isn’t just a filmmaker whose own movies have grossed over $2bn. He’s also a prolific producer and film financier - and a co-founder of RatPac Entertainment together with Australian businessman James Packer.

“Nobody really in Hollywood can figure out how I did this. They don’t understand,” Rattner said of his unlikely metamorphosis from director into “mogul” (a description he hates). His friend and Rush Hour star Jackie Chan calls him “the luckiest motherfucker in the world”.

“There had never been a filmmaker like myself, who had a piece of a company that invested in a slate of movies at a studio,” Ratner said of RatPac’s co-financing arrangement with Warner Bros that has seen the company back such titles as Gravity, American Sniper, The Lego Movie and Suicide Squad. 

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was the first movie made under RatPac’s 75-film deal which has now seen the company spend “close to a billion dollars” on financing Warner Bros movies.

“Warners was scared of the movie. They thought it wasn’t going to work,” Ratner recalled of Gravity. “They tried to sell it to another partner. They were trying to lay off some of the movie to limit their risk.”

Ratner, though, had faith in it. “The studio, believe it or not, did not really know what they had. Who would have thought that a movie with two actors, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a spaceship floating around space, was going to make $700m?”

The Revenant, backed by New Regency, was greenlit at $60 million. When it began to go over budget, Ratner was summoned up to Canada by Iñárritu, who revealed that the financiers were looking to cut two of the most expensive scenes: the fight between Leonardo DiCaprio and the bear, and the scene when DiCaprio goes over the mountain and sleeps inside a dead horse. Ratner stood up for his fellow director, increased his commitment to the budget and, in the process, saved what became the two most celebrated scenes in the movie.

Ratner has seen from the inside why and how studios make decisions. “A lot of time it is relationships, especially a studio like Warner Bros. They’re doing it because George Clooney or Bradley Cooper is important. Sometimes decisions are made because of relationships.”

RatPac makes 25 films a year, a huge figure. Alongside the blockbusters, it has backed documentaries like Catfish and Night Will Fall. The company partnered with Sony Pictures Classics to acquire Roman Polanski’s Cannes title Based On A True Story and Ratner will be producing the Polish filmmaker’s next feature too.

As for himself, Rattner now looks at projects from two opposing sides. “As a director, I am fighting for the creative, I am fighting for the best idea and I am a gut person; I go with my instinct. But then I think, holy shit, we could lose $30 million on this movie and I don’t want to do that.”

Ratner recently bought out his original partner James Packer, and is now in business with Len Blavatnik’s Access Entertainment. The aim now is to try to finance television.

“Television is really obviously the future,” Ratner declared, revealing that RatPac-Dune is negotiating with a network “that’s going to let us co-finance TV which is a huge opportunity.” He draws on his own memories of creating TV’s Prison Break and directing its first episode. “I own a piece of that show and I’ll make millions of dollars personally off that show but the network will make hundreds of millions of dollars. I should be making hundreds of millions but I am not because I don’t own it. I just created it!”

Television, Ratner concludes, is where there is “the real potential for success… if you look at the economics of these movie studios or these companies, television is really driving the prof…

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