Indie and arthouse filmmaker John Killick, unlike many, is hopeful about a personal, medium-budget film for adults. “They’re films that directors loved to make and audiences still love,” says Kilic, who is being honored this week at Poland’s Camerimage Cinematography Festival for work of particular visual sensitivity.
Coming back from a shoot in Rome, Killick confessed that he still loves being on set after a career spanning four decades, which has included working with Spike Lee, Julian Schnabel, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Jim Jarmusch and Oliver Stone .
His latest filming project in Europe, “In the Hand of Dante”, starring Gal Gadot and Oscar Isaac in an allegorical journey from hell to heaven, reflects Kilic’s lifelong passion for bringing challenging works of literature and art to the screen. Is special.
And he has proven time and again that such films have an audience and are economically viable, he points out, if handled correctly — even if few people in Hollywood are initially buying on many of the projects he produces. Were staying.
His work with painter-turned-filmmaker Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “At Eternity’s Gate” and “Basquiat”) has been an example, says Kilic, “all financed outside the Hollywood system. Was. “
notably “The Diving Bell”, based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of his recovery from a major stroke by learning to communicate by blinking only his left eye, before Johnny Depp withdrew from the project. It was a difficult sell, which inspired me. Universal to follow suit.
Following these events, Kilik managed to get French support and cast for the film, taking it to Cannes, where it made a splash – and won Schnabel the Best Director award.
But Kilic, who also produced “The Hunger Games,” says that even the films he makes are financed within the system, “to create freedom for artistic expression.” Are.”
Their track record seems to reflect that premise: Iñárritu’s Kilik-produced “Babel” (2006) was Oscar-nominated Best Picture and BAFTA-nominated, as was “Diving Bell” (2007) and “Beautiful” (2010). . Killick was nominated three times for Producers Guild of America honors, for “Babel,” “Diving Bells” and “Foxcatcher” (2014).
Killick was co-recipient of the Special Distinction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards for producing “Foxcatcher”, the true story of billionaire John du Pont’s fatal obsession with sponsoring Olympic gold-winning wrestler Mark Schultz, starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. Had acted.
Kilic says that while he looks for unique artistic imagination in each project, his goal as a producer is not to protect a filmmaker from business concerns, but to create a system where they can do what they want. Do the best. “There’s an audience for these movies.”
Killick points out that streaming giants also want artistic films, and filmmakers like Spike Lee have proven adept at getting things done their way and delivering work on time and on budget. Lee’s “The Five Bloods”, a thriller set among an all-black former company of Vietnam soldiers and directed by Newton Thomas Sigel, premiered at Camerimage in 2020 before garnering critical and commercial success.
Killick also took on Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” “25th Hour” and “Summer of Sam”, each of which received critical and audience praise.
Killick has been willing to stand out from the crowd because of his belief in the future of brick-and-mortar theaters and the value of the actual onscreen experience.
Living in Europe, he notes, when going to a multiplex you often see posters for locally made art films as well as superhero franchise films. “Hopefully the same will happen in America,” he says. And while cinema may be dominated by tentpoles, there’s still room for a more personal approach. “It’s about films reaching audiences in whatever way they can.”
Killick’s next film to be released in the US, “Ezra”, tells the story of Max Bernal (Bobby Cannavale), who gives up his successful career as a standup comic to pursue a much more difficult career. It is a project that incorporates many of Kilik’s trademark qualities, which is set to hit the screens next year.