Last week, Martha reported on "hot young director-of-the-moment" Jason Reitman signing a deal with Fox Searchlight. In fact, it's a cool deal with a lot more behind it than Fox Searchlight's press release touting the deal actually lets on. I talked to Reitman the other day about his new prodco, Hard C, in which he is partnering with Daniel Dubiecki. Dubiecki, in addition to producing Reitman's current hit Thank Your For Smoking, produced all of Reitman's short films and, most recently, a controversial short called The Big Empty, starring Selma Blair as a woman whose vagina is both a literal and metaphorical frozen tundra because she doesn't have love (that one really pissed off the feminist crowd when it screened at last year's Seattle International Film Festival.)
The press release revealed that under the terms of the deal, Reitman and Dubiecki will develop and produce films for Fox Searchlight. So, here's the full scoop from Reitman. Fox Searchlight was impressed with the success of some young indie filmmakers who were developing solid films on minimal budgets outside the Hollywood machine. Reitman, having gone through the challenges of being a young filmmaker with a great script just trying to get a film made, had a vision of his own: to help other talented directors -- folks who've already proved they have talent through directing some short films -- get a leg up on getting their films made and distributed. Fox Searchlight and Reitman talked about their mutual visions, a deal was born and, one hopes, the fruit of this interesting union will be more smart, savvy comedies like Thank You For Smoking.
Reitman had this to say about the deal, "I want to find directors who are in the position I was in when I was trying to get Thank You For Smoking made. I want to find directors who have some experience, whose movies are maybe a little subversive." Does that mean Reitman will be pulling on the hip boots and wading through slush piles of scripts looking for that diamond in the rough? Not quite. "I don't want to be a talent manager. I admire the people who do that work tremendously, but it's not what I'm looking to do. I had a short film that had played around the world, a screenplay that was ready to go that nobody wanted. Those are the kind of filmmakers I'm going to be looking for." Reitman, through Hard C, will produce the films for Fox Searchlight. "I want to have films not only that I've directed, but films that I've produced. I want to help these directors," he said.
I asked Reitman about the budget range for the films he'll be looking to produce, and he told me they don't have one set at this point but that "the more subversive the film, the smaller the budget needs to be." There are no plans carved in stone either, Reitman said, for how many films a year Hard C will produce for Fox Searchlight, or where those films will be shot. "The film finds itself, and they will be filmed where they need to be. There's no set number of films -- we'll make as many as we can make that deserve to be made. We have a fairly commonsense attitude about the whole thing."
What kind of films is Reitman going to be on the hunt for? Not surprisingly, given that Reitman grew up on his father Ivan Reitman's movie sets and the genre of his own films, Reitman wants to produce comedies. "I'm interested in films that are humorous in a subversive way," Reitman said. Films like Thank You For Smoking? Not necessarily, Reiman says; Hard C's focus will be on comedy, but not necessarily satire.
"Only two or three out of all the films shown at a given festival are comedies. They tend to do well because people like to laugh," Reitman noted. I asked Reitman why he thinks there are so few comedies at film festivals. "I think part of it is a function of critics. You grow up reading reviews and you see how comedies are treated. If you want to be thought of as a 'serious' filmmaker you think you can't make comedies. And that's unfortunate. But then ... a film like Little Miss Sunshine comes along -- people responded really well to that and it was a comedy -- I absolutely loved Little Miss Sunshine, saw it at Sundance. If I can make a film like that I'll be really happy."
Reitman has been very busy lately, between promoting Thank You For Smoking, developing his deal with Fox Searchlight, and working on a couple of new projects -- one he isn't ready to discuss yet, and a possible project with political satirist Chris Buckley, who wrote the novel on which Reitman's film was based. In between all that, he's been hunting for office space for Hard C. He thnks they've found the perfect spot though: above a tattoo parlor and below a gun shop. "How perfect is that?" Reitman laughs. "Now that's the kind of walk-in traffic I want to have -- people getting tattoos on their way to get their gun cleaned." Nick Naylor, the hero/anti-hero of Thank You For Smoking, would no doubt approve.