Filmmakers whose work reached theaters thanks to Sony Pictures Classics share their thoughts about Barker and Bernard.
Ang Lee Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon
"In production, I was pretty much alone in China and I thought the movie was falling apart. I realized I was doing an A movie in a B genre, and I screwed up. The previous two movies -- The Ice Storm and Ride With the Devil -- were commercial flops, so I didn't know what to do. But in putting it together in post-production I started to work with them, and every step of the way they gave me feedback and things started to look exciting. Even then we thought maybe we could do twice the business of Eat Drink Man Woman. We didn't imagine what would happen in our wildest imagination. They always came up with ideas like, "Let's bring in the Wu Tang Clan for a test screening for word of mouth." "Let's get athletes, the New York Mets, and WNBA teams, have parties so they could talk." "Let's get all the news anchors." They kept having these new ideas to spread word of mouth, they were like kids. They seemed to do everything right for the movie. It was textbook distribution, from the smallest thing to the biggest thing that year. I spent 13 months selling the movie, from the first release of the film in Asia all the way to one month after the Oscars. So that year I had a very close relationship with them, and they became some of my closest friends. We all know it was probably the highlight of our lives."
The Skin I Live In
"Michael Barker and Tom Bernard aren't just two great friends, but also my best ambassadors to American audiences. Their work is praiseworthy with respect to foreign directors, who find in Sony one of the few companies that takes care of these kinds of films as well as of the American audience. In the past few years, other companies that had similar objectives have disappeared from the scene. Sony is practically the only one offering the American audience foreign auteur films in a market where they represent scarcely 2 percent."
Midnight in Paris
"If it wasn't for Sony Classics, the public would never get a chance to see a lot of wonderful films, and a lot of gifted film directors would go undistributed."
In a Better World
"A dinner with Tom and Michael is like personal tutorial in world cinema. All my childhood heroes are/were their personal friends, and all their stories are spiced with an equal measure of wit, knowledge, daredevilry and, most importantly, deep sincerity. Add to this their enormous respect and affection for moviemaking in all its unpredictable shapes. More dinners, please!"
"Tom and Michael are a couple of notable exceptions in the film business -- honest, film-loving, and surprisingly civilized. Championing art despite commerce, and they're still at it after a couple of decades. We need people like them out there now more than ever."
In the Company of Men
"Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are the best double act in the business. They care as much about their friends and family and the people they work with and ice hockey as they do movies, and that's a good thing. And by the way, they love movies. As much as anybody I've ever met, and that's saying a lot. When they released my first film, In the Company of Men, they told me -- months after they'd seen it -- that they didn't know if they liked it or not but they couldn't stop thinking about it, and so they figured it would be the same thing for anyone else. I was very fortunate to have my virgin effort guided out into the world by such honest and friendly hands. They are genuinely lovely guys who give you a real sense of what it must've been like to work in movies a hundred years ago -- they are intrepid barnstormers on the distribution circuit, and I feel lucky to know them."
"Michael and Tom saw an early cut of Pollock and were interested in the film but thought it needed some work. I took a cassette of it with me to Berlin when I was doing Enemy at the Gates and looked at it three weeks later. I realized they were right and went to work on it when I got home, and they decided to take it on. Marcia Gay Harden can attest to the fact that they gave it a good Oscar boost. The guys have good taste. Congrats on their 20th year!"