Even before scandal brought down Harvey Weinstein, the days when he ruled the Croisette — and by extension the independent film business — were long gone. The Weinstein Co. chief (and before that, co-founder of Miramax Films) pioneered a business model for buying and selling films that prevailed for decades, largely consisting of offloading foreign rights in presales that would help guarantee bank loans for movies, many driven by a host of stars who had more sway abroad than in North America.
But shifts in the market — the rise of studio-sized franchises; the digital disruption by Netflix and Amazon; the dominance of superhero tentpoles to the exclusion of character-driven dramas; and the collapse of the home entertainment business — all meant that Weinstein's crown had begun to teeter even before he was ejected from the kingdom he once ruled. The models he created "are still around," says Gabrielle Stewart, managing director of British sales outfit HanWay. But they aren't "new and avant-garde."
The kings of Cannes have very different strategies today. Flush with capital from Silicon Valley, China or Abu Dhabi, they're less focused on packaging and more on fully financing projects in-house, less on the individual sale and more on long-term relationships with international distributors. If, not too long ago, they were entirely oriented toward signing a domestic distribution pact, they're now increasingly aware that burgeoning markets — especially China — are fast catching up with the U.S. as a leading source of revenue. But they still see a gap in the indie market, and they're determined to fill it.
What follows is a guide to the top 25 players in the indie finance scene of 2018, people who have the money to back movies they believe in.