- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
“I’m afraid to open my mic, because I have my three daughters there — as you can see they’re running and screaming — so I’ll let you, Matt, answer that one,” Jonathan Gray, CEO of The Hideaway Entertainment, says during an early-evening Zoom call as his digital camera pans his home’s splendid grounds and gardens in Biot, a medieval hilltop village near Antibes, between Nice and Cannes.
Despite that bucolic French Riviera setting, Gray is set to move himself and his family to Los Angeles because the French-American producer sees a need to be closer to prized Hollywood creatives after launching The Hideaway Entertainment in summer 2017, with veteran L.A.-based producer Matthew Rhodes hired as president.
“While we do a great meeting on Zoom, it’s not the same as if we’re in the same room. We’re not sharing the same experience,” Gray adds. “And with creative people, it’s more so: If they’re in demand from everywhere, they will be selective in who they work with. And it’s hard if they don’t have the direct relationship with you.”
Hideaway Entertainment is also expanding from splashy big-budget pics like Sony’s Men in Black: International, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, and the Vin Diesel-fronted Bloodshot, to producing more true-life-driven tales like Joe and Anthony Russo’s Apple TV+ title Cherry, Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Combat Control and Freedom Ride, a drama about the early days of John Lewis’ battle against racial discrimination and hate.
Hideaway Entertainment is also set to produce a limited TV series, For Those I Loved, to be based on the best-selling book by Jonathan Gray’s father, Martin Gray, a Polish survivor of the Holocaust who overcame adversity to make a new life for himself and his family in the U.S. and France. “It’s a very deeply emotional project for me and for my family,” Gray tells THR.
Gray and Rhodes spoke to THR ahead of Cannes about why, despite a fast-changing global market transformed by streaming, they are bullish about the future of the indie film business.
The Hideaway Entertainment launched in 2017. Where is the company four years later creatively and financially?
Matthew Rhodes: We’re creative first, we’re story-driven first. As a company, Jonathan’s mission was to build a company that supported and protected the creative community. When we first met, he asked me what are the biggest hurdles that someone like myself faces in this industry. I said it was to support and protect the creative community, and often they aren’t supported as they should be. What that means, as we’re so story-based, to a writer, is the ability to go out and do research. On Combat Control, Michael Russell Gunn, the writer, had an opportunity to put on a backpack of military equipment and climb a mountain and shoot some weaponry and really dive into the character of John Chapman. For a filmmaker, that’s allowing them time to prep, with enough in the budget to get the things they need. So we’re not really focused on backing into a budget as much as we’re giving the writer and the filmmaker the opportunity to go out and make the best version of the movie, to give it a great chance in the global marketplace. And that’s enabled us to continue to grow the company with our creative relationships.
I sense you’re expanding from big-budget commercial movies — Men in Black: International, Bloodshot — and, with Cherry, Combat Control, Freedom Ride, to producing movies based on true stories. Why the shift?
Rhodes: It’s a [result] of two things. We do enjoy the entertaining bigger commercial movies, and we will continue to find and finance those movies. But we found during our process of development, Jonathan and I have loved books and true stories. Those big, giant, expensive movies like Men in Black and Bloodshot have long development periods. So we’ve been moving in the direction of prestige commercial movies because Jonathan and I love those stories. We’re able to find them and work with them, and we’re finding our passion really driven in that direction.
An example of the prestige commercial projects is perhaps For Those I Loved, a limited TV series you’re developing based on a book by Jonathan’s father, Martin Gray, a survivor of the Holocaust who built a new life in North America and France. The book has already been made into a 1983 movie that starred Michael York. Tell us about your TV adaptation.
Jonathan Gray: Of course, it’s a very deeply emotional project for me and for my family. It’s connected to our story. It’s one of the reasons I got into this industry. When I was a kid, maybe 12 years old, I saw the movie for the first time, and it still remains popular on French TV because my father’s book is read in schools when you study the Holocaust and the Second World War. But I watched the movie at 12 at the same time I watched movies like Terminator. As a kid, you’re also watching entertainment. No disrespect to Robert Enrico [who directed the 1983 film], his movie did well in his time, but it didn’t entertain me as a kid. It didn’t show my father as the hero I felt him to be and still see him as today. I knew a fresher version of his story would be a great thing.
You grew up in Cannes. Did you see the Cannes Film Festival as an inspiration to get into the business?
Gray: When I saw the film festival in my hometown, I was curious as a kid to get closer to it, wanting to see more action movies, and eventually hoped through my network to do my father’s book adaptation in the future. So I just started to get closer to the industry, but realizing when I did that, it was a bit harder than I initially thought. So I went into other businesses, but it was always in the back of my mind. And when I launched Hideaway, I knew For Those I Loved would be one of our projects, but I didn’t want to start with that. So after working from day one developing our slate, we feel today that For Those I Loved is ready to be developed, and a limited series is the right format to tell the story in the best way.
A film industry shifting from the major studios to global online players looking for movie content for their subscribers worldwide — that threatens the traditional indie film financing model that’s dependent on international territory deals. Where does that leave Hideaway?
Gray: It creates more opportunities. We don’t believe theaters are going away. We don’t believe one industry will kill another one. There are more opportunities to build and create more content as there’s different content for different audiences. Some content will work better than others. For us, as producers, it gives us more opportunity.
Rhodes: Our business is story-driven and our work is to build and tell stories people want to see. So, for us, we’re looking at prestige commercial projects that work with local audiences. And having more opportunities for distribution allows us to not just stay in the movie business — now we’re moving into the TV business.
Are your budgets getting bigger?
Gray: They’re getting larger for us, overall, because we’re doing more projects. We’re increasing our quality of talent attached to them. We’ve got better writers, and writers are in demand and their rates are not going down. Good directors, good cast is the same. Good talent is key to our industry. That’s why we’re trying to protect this community, being close to them, because we care about what they do and we’re trying to become their preferred producer partner. So over time, our projects become more prestigious and more expensive. But the rewards also increase.
Being story- and talent-driven, The Hideaway Entertainment appears close to the European auteur model of creation. Is Hollywood, which prizes those who finance projects seemingly above all else, warming to your model?
Rhodes: It’s a mixture. Every company has their mandate, their point of view on whether financing is more important than the creative or the creative is more important than the financing. I’ve found, as a producer, there are a lot of challenges having financiers support the creatives. What I loved about the connection that Jonathan and I had is that we want to build a business that supports and protects the creative community.
Gray: A good project, good IP, good content, always will find money. Money can’t always find a good project. I definitely think quality content is king. Money hasn’t ever been short in Hollywood. The creative today definitely has the upside and can control who they will work with. And we want to be their preferred producer partner.
Matt, you produced a major Cannes disaster with Southland Tales. But it also became a cult hit and really put Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the map. What was that Cannes experience like, and do you feel vindicated now?
Rhodes: Southland Tales was a special movie for me at the time and continues to be special to this day. This many years later, I get emails and letters from people communicating with that movie more than any other I’ve made. The Cannes cut was just re-released again by Arrow in the U.K. I love the fact that this movie lives on.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day