ICM Partners' Jessica Lacy on Cannes' Significance, the Push Into Packaging and Working With Woody Allen

Gizelle Hernandez
“With Spike’s film, it was a great experience from the beginning with Focus on board,” says Lacy, who was photographed April 27 in her Century City office.

The top indie film finance exec also talks about the slowdown in acquisitions and why she "certainly hopes" A-list talent will work with Allen again.

In 2015, around the same time Jessica Lacy was named partner at ICM, she surveyed her indie film finance group and noticed that something was missing. “It was heavily populated with men, and I realized there was no reason for that, so I made a great effort to build a team that was reflective of our goals here at the agency,” she says. That was more than two years before ICM made its “50-50 by 2020” pledge. “I’m proud to say that my department is now 50-50,” she adds. Equally important is supporting female filmmakers, and Lacy says women represented half of her Sundance slate in January as well as here in Cannes. It’s a move that is paying off, given that she sold Jennifer Fox’s The Tale to HBO for $7 million at Sundance, marking the second-biggest price tag of the festival and the first time the pay cable network bought a finished narrative feature. Lacy, 39, will hit the Croisette this year with her staff of 10 — six agents and four assistants — and few distractions. “I’m just happy to be going this year not pregnant, not breastfeeding and with no kids in tow, so for me I’m almost looking at it as a vacation.” The married mother of two (husband Chris Sanata is opening a cannabis bar in West Hollywood) talked with THR about the evolving indie space and why she “certainly hopes” A-list talent will work with Woody Allen again.

How significant is Cannes for you and your team?

It’s more important for the relationships that we have with international distributors, sales agents and financiers. This year we have Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, and we rep Spike. We brought Spike in to direct, so that’s a different situation [than selling a finished film]. He was offered the project by Jordan Peele and QC Entertainment with Jason Blum and we’re excited to have facilitated that.

Do you find yourself selling more packages and doing more presales?

That’s something we have to consider increasingly as these distributors are moving more and more into in-house production and are pulling back a bit from acquisitions. We are exploring the distributors like Focus, Searchlight, A24, Netflix and Amazon [that can buy worldwide rights] at the same time that we’re looking to potentially put it together internationally and having to determine which is the better way forward.

Netflix and Amazon appear to be question marks as buyers given they were very quiet in Sundance. What’s your read on the marketplace right now?

Look at Bleecker Street or Neon. They have their finger on the pulse in terms of how to reach certain audiences, and they’re doing so on a traditional theatrical basis. For other films, I think the digital launch is great, but a lot of those digital companies are now moving more into production and acquiring fewer films, and when they’re acquiring them, they’re doing so on a reduced basis. Netflix is really pulling back from acquiring films, especially American independent features, which is something we relied on heavily for many years and had great success with. It’s harder with smaller American indies with lesser-known stars. The international marketplace is a little softer than we would like. It’s also causing us to think about how we’re putting these movies together.

You were involved with negotiating Woody Allen’s multi-picture deal with Amazon. What is the status of it?

I don’t have an answer to that. I know he’s editing his current film. He hasn’t been charged with anything, I believe he’s a great filmmaker, and I’m incredibly proud to have worked on a few of his films.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Hall, stars of A Rainy Day in New York, have distanced themselves from him. Do you think A-list talent will come back and be willing to work with him?

I certainly hope so.

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 9 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.