Cannes: Solstice Studios Boss Mark Gill on How to Survive (and Thrive) in the Indie Market

Courtesy of Winston Baker
Tatiana Siegel (left), Mark Gill

"You have to be very good, or great, or you're dead,” the former Miramax and Millennium Films executive told a film financing summit at the Cannes Film Festival. “In today's market you need all the elements to come together. If you miss out on one of them, it's a problem.”

If you want your film to sell and make it into theaters worldwide, good is just no longer good enough.

“You have to be very good, or great, or you're dead,” said Mark Gill, the former Miramax and Millennium Films executive, who recently launched high-end production outfit Solstice Studios. “In today's market you need all the elements to come together. If you miss out on one of them, it's a problem.”

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel at the Winston Baker film financing summit in Cannes on Friday, Gill said the “boom days” of being able to sell a film worldwide “because it has a big star and a couple of explosions in it” are over. 

To justify a theatrical release — and a big check from international distributors — a film project “has to tick five boxes,” he noted, and have a great screenplay, a clear, easily understood concept, obvious marketability potential, viability on the international market (“no baseball films, definitely no Westerns”) and a touch something “about this moment in the culture.”

If you hit all five, Gill said, there is still plenty of money to be made on the international independent market. “But it's a binary proposition. If you don't have exactly what (the market) wants, the value (of the film) is zero.”

And forget about a new wave of stupid money from abroad, he said. “The China flood is over and I don't see a new flood at the moment. You have to look a lot harder for equity.” Gill said he spoke to “612 people to find two investors” for his Solstice shingle, which eventually raised $400 million to produce, sell and distribute high-end features. Solstice's first project is the psychological road-rage thriller Unhinged, which stars Russell Crowe as a man on the edge who gets pushed over when a woman honks at him in traffic. Solstice is selling the project in Cannes and is targeting a wide U.S. theatrical release late next year.

“Road rage is an easily relatable subject, the women in jeopardy movies tend to work around the world and Russell Crowe — who we just signed last Friday before Cannes — is a really good fit for a role that requires both serious dialogue and physicality.”

Plus, Gill adds, Unhinged will be made for the right price for today's market.

“We're doing it for $29 million. If we made it for $50 million, I'd be scared.”