This week’s stand-off between Cannes and Netflix, which resulted in the studio pulling its films out of the festival, proves just how complicated and competitive the cinematic landscape has become.
But it is not just the executives and studios that are butting heads, because even filmmakers that work with Netflix find themselves being torn over releasing their movies online instead of in cinemas.
“Come Sunday’s” director Joshua Marston recently admitted that he had conflictions about working with Netflix when I talked to him over the phone about his religious drama.
But, eventually, the pros easily outweighed the cons, which is why he proceeded. Here’s what he had to say about working with Netflix.
When did Netflix get involved in “Come Sunday”?
We had the screenplay and we had Chiwetel and we were going around looking for financing. Everyone thought it was a compelling story. There were a few independent sources of financing but even them pieced together still wasn’t enough money to get the movie made. Studios had an aversion to telling a story that the bible was wrong. It is a tricky terrain for any large Hollywood studio that wants to appeal to the masses and make money. We were really fortunate that Netflix came in at the 11th hour and said, ‘This is interesting to us. We like the script.’ And actually they pointed out that it made sense for Netflix viewers. For them it was perfect. Because it was controversial material that people might not feel comfortable being seen watching by their fellow churchgoers. Because it is about a heretic. I am happy that will allow those people to watch it in the comfort of their own home.
Did you change your approach when you knew Netflix were involved?
No. It is the same. I am making a piece of cinema. I appreciate the fact that more people will see it at home. But my preference would be that people see it on the big-screen. Because there is something that happens when you see this film in a group, because it is about a man that is preaching to thousands of people at a time. When you watch it in a room with hundreds of other people it is another specific experience. When we watched it at Sundance with that crowd I could never have predicted that experience, especially the preaching scenes, because it made me feel like I was in church and inside the story. That’s something that unfortunately you give up when you distribute on Netflix. But you gain many, many people the world over that watch it. Which is very valuable.
“Come Sunday” is now available on Netflix.