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Sony Classics Bosses Earn "Indie Mogul" Honors

Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents (L-R) Michael Barker and Tom Bernard gather their prizes in Deer Valley Sunday night (Photo: STV)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Reeler visited The Hollywood Reporter's tribute to Tom Bernard and Michael Barker Sunday night, where the Sony Pictures Classics bosses were bestowed some pointy glass hardware and feted as "indie moguls" for their contributions to the film industry over the last 25+ years. And while any party with a pair of massage rooms is a party too decadent for me, I had a chance to corner each of the honorees to get their impressions.

"I found it kind of strange, because we're the farthest thing from being moguls that you can imagine," Barker told me. "Our philosophy is that there's no job too menial for anybody to do, even the co-presidents of the company." He also noted the parallels between his partner's and his journey from UA Classics to Orion Classics to Sony Classics and the evolution of Sundance, where the pair has brought its discerning eyes (and checkbooks) for decades. "I do think Sundance's contribution to the evolution of documentary film deserves real mention," he said. "I do think that all of us in the film business are reaping the benefits of Sundance, bringing to our attention the value of the nonfiction film in the marketplace -- and that value is big -- both in revenues and in quality." (Speaking of docs, Barker played it cool following my inquiries about My Kid Could Paint That; "We've expressed an interest," he told me about 12 hours before he dropped $1.85 million on it.)

Bernard was in a reflective mood -- at least for a few seconds. "We've been coming here since it was the US Film Festival back in the early '80s," he said, "when a bunch of people came to ski and meet and talk about movies, because back then, when you were in the union, you couldn't work on independent movies. And now it's become so much hype." He then invoked Robert Redford's mantra from the opening day press conference that Sundance "is a festival, not a market: "I would love to see Bob put the market in the festival, so that the market is dealt with as a market, and the festival can be dealt with as a place to see new and fresh movies," Bernard said. "The documentary stuff has always been phenomenal for me, and it distresses me to see when you think of the festival last year, you only remember which movie sold for the most money."

Bernard also noted that even as the festival and the Sundance Institute are virtually unsurpassed in their capacity to provide exposure to new independent filmmakers, those market factors in 2007 may require the Institute to adapt its own mission as well. "I was here in 1981 when they started the Sundance Institute, and it was to help filmmakers make movies," he told me. "Back then, it was really hard to make a movie, and I think they accomplished those goals. But I think they really need to look to the future to teach filmmakers now how to deal with the business of movies after they've made them. Whereas in the '80s, it was all about the business of movies -- and then getting them made. Now it's all about making them, and the business they hand over to strangers. So a lot of movies are not handled in the sale in a way that best serves the film."

Posted at January 23, 2007 11:20 AM

Comments (1)

No job is too menial . . . I remember in NYC in the early 70's when Tom and his girlfriend at the time would go out at night with a bucket of paste and put up posters for indie films all night.

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