John Carney is an Irish director known for making low-budget Indie films. He’s done so to some acclaim as well; his 2007 movie Once won an Academy Award for Best Original Song (before the production went on to become a Tony winning Broadway show as well). Since Hollywood’s major studios are making fewer and fewer movies, seeming instead to aim for the home run, big budget, extravagant franchise films, the doors of opportunity open to the independent sector. So it’s no wonder Carney is among those taking his latest endeavor, Can A Song Save Your Life? to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, one of the premier markets on the major festival circuit.
The TIFF opens today, and it’s offering plenty of star-driven projects without distribution. English-language films with two or more big names in the cast do best at attracting new buyers to the marketplace. John Carney’s Can A Song Save Your Life is a perfect example. It is already creating buzz as a potential Top Ten Oscar contender. Written and directed by Carney, it stars Keira Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) as Greta, a beguiling young singer who goes to the big city in hopes of landing a record deal with her singer/songwriter boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine of Maroon 5). Dave is signed to a contract almost immediately and promptly dumps Greta to fend for herself. She takes a gig at an open mic club and grabs the attention of Dan, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, The Kids Are All Right), a record producer in need of a star to re-ignite his flailing career. Cee-Lo Green, Catherine Keener, and Hailee Steinfeld also star.
Can A Song Save Your Life? is the sort of star- and character-driven picture that is drawing buyers to TIFF, and Toronto’s economy will certainly reap the rewards. An estimated 200 million is expected to be spent on ticket sales, hotel rooms, and restaurants as the twelve day festival busily closes deals in the back rooms.
A bidding war is expected to ignite Friday over Jason Bateman’s Bad Words (About a guy who accidentally ends up in a kids spelling bee contest) and Carney’s Can A Song Save Your Life? (which has its first screening Saturday). The advantage to buyers at Toronto is that it is a public screening. They get to see audience reactions and hear feedback directly before they invest. Said TIFF director Cameron Bailey, “This is the strongest slate for buyers I have ever seen in my career”.
Other specialty films without distribution premiering at Toronto include: Paul Haggis’ Third Person, John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo, Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche in Words and Pictures, Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan in The Love Punch, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman in The Railway Man, and Jennifer Aniston in Life of Crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your bidding!