Starz are the Limit: The Word on the Growing Studio
HK: We are all so excited to see it come out to such a strong critical response and great box office numbers. I was at the crew screening in Toronto a few weeks ago and it was so exciting! They worked so hard to get the film done in 15 months and it looks great. We have such amazing talent in Toronto. And I think it shows here -- what they can do. David Steinberg has worked hard to bring in great projects and so we have attracted a fantastic group of artists. We have everyone from industry veterans to new amazingly talented recruits right out of school. We are also a bit of a United Nations, which is really neat. Everyone involved can be super proud of this achievement for themselves and the studio. David joined the studio just a little under three years ago. We have made or completed five features, with Miramax/Rocket Pictures' Gnomeo & Juliet being the fifth: an amazing streak for a relatively new independent studio, or for any studio for that matter! Our production pipeline is built and very well tested as a result of this. I feel very lucky to be joining the company at this time -- this film proves to me that Starz is really leading the field in independent feature production.
RD: What are the expectations for 9 at the company?
HK: We are really hoping that it helps expand the parameters of animation; and shows the entertainment community what we are capable of doing. The success of 9 rightly belongs with Focus Features and the filmmakers, but we take enormous pride in producing groundbreaking animation and doing it in an independent studio.
RD: What do you feel 9 will do for more mature animation in the U.S.?
HK: One reason why I was so eager to join Starz Animation is because I think this area of animation is growing: the smaller, differently targeted animated feature. The film-going audience is finally becoming one that grew up with anime on television and available on VHS (ha!) and DVD. I think we are ready -- the marketplace -- for carefully placed, crafted and marketed “different” films. But I still think they need to be handled well. Focus Features has done an amazing job with 9, just as they did with Coraline. My real hope is that with market success distributors will want to get involved with more animated features.
Film Roman has had quite a bit of success with Dead Space: Downfall, an animated prequel to EA’s Dead Space game (and, like that game, is definitely not for kids!). That collaboration went so well that we’re now working with EA on another project, Dante’s Inferno, in which our movie and their game will take audiences into the nine circles of hell.
RD: What's the status on Gnomeo & Juliet?
HK: Gnomeo & Juliet is in full swing! And it is looking awesome! A few months ago, we gave Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish -- who are producing the film with Miramax -- a tour of the studio, so they could see the work being done, and they raved about it. Right now because of this feature, along with a network television special we are animating and a short that’s in production, we are almost at capacity with over 300 people working at the studio. The Toronto building is really humming.
RD: What kind of shorts are you working on?