Students packed the Riverside Theater in Los Angeles to see one of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, “Manchester by the Sea,” and hear from one of the men who made the film possible, Co-Founder of Roadside Attractions, Eric d’Arbeloff. Roadside Attractions has released over 130 films including “Winter’s Bone,” “Love & Friendship,” “Southside with You,” “Mr. Holmes,” “Love & Mercy,” “The Cove,” “Margin Call,” “Arbitrage,” “Hello My Name is Doris,” The September Issue,” and “Mud.” Tova Laiter, Director of the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speakers Series, hosted the evening alongside NYFA Instructor Shaun Conan.
D’Arbeloff started by giving a little history on his company. “We are a small company focused on theatrical releasing. We’re kind of like a specialty boutique production company. We don’t do VOD releases or direct to video. We have a relatively small slate compared to some of our competitors. Typically, an IFC or Sony Picture Classics will do thirty or forty films a year. We’re more like ten or twelve films a year. From the get go the company was always designed for partnerships.”
It was that spirit of partnership that brought Roadside Attraction to Amazon. Their first film together, “Chi-Raq,” opened to great critical acclaim. Thinking bigger has always been part of their DNA.
Exhibition community is still establishing the rules with the rise of streaming services. Netflix, for example, likes to release everything on the same day. If you can watch it in theaters you can watch it on the app. But d’Arbeloff and Roadside believe that films like “Manchester by the Sea” wouldn’t exist without a theatrical release and critical discussion. Neither model is better, d’Arbeloff stressed. But he’s in the camp of traditional releasing.
He explained the different aspects of his job, which include curating the right types of film. Prints and advertising budgets are a difficult challenge. One of the largest challenges is picking the right release date. Holidays, elections, award season and other film release dates all play a key factor in when a movie comes out. D’Arbeloff described this process as “reading the tea leaves.”
During the Q and A portion one student, Theresa, asked, “Is there any advice to young filmmakers who get their shorts into festivals and are rewarded? How do we manage to transition to features from shorts? Should we wait for feedback or start on a new project?”
“The great thing is there are multiple avenues to make a name for yourself,” d’Arbeloff replied. “I think it certainly helps if you’re a writer or someone who likes to read and is good at developing material. There was a time when I was a producer. I would go to Sundance and keep tabs on all the filmmakers. When I first started you really had to decide, ‘are you going to be in television or film? Are you interested in business or are you interested in creative?’ That’s not the case anymore. I really want to encourage you guys to try everything. There are no boundaries.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. d’Arbeloff for taking the time to speak with our students. Roadside’s latest picture by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona) entitled “Love & Friendship” starring Kate Beckinsale is currently available on Amazon.
For more information on Roadside Attractions, you can click here.