This week New York Film Academy students in Los Angeles were treated to a special sneak preview screening of the hit Sundance award-winning comedy The Skeleton Twins followed by a Q&A, moderated by Tova Laiter, with the SVP of Acquisitions at Sony, Joe Matukewicz. The film, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award this past Sundance Film Festival and currently has a 100 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, delighted students with its offbeat comedy and surprisingly profound performances by Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig. The discussion that followed with Joe Matukewicz shed light on the less known world of film acquisitions.
Joe Matukewicz is the current Senior Vice President of Worldwide Acquisition for Sony Pictures. His past positions include SVP and Head of Worldwide Acquisitions at Relativity Media, VP Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Vantage, and Director of Acquisitions and Co-Productions at Paramount Classics. Among the many films with which he was involved with were Act of Valor, House at the End of the Street, Hustle and Flow (2005 Oscar Winner for Best Original Song), The Machinist, and An Inconvenient Truth (2006 double-Oscar winner for Best Documentary and Best Original Song).
At Sony, Joe acquires forty movies a year of all genres, some of which are distributed by Sony and others with indie labels. Some movies can be bought at script stage, if there is a package attached, while others can be very execution depended — distributors may wait to see the movie, even though it can be more competitive.
When Joe first began in the acquisitions world as an assistant, he didn’t even know what “acquisitions” was. He soon discovered that the purchasing of film properties was an art form and one for which he had a knack. Deciding what to buy and when to buy it is a game for which there is no definitive strategy. Joe Matukewicz considers many factors including cast, execution, genre, social/political climate at the time and, of course, story. The one thing he doesn’t care about is the film’s budget. The producers are never obligated to reveal the true budget of the film. However, Joe will ask as many people involved with the film as he can what the budget is, but mainly to see how many different answers he can get. This will reveal the filmmakers’ expectation of how much they can sell it for, which is a more important factor in how much the film will end up costing him than the budget itself.
Mr. Matukewicz acquired The Skeleton Twins at this past Sundance Film Festival. His yearly schedule is jam-packed with film festival appearances. Although his job is exhausting, traveling around the world, watching films and making big picture deals is an exciting gig that Joe is very grateful to have. We wish Joe Matukewicz continued success in the world of acquisitions and hope that his next purchase makes a huge splash in a theater near you.