Matthew R. Brady is the producer of Sundance feature, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, which is playing in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section at this year’s fest. Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina and Kaya Scodelario star in the film.
Here’s the synopsis:
Emanuel [Scodelario], an acerbic but sensitive teen, lives with her father and stepmother. She’s on the verge of another birthday—a day she has never cared for since her mother died giving birth to her—when the mysterious Linda [Biel], a young and hip mother, moves in next door. Intrigued by Linda’s striking resemblance to her late mother, Emanuel begins to babysit for Linda’s newborn daughter. As Emanuel and Linda spend more time together, they develop a bond that becomes deeply entwined in a surprising secret Linda harbors.
Brady is an Emmy award-winning producer. His production company, MRB Productions produces content across all media channels and specializes in independent features, television shows, sports promos and commercials. Matthew is our guest blogger today and talks about why he wanted to produce Emanuel and how the story and business model of Muriel’s Wedding, inspires his work. Please welcome, Matthew R. Brady.
I was so thrilled to be asked to participate in a blog, especially about one of my favorite companies – Miramax. I think the dream in Hollywood is to make a film and have a company like Miramax select it for distribution. It’s one of my dreams anyway!
I am not a director, writer, or an actor. I am a businessperson and filmmaker. When I look at a script, I ask if this is a story that I would want to tell, and simultaneously from a business perspective, is this a story people will want to pay money to watch. I ask myself how I can make this a win-win, financially and aesthetically, for everyone – our creative participants and our financial participants as well. A film can be fantastic, yet no one sees it, and the exact opposite can happen, in which a film is terrible and yet everyone sees it.
In addition to being the producer of Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes, I also own a production company, MRB Productions. MRB is a company where, at the bottom line, we get film and television projects made. Clients or friends come to us with an idea, script, or concept, and a dollar amount attached (sometimes realized, sometimes not), and it’s our job to make their dream a reality. We find locations, crew, lights, cameras, and help to negotiate all deals – and do everything and anything we need to do to get the film made.
When a mutual friend introduced me to Francesca Gregorini [writer/director] and she handed me the script for Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes, it was exactly what I wanted — something that was indie, different, exciting, not overtly commercial, but a story to which anyone could relate. One of the main messages of this film is essentially about the lengths that people will go to escape a significant loss — and who can’t relate to that? And the lead characters are these three amazing women. The women are all so different, but the audience can identify with at least one if not all of them. They see a little bit of themselves in each one of them.
When I think back to one of my favorite Miramax films, it’s very easy for me to remember how I was inspired by movies like Muriel’s Wedding. I can compare both the story and business model behind Muriel’s Wedding to Emanuel and in some ways, my hope for Emanuel’s success trajectory. (Albeit our film is in no way a musical or a comedy, quite the opposite entirely, yet there are still many parallels.)
In Muriel’s Wedding, you are struck by this adventure inside a woman’s psyche — a woman who might be a little bit nuts and living in a fictional town somewhere in Australia. Even though this woman is an eccentric misfit (to put it mildly), you can totally identify with her. Who doesn’t want to flee after a crisis – escape their family, move to the big city, change their name by one letter, and start anew? Something terrible happens and the lead character has to escape to help heal herself. Anyone who has ever had a crisis can identify with that primal need. Or even just a bad day or embarrassing situation. We’ve all wanted to escape at some point.
That’s a very big connection between that movie and ours. Our movie is filled with the theme of escape — either in one’s own head or physically moving towns and starting a whole new identity–where no one knows your past story, what you went through, and how much you had been suffering.
The story of Emanuel, like Muriel’s Wedding, is relatable. I was also inspired by the fact that Muriel’s Wedding takes place in the fictional town of Porpoise Spit, somewhere in Australia, where everyone knows everyone else’s business – and you can’t quite get away from the people in your life. Emanuel takes place in no particular town, but is similar in that way. That’s what drew me to this movie — it’s everywhere and nowhere, all at once. I like these kind of movies because it reminds me of the little town in Connecticut where I grew up. Everyone knows your business and you can’t escape your mistakes. I am inspired by movies that I can relate to, and that’s what drew me to Francesca’s script.
If you think about the time period when the film Muriel’s Wedding came out, you realize they discovered a relatively unknown – Toni Collette. The director of Emanuel, discovered a similarly, relatively unknown actress, Kaya Scodelario. Kaya is beyond fantastic. Kaya is a huge, incredibly talented star that is just waiting to break out. I hope this film does for Kaya’s careers what Miramax and Muriel’s Wedding did for Toni’s.
You can’t talk about Muriel’s Wedding without talking about the music – this amazing ABBA sing-along music, which is so addictive. Emanuel’s music is totally different, but equally important. The music makes the movie in both cases. Emanuel’s music is French, Swedish, and indie – all very unique, with fantastic original composition by Nathan Larson. At one of our first test screenings, two people asked me where they could buy the soundtrack! I’ve read stories about how hard they had worked to get ABBA and I now know how hard it is to get great music in an indie film – you really need to get a lot of people believing in you when you don’t have the budget.
On the business side, Muriel’s Wedding was made for about 3 million dollars, but had mass appeal and has grossed almost 60 million dollars for the studio that helped to create it. That’s exactly what I hope for with Emanuel, and all my future projects — to do a movie for a smaller budget, that is within our means and limited risk for all financial participants — and have it turn into a box office success story! I really want to make sure MRB is doing films that are a win for everyone- both in front of and behind the camera. I want our stars to succeed, our directors to win awards, and our investors to make money – like Miramax has done with its film library.
I think every indie film producer dreams of a company like Miramax to pull their film from obscurity at a festival like Sundance, and give the world a chance to see it. I can only hope for the same with Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes.
I want to continue to make films, not only to tell interesting and unique stories, but because I want to help participate in a business model that works — a great script, talent, and distribution plan. I also want the people at my company to succeed financially and creatively, so they can pursue their own dreams and make their own Emanuel’s.
Miramax is a great model for a company that rewards passion for telling unique stories. The risk involved in funding a film about an overweight girl that is obsessed with weddings and ABBA was astronomical – yet it worked. Our film also has an extremely unusual tag line which is as follows – “A troubled girl becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. In offering to baby-sit Linda’s newborn, Emanuel unwittingly enters a fragile, fictional world, of which she becomes the gatekeeper”
We created a great film — a film that we hope people will enjoy — and now, as I sit on the plane heading home from Sundance, the fun part begins. I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to see our film.
The Sundance Film Festival runs January 17-27 in Park City, Utah.
Thanks to our Guest Blogger, Matthew R. Brady. Next up: Meet Yen Tan, writer/director of the feature film, Pit Stop.