Warner Bros. will take U.S. distribution on Russell Crowe’s historical drama The Water Diviner.Brett Ratner, whose RatPac Entertainment is a financier on the film, made the announcement during Friday’s opening panel on film financing at the American Film Market before an SRO crowd of about 800 at The Fairmont Hotel.
The Water Diviner, Crowe’s directorial debut, was unveiled a year ago at AFM. Warner Bros. has set an April 24 release date.
Crowe portrays an Australian farmer who — four years after Turkey’s Battle of Gallipoli during World War I — travels to Istanbul to discover the fate of his sons, reported missing in action. Olga Kurylenko plays the Turkish woman who owns the hotel in which he stays.
Crowe began working on the project in 2011 and made three trips to Turkey to scout locations and meet with Kurylenko to persuade her to take the part.
Producers are Andrew Mason and Troy Lum for Hopscotch Features, and Keith Rodger for Crowe’s own Fear of God Films. RatPac Entertainment made one of its first moves into independent film by coming onboard with production funding; RatPac founders James Packer and Ratner are exec producers. David Garrett’s Mister Smith handled international sales.
RatPac signed a five-year $450 million slate financing deal last year with Warner Bros., launching the pact with an investment in “Gravity.” He explained that the investment designed to be a passive arrangement without him intervening in the nuts and bolts of production or marketing.
“We bet on Warner Bros. because we believed that they are the best studio,” he added.
But as independent projects came into view, Ratner and Packer began coming on board those, too, as they sought to take advantage of Ratner’s unique position as a producer-director.
“The exciting thing about the independent market is that there are no rules,” he noted. “It almost should be illegal for me to invest in movies because I have so much inside information.”
Ratner and UTA’s Rich Klubeck told the audience that the indie world offers the compensation of allowing filmmakers to following their passions while the major studios are intent on the financial return. “Studios are not always populated by film experts,” Klubeck added.
And bringing on outside investors can also result in projects not receiving the needed funding, Klubeck noted. Thanks to Packer’s deep pockets — and a recently closed additional $225 million credit line — RatPac has the ability to fully finance projects such as the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, starring Tom Hiddleston.
Ratner admitted that finding indie financing can be a massive challenge, requiring serious passion for projects. But he also offered an optimistic outlook, based on the fast-changing demographics of the business, asserting, “The Chinese will be the salvation of the movie business.”