On the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, director David Cronenberg sat down with Variety to discuss his latest film, Crimes Of The Future, and the difficulty of financing independent cinema in the modern age.
When Cronenberg was kickstarting his career in the mid-70s, the Canadian government was helping to fund his films during what’s known as the country’s “tax shelter era.” Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, and Scanners were all financed through the 100-percent Capital Cost Allowance tax shield. This meant that any investors could deduct 100% of the amount they sunk into feature films from their income tax, as long as the films were 75 minutes long, two-thirds of the production team was Canadian, and seventy-five percent of the production occurred in Canada. It was a golden era for Canadian filmmakers who were attempting to compete with American productions, and these days it appears to be harder for even a big name like Cronenberg to get financial backing. It took three years for the director to get financing for Crimes Of The Future.
“It’s a fight. It’s a struggle, and it changes. Right now, if you’re doing a film with Netflix, then you don’t have to worry about money because Netflix has a lot of money,” Cronenberg explained to Variety. “But if you’re doing an independent film and you don’t have Netflix, then it’s a struggle.”
And Cronenberg was in fact interested in working with Netflix. The director was previously working on a series titled The Shrouds for the streamer that ended up not coming together.
“I was disappointed because I was interested in streaming in cinematic terms,” Cronenberg explains. “It turns out that it’s not so easy to get a series with Netflix. In fact, it seems that it might be easier to get an independent film made if it’s of a certain type. I’d say maybe a film that isn’t the conservative kind of movie as Netflix would like.”
“I really was very interested in the whole Netflix streaming phenomenon, definitely. But I think that they’re still very conservative. I mean, I think they’re still like a Hollywood studio. I thought maybe they would be different.”
“The difference is that Netflix can show very interesting streaming series from Korea, from Finland, and they say it’s a Netflix original, but it isn’t really — it’s something they have acquired,” Cronenberg continues. “But I think when it comes to their actual production that they do themselves, they’re very conservative. I think they think in mainstream terms, that’s my experience with them anyway.”