‘Oh, Canada’ Producers Talk Nerve-Racking Wait For Interim Agreement – Cannes

‘Oh, Canada’ Producers Talk Nerve-Racking Wait For Interim Agreement – Cannes

Paul Schrader hit Cannes this weekend with Competition title Oh, Canada, reuniting him with American Gigolo star Richard Gere in the role of a terminally ill documentarian who reveals secrets as his life nears its end.

Lead producer David Gonzales says the fact that the film was ready for a Cannes splash was a miracle on a number of fronts.

Development began just 18 months ago after Schrader learned that his good friend, writer Russell Banks was suffering from cancer.

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Schrader, who previously adapted Banks’ novel Affliction to the big screen, felt compelled to make a new film based on Banks’ penultimate 2021 book ‘Foregone’, which the writer had originally wanted to title ‘Oh, Canada’.

“He said, ‘This is my next film, I can see the film in my head.’ We’re going back to the end of 2022,” says Gonzales, who secured the rights.

Banks died in January 2023 as Schrader was mid-screenplay.

Gonzales says this did not overly impact the writing process, with Schrader having nailed down the structure of the screenplay early on in the writing process.

“Paul has this ingenious writing style, all the way since Taxi Driver, whereby he takes a yellow legal pad and outlines in excruciating detail, every plot point, story development, character arc. So before he even sits down on his laptop, he’s got the entire script sort of plotted out by hand,” explains Gonzales.

“He can tell you that the climax happens on page 57, while the arc for the antihero happens on page 38, for example. It’s that detailed that when he sits down and starts his process, he’s able to finish the script in four to six weeks.”

A bigger hurdle was the Hollywood strikes.

“It wasn’t tumultuous, but putting an independent film together was more challenging than a typical year,” says Gonzales.

The most stressful period was waiting for an interim agreement. The production secured the green light mid-August just days before SAG-AFTRA decided it would no longer grant interim agreements to independent projects written under a Writers Guild of America contract.

“I think we received our AI on a Thursday and on the Monday they were sort of, ‘Ok, we’re not granting anymore IAs to projects with WGA Writers. We were packaged. Richard Gere was attached. Jacob Elordi  was attached. We had some financing. I think Uma was attached at that point too. We made it by the skin of our teeth.”

Gonzales lead produced the film with Tiffany Boyle (Joyland) at Vested Interest, Luisa Law (The Accidental Getaway Driver) and Scott LaStaiti (Kandahar) at Ottocento Films, and Meghan Hanlon at Left Home Productions.

Tiffany Boyle

Boyle, who also serves as President of Packaging & Sales at Ramo Law, acknowledges financing was hard in the midst of the strikes but that the project was able to tap into backers with a deep love of Schrader’s past work.

“The strikes were scaring people, but we found different people that just loved art, and particularly love Paul and have faith in his work. And thankfully, we were able to get it together,” says Boyle.

Gonzales notes that the fact Schrader is such an efficient director also helps when it comes to putting his projects together.

“Paul’s always been really economic and adaptive to current production environments. We shot principal photography in a month. He’s incredibly efficient,” he says.

“He reminds me of Sidney Lumet, who I worked with early on in my career. He was famed for being done by 6pm, so actors were home with their families by seven. Paul’s able to execute within those boundaries, which is obviously wildly helpful when it comes to budgets.”

Oh, Canada marks Boyle’s first producer credit, after EP credits on a dozen features including Joyland,  The Card Counter, Chick Fight and Mama Bears.

“I think we complement each other well. We’ve known each other for over 10 years. I consider her an essential colleague on this, and would do another one in a heartbeat,” said Gonzales.

For her part, Boyle says: “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time… I helped with some financing, and then anything else, David needed. I was ready, willing and diving in where I could,” says Boyle.

Schrader has premiered his last three films Master Gardener, The Card Counter and First Reformed at Venice but Gonzales says the time felt right for a Cannes splash this year.

“We locked the picture in March, so the timing was right and we got a great French distributor on board in ARP. The cards all fell into place.