After serving as producer on The Canyons and The Card Counter, Braxton Pope reflects on his experience working with one of Hollywood’s most outspoken auteurs.
Braxton Pope knows a maverick genius when he sees one. The independent film producer of The Card Counter, The Canyons and The Trust has worked with Paul Schrader, Nicolas Cage, Bret Easton Ellis and Kanye West (to name a few) and has experimented with various fundraising techniques such as Kickstarter.
In an increasingly homogenised film culture, he takes chances on mercurial talent, eclectic scripts and directors banished from the mainstream. Originally working in acquisitions, he leapt into producing to have a greater handle on projects that bore his name. At the conclusion of awards season, he now reflects on Schrader’s masterful Card Counter being left empty-handed, how Tiffany Haddish came to join the film and the ups and downs of working with Lindsay Lohan.
LWLies: What did you make of the awards season’s reaction to The Card Counter?
Braxton Pope: I thought that coming out of the fall festivals that we were in with a good shot, particularly the Independent Spirit Awards but it was not to be. It’s really tough to know how awards season is going to play out and why certain decisions are made or not made. Oscar Isaac delivered such an impressive performance, a tremendous performance, he was so dialled in.
How did you come to produce The Card Counter?
Paul Schrader and I are close, so whenever he has a project, we communicate and talk about it. He sent me the script and I remember I was hiking and it was just this tremendously compelling story. We got together and the idea was for me to produce, architect the financing and put the whole thing together. We met when Lionsgate hired Bret Easton Ellis to write this shark movie and Paul came on board as director. The European financing on that went rogue and the movie imploded but I stayed in touch with Paul.
The first time you worked together was on The Canyons, which was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, how did that come together?
After the shark movie fell apart, Schrader got in touch with me and said what Bret writes can be filmed relatively inexpensively as it’s people talking in rooms. So he proposes that I produce, Bret writes and he directs – the plan was to finance it, sell it and own it without being subject to other entities. After Lindsay Lohan came on board there was never really a question of doing it any other way because she couldn’t get insured and equity investors would see it as dicey. I’ve never done crowdfunding since – I’ve not needed to – but I’m not opposed to it. The Canyons was a special circumstance and I viewed it as a progressive experiment, something forward thinking to just try out. I didn’t know if it was going to work but I thought it was an interesting resource and I have no regrets about it at all – it worked for us.