Voltage Pictures president Nicolas Chartier is in his element at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.
He formed Voltage as a sales company a decade ago with Dean Devlin and came to Toronto in 2008 with Voltage's first produced film: "The Hurt Locker." Summit bought the film at the festival; 18 months later, it would to win best picture Oscar for Chartier, Greg Shapiro, screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow.
"Dallas Buyers Club" screened. In late 2012, Chartier paid $3 million for the foreign rights to the pic, starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, just after the financing had fallen apart.
On the night of Sept. 9, 2013, in Toronto, Chartier remembers that the pic "got a long standing ovation. I think they were impressed by Matthew and surprised by Jared, sort of like 'Wow, that was Jared Leto, who we never see and he was great.' "
McConaughey and Leto went on to win Oscars for their performances in the film, the pic was nominated for best picture and made $55 million in worldwide box office.
Festivals, he notes, are particularly useful within the business and highlight what's best.
"Movies are a way to get immortality; 100 years from now, people are going to remember 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Dallas Buyers Club,' " Chartier says. "If a hedge fund manager makes $1 billion, who's going to remember that 100 years from now? But if you make a movie that wins the Oscar, it's proof you existed. That's why I'm willing to deal with people who can be difficult."
For this year's Toronto, he's bringing Andrew Niccol's "Good Kill," a thriller that deals with the impact of drones in the Middle East and is something of a flip side from "The Hurt Locker": "In this one, you see the attacks originating from 8,000 miles away."
Voltage is also bringing "The Cobbler," a comedy-drama directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Adam Sandler, Dan Stevens, Dustin Hoffman and Steve Buscemi. "I think it has the potential to go wide," he says.
Voltage is selling "American Heist" for Glacier Films and Paul Bettany's "Shelter."
"There are a lot of movies at Toronto, which is good and bad," Chartier says. "People are actually there to see movies. It's not Cannes or AFM where there's a lot of pre-sales. A lot of what's there has real commercial potential; you're seeing finished films. It's not like you're going to find that small Turkish movie."
Chartier doesn't expect any goodwill from the independent film world when putting together his next production.
"You always have to go back to square one every time, trying to convince everyone that you're going to try to make a good movie," he says. "It's a tougher business than it used to be when bad movies could still do all right. Now, movies need to be great to get people's time and money"
Chartier, who turns 40 this year, remains self-deprecating, asserting that he's still learning from the likes of Terry Gilliam and his work on "The Zero Theorem," which debuted at Venice last year; Voltage packaged the pic and took international sales.
"He's so smart -- I love working with people who are smarter than me," he says. "It's been rough at the international box office but I'm still hopeful about the U.S."
The film is scheduled for release soon by Amplify and Well Go USA.
He praises director Joe Dante, whose "Burying the Ex," which Voltage financed, played at Venice -- among other Voltage titles.
"Joe was great -- you see the first cut and I said there's the movie. That's the point of using people who are experience. I like working with those people -- you try to work with people you admire."
In what seems like a good fit, Voltage recently moved into the former New Line offices on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood. He credits his team, led by Craig Flores, president-partner of Voltage Prods., and Zev Foreman, head of Voltage Pictures' development, with helping drive the indie's success.
"What works for me is to build teams of people who are passionate about film."