Note: Oscars Don’t Finance Films

Why can't Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow slam-dunk their next project?

It’s kind of sad that Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, The Oscar-winning writing and directing masterminds behind The Oscar-winning Best Picture “The Hurt Locker,” couldn’t muster the courage to re-team with Nicolas Chartier, The Oscar-winning financing and sales mastermind behind The Oscar-winning Best Picture “The Hurt Locker.”

Instead, the untitled black-ops picture that should be a glorious first reunion of this super-creative duo is having to be leaked to the press to drum up financial support. This is sad and ill-timed. The project, which is still unnamed, is being pitched around town as a “Hurt Locker”-esque low budget black-ops pic that they’ll be able to bang out before Paramount’s Triple Frontier (a project that is actually worthy of their reunion.)

What’s not being asked in the press is why this team, which has overwhelmingly proven itself in the military genre, is not able to slam-dunk this project. The first reason is Voltage Pictures.  The other reason is the demise of gap funds.

The key piece that’s missing from this black-ops puzzle is Chartier. In 2007, when ‘Hurt Locker” came together, money was falling out trees. The major studios and mini-majors were all flush with hedge fund cash that was being hauled in by the boatload.

Next came the super-gap funds. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured out of Wall Street and into the coffers of anybody who could crank out a Monte Carlo simulation (a fancy spreadsheet used to show that if one finances enough expensive films of a certain type of genre, then the investors can’t lose.)  Naturally, these simulations are readily for sale — you only needed to be able to answer one key question: “What result are you looking for?”  Answer: “Profit.”

That said, 2007 already had a surplus of Iraq war movies, most of which were bombing. (No pun intended.) Add to that the fact that “Hurt Locker” was not a conventional script. Despite these obstacles, through passion, piss and vinegar, Chartier and his team pushed this project through to the foreign buyers, somehow got the backing of gap financier Grosvenor Park (which was backed by mega-fund Fortress Investment) and ultimately willed it into production.

The rest is history.

“Hurt Locker” was awesome. It deserved all the press and accolades it received, including toppling the “Avatar” leviathan. It was by all accounts the ultimate underdog success story … except financially. While that may not be apparent to the public at large, their principal financier Grosvenor Park is still not fully recouped. Grosvenor has gone the way of so many other gap funds that cropped up in the late 2000′s but subsequently withered away in the great financial famine of 2008.

Chartier has parlayed his success into growing out the production side of his top-tier sales company, Voltage Pictures. Meanwhile, Bigelow and Boal have smartly parlayed their success into the big budget, star studded, studio feature “Triple Frontier.” As they should. Very good move. But while waiting for that ship to leave the harbor in Fall 2011, they’ve apparently grown impatient and decided to go back onto the indie frontier to crank out another “Hurt Locker.”

Except this frontier is a dried up ol’ ghost town, and they be pitchin’ to crickets and wolves. They don’t have a script, they don’t have a double-down from Grosvenor Park, and (most importantly) they don’t have Chartier to push this through, which means they don’t have time for foreign pre-sales, which means they don’t have collateral, which means they don’t have lenders. {Deep Breath}

What they do have is their own creative talent, but that is being offset by the finite amount of time they have to write the script, close the financing, prep the movie, get it shot, and deliver the director's cut — all before the mandatory stop date, when they have to start working on Triple Frontier.

You can’t put nine women in a room and make a baby in a month. So unless somebody is going to write a check for $10 million, this film is not getting off the ground and that could put a big dent in their stock value. I can’t think of a worse way to follow up an Oscar sweep.

Just to be clear, I think Bigalow & Boal are both great filmmakers, and would gladly work with them; if they want to do a film on the fly, that’s fine too, but given their recent success, they would have been wiser to pitch it to a few financiers and then retire the idea until after Triple Frontier, instead of going to the press looking for a handout.

The moral of this tale is that if you ever find yourself catapulted into big budget, star studded, studio pictures, don’t try to parlay that ahead of time; go on vacation until it’s time to be on set, and then parlay it while you’re in post.