Matthew Malek met twenty-something Anita Gou when he was a production executive on the set of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” in Taiwan and was immediately taken by her talent and fluency in English and Mandarin. But when she singlehandedly defused “something weird” with local partners, he realized she was more than an impressive young assistant working on a Paramount movie.
“We became good friends well before I knew her family owned the studio we were shooting on,” Malek told TheWrap.
Gou returned to her native Taiwan after “Silence” wrapped and soon decided it was time to go to Hollywood, so she called Malek and suggested the two producers start a film company, which became Foxtail Entertainment. And their burgeoning business got off to about as fast a start as possible, backing Sam Levinson’s teen hacker drama “Assassination Nation,” the same day their initial funding came in. Before that, they got a call about “To the Bone,” which both were immediately drawn to for different reasons — and which hits Netflix this Friday.
“My partner is a major Marti Noxon fan all the way from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'” Malek said, referring to the TV show Noxon wrote and produced. “I’m a firm believer that Lily Collins has not been given a fair shake [in her career]. And I really liked the fact we could support a female filmmaker.”
The film, starring Collins as a young woman struggling with anorexia, was inspired by Noxon’s personal experience. And when Malek saw a cut of the movie for the first time, he was convinced Foxtail had placed a winning bet.
“Marti Noxon turned in the best director’s cut of any film I’ve been involved in,” he said. “It was very obvious she had the movie done in her head many, many times before. When we saw the movie, we were sure we had a movie that had legs.”
Malek was proven correct, as Netflix acquired worldwide rights to “To the Bone” at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for a healthy $8 million. That gave extra momentum to Foxtail’s other projects, Malek said, including “Assassination Nation,” which stars Bella Thorne, Suki Waterhouse and Bill Skarsgård. Malek said those first few projects were specifically chosen because of their relative gravitas.
“We sort of have a mandate,” he said. “We knew what we were looking for. We wanted to make movies that had meaning. We’re not opposed to pure popcorn flicks, but it’s not what we were drawn to.”
Malek credits the influence of Netflix and Amazon, who dominated the Sundance market this year, for supporting a stronger sales market for independent films — even if some filmmakers haven’t noticed, or didn’t want to sell to someone who may not give their movies a traditional theatrical release.
“Netflix and Amazon, they’ve definitely helped,” Malek said. “It doesn’t seem like there’s so many people who have seen that. The market is safer to be in, but I’ve not seen a drastic uptick in the amount of projects.”
As Foxtail continues to grow, Malek envisions the company taking on films in the $20 to $30 million range, which he said studios have largely left behind. Foxtail also plans to tap into Gou’s transpacific connections to take advantage of the world’s No. 2 film market.
“We would much prefer a movie that can play globally, including China,” Malek said. “That’s a market that’s clearly going to be a key player in the next 10 years. We’re not looking for movies just for that, but if that element is a part of it — it’s definitely going to increase our interest.”