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Toronto: Closer Media’s Zhang Xin and William Horberg on landing three films at TIFF, the upcoming Elon Musk doc

Zhang Xin, the renowned Chinese entrepreneur who used his love of architecture and brilliant business acumen to reshape the skylines of Beijing and Shanghai, has turned his attention to a new challenge: filmmaker. In September 2022, the billionaire businesswoman – who spent her teenage years working in Hong Kong’s apparel and electronics factories – resigned as CEO of SOHO China, one of the world’s leading real estate companies, which she handed over to her husband. and took up permanent residence in New. York city.

Zhang will celebrate the one-year anniversary of leaving SOHO at the 2023 Toronto Film Festival, where Manhattan-based Closer Media, the startup indie production and financing venture she runs with veteran indie producer William Horberg, screens at least three films . Horberg’s many credits include queen’s stake And the kite Runner,

Their Toronto lineup includes the film directed by Tony Goldwyn ezra, a drama about an autistic 11-year-old boy who goes on a road trip with his father. Newcomer William Fitzgerald, himself autistic, stars alongside Bobby Cannavale, Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga and Whoopi Goldberg. then there is monk and gun From Oscar-nominated Bhutanese writer-director Pavo Choying Dorji. His new film – which sparked immediate awards buzz upon screening at the Telluride Film Festival ahead of Toronto – presents the Kingdom of Bhutan’s transition to democracy in the early 2000s as a parable of embracing modernity without neglecting the past. Zhang and Horberg are also investing heavily in documentaries. Their third Toronto entry is Alex Gibney In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon,

Closer also among supporters of Gibney’s highly anticipated Elon Musk documentary musk With unnamed material and Black Bear (HBO won the bidding war for North American rights). And the Gibney connection doesn’t end there. Closer has a stake in acclaimed Haitian filmmaker Raoul Paul’s upcoming feature-length doc orwell, which will be distributed in North America by Neon. Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions is one of the producers of Paul’s film about the great George Orwell. (Paul’s 2016 film i’m not your negro Earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature).

Horberg and Zhang, who work out of a Midtown Manhattan office space, spoke hollywood reporter About meeting for the first time on the eve of Toronto and how they want to participate in the content revolution by working with established and emerging filmmakers from around the world.

Shin, when you moved from SOHO, it was reported that you wanted to become a patron of the arts. Are you also looking for business returns from your investment in Closer Media?

zhang I’ve always wanted both, just like when I was a developer. I like art, I like architecture. I have always believed that you can bring the highest quality of architecture to every building you build. I have truly worked with the most leading architects Zaha Hadid. Of course I also wanted to earn money. A film can be like that. It’s a business, but I also want to make the highest quality films. If there was a movie that did both, it would be a dream come true, wouldn’t it?

horberg I have been doing this for decades. When I was introduced to Shin, my clear conclusion after spending a few hours with him was that like I have worked with many other high-net-worth individuals – this guy is a creator at heart. The process of going from a concept to a fully executed plan is very similar to being a filmmaker. We were able to quickly join forces because we spoke the same language. Working with the world’s best architects is not the same as working with the best filmmakers. You’re managing egos and artists and trying to bring out the best, but asking them to play within a certain sandbox.

What impact do you think the strike will have on upcoming film festivals?

horberg I think people are going to come because they’re movie lovers, and I think there’s going to be a lot of energy and a lot of excitement around the premieres of all these movies. Many director-actors including Tony are attending TIFF [Goldwyn], our young lead actor ezra There’s a 12-year-old boy with autism, and he and his parents are going to attend, but he’s not going to do anything in public. This is a very special event for him and his family and we didn’t want them to miss it.

Does Tony Goldwyn have personal experience with autism?

horberg Yes. Tony is the lifelong best friend of screenwriter Tony Spiridakis. It’s a very semi-autobiographical script. Tony [Spiridakis] Father of two boys who are on the spectrum. They are both now around 20 years old and Tony has known them since birth. We were all attracted to the authenticity of the script and its honesty and rawness. Tony can’t do press due to the WGA strike, but he’ll definitely be in Toronto.

zhang We are very proud to have made this film. The aim of the film is to tell a story that the world needs to know.

ezra originally titled inappropriate behavior, Why the change?

horberg It had a double meaning, which is always good. You meet this boy who is in trouble at his school and home. And so, your immediate assumption is that this is a child who is behaving inappropriately. But your consciousness awakens over the course of the film, and by the end of it, you see that he’s the one telling the truth in the story, and it’s the adults who really need to wake up to their own inappropriate behavior. But “inappropriate behavior” has #MeToo connotations. Ultimately we thought, why carry that stuff? The film has nothing to do with it. We all agreed on changing the title and it was Bob De Niro – God bless him – who said, “Why don’t you call the movie ezra, The child is very good.” Bob is a scholar. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, you really pay attention.

How hard was it to get Paul Simon to sign up for Alex Gibney’s documentary?

horberg Alex Gibney is a master, but it took a year to become a master. But once that happened, Paul was in. The film takes place when he met Art Garfunkel 10 years ago in Queens.

Considering the world you’ve lived in, Shin, what do you think of Elon Musk?

zhang He is a fascinating character. He is clearly someone who has incredible talent to create and develop Tesla. This is no small achievement. But he is also someone who has built a cult following at the same time. For a filmmaker like Alex Gibney, who is a clear-thinking and investigative journalist, it is important to take an objective look at Elon Musk. I met Alex about two years ago and I really liked his work, so he started bringing things to me. Elon Musk is the person he and I talked about.

What are the secrets of your early success?

zhang I think our company will be defined by being very international.

horberg Our director, Paavo Choyning Dorji, was nominated for an Oscar for Best International Feature for his previous film, Lunana: A Yak in Class, He is the first Bhutanese filmmaker to be recognized as such for his work.

zhang Another thing we did intentionally was build relationships within the indie film community by reaching out to production and sales companies about doing a project together. CAA is being sold Ezra, while UTA, along with Altitude, is selling the Paul Simon film. Behind our Bhutanese film is a wonderful European sales agent, Films Boutique. And we have two movies with unknown content [In Restless Dreams, Orwell]And we also have movies with black bear pictures [Musk] and wanderer [Ezra], Who else am I missing?

horberg We are also working with Film4 and Participant.

How did it feel to learn that all three films were accepted into Toronto?

horberg we are excited. I’ve been going to Toronto for 25 or 30 years, and it’s the best audience anywhere. i made a movie Heaven With German director Tom Tykwer, starring Cate Blanchett. It was a screening on Sunday morning, and Tom and I were rushing to get to the theater, and there was a line of 900 people. I thought, “God, this is like movie heaven.”

zhang I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until Bill said, “It’s a 100 percent hit rate. You should be very happy with that.” It makes me feel very proud as someone who went to TIFF for the first time last year just to see movies. Now we have three movies playing there.

Source: www.bing.com

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