Kirk D’Amico, founder of Myriad Pictures, tells Jeremy Kay about the move into Canadian distribution and prestige productions in the pipeline

“There’s been small evolutions and big evolutions over the last few years,” says Myriad Pictures president and CEO Kirk D’Amico as he looks back on the company’s 15-year history.

The Santa Monica-based production, financing and sales outfit has long established itself as a purveyor of quality content with the likes of Kinsey and The Good Girl, and has recently elevated its profile even further.

Myriad championed Margin Call back in 2011; the Oscar-nominated Wall Street story launched the career of JC Chandor and grossed more than $19.5m worldwide, not including a whopping $6m VoD tally that made headlines.

D’Amico also sold international territories on the 2011 Canadian comedy Goon starring Seann William Scott, which tickled audiences at Toronto in 2011, amassed more than $6.5m globally and was a big hit across digital platforms through US distributor Magnet Releasing.

D’Amico says, “We’ve become more involved and selective in what we’re doing with the likes of Margin Call and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby.” The latter, Ned Benson’s dual-perspective relationship saga, wowed critics in Toronto last year and inspired Harvey Weinstein and his cohorts to stump up for US, Canadian, UK and French rights.

Weinstein got a new, single cut of the film - The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them -  into Un Certain Regard in Cannes in May, where it earned a 10-minute standing ovation and sparked Oscar buzz for the leads.

The road to Rigby

The response on the Croisette was the latest development in what has been a long road for D’Amico, starting with pre-sales at the EFM in Berlin 2012.

“One of the things that gets lost when people talk about it [Eleanor Rigby] is how much time is spent putting the film together and I don’t just mean finding the script and making the deal,” he says.

“It took us many months to lock in the cast. When it came to us it was originally Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. We took this film to Berlin and made pre-sales and over the spring Joel was on the fence and there was an opportunity to get James McAvoy on board and we jumped at the opportunity. We were involved at the script stage. We did pre-sales and tax credits and brought in half the equity through Dreambridge [Films].” Finding valuable source material is key to D’Amico’s strategy of aligning with projects that set Myriad apart. “We work very well with all the agencies. The co-ordination between US and international is a lot of work.

“As a company that’s not aligned with any particular capital source we still have to cobble the films together, but we’re building relationships and the financiers are more and more comfortable dealing with us.” D’Amico, who prior to Myriad served as executive vice-president of international sales at Village Roadshow and vice-president of international at the Samuel Goldwyn Company, has a soft spot for Canada.

The Vancouver-based distributor Pacific Northwest Pictures (PNP) launched in 2010, and is headed by D’Amico’s wife and majority owner Zanne Devine, also a veteran producer. Myriad owns a minority stake.

The distributor aims to release seven or eight titles a year and will up the ante to 10-12 starting in 2015. PNP also enjoys strong ties with Telefilm Canada and Quebec-based television network TVA, which releases most PNP films in French-speaking Canada.

“PNP is a fully fledged theatrical distribution company where a lot of the back-room stuff is supported out of Los Angeles,” says D’Amico. “It turned a corner this year as a distributor. We released Le Week-end, which did very well.

“We will have one or more of our films in Toronto including October Gale [directed by Cairo Time’s Ruba Nadda] starring Patricia Clarkson, which we got involved in at script stage.” PNP releases in Canada and Myriad handles international sales. Myriad’s Ruth & Alex, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, will play as a Gala screening.

The roster will feature roughly 40% Canadian co-productions a year.

Upcoming releases include Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves in August and Juliette Binoche starrer A Thousand Times Goodnight.

“We just wrapped on Robert Carlyle’s The Legend Of Barney Thomson that shot primarily in Glasgow and stars Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Emma Thompson. We’re the Canadian distributor and Myriad has world sales outside of Canada,” he adds. “We will not necessarily always handle sales on a Pacific Northwest release. Cas & Dylan is an example of something that we’re releasing in Canada [but not selling internationally].” Returning to Myriad, upcoming projects that D’Amico is getting excited about include The Keys To The Street, a UK-Germany erotic thriller and Ruth Rendell adaptation to star Gemma Arterton, Tim Roth and Max Irons.

Producers Steve Norris of Pinewood Films and Gail Mutrux are lining up for a possible spring start.

The pipeline also includes Caught Stealing set to star Patrick Wilson.

Wayne Kramer will direct the South Africa-Canada crime caper adapted by David Hayter.

D’Amico continues to forge new relationships and search for new treasures.

“People think of Myriad as a company that every year or two has a break-out film. They cannot afford not to pay attention to us.”