Fernando Sulichin talks about producing films for the likes of Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and David Lynch — and how success can’t only be measured in opening-weekend results.
Working with the likes of Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and David Lynch has its perks. “Working with all these directors, I’m empowered to keep going,” says producer Fernando Sulichin. “These guys now are doing the projects they want to do and they have the power to get them made.”
It’s not just about the names, of course, it’s about the stories being told. “I have the ability to finance films, but a film is two and a half years or your life. I’m 45, I still don’t want to spend 2 and a half years of my life on something you don’t feel passionate about,” he says. “I did it before and the result was purely miserable.”
Currently, the passion is directed at documentaries. He’s working on three projects with Oliver Stone (including current release South of the Border), and planning new projects with Spike Lee and David Lynch.
Buenos Aires-born Sulichin now splits his time between Paris and Los Angeles with his production company Central Films. He has worked on recent films including Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me (as executive producer, brought in by frequent collaborator Chris Hanley of Muse Productions) and past credits include Stone’s Alexander, Lee’s She Hate Me, Abel Ferrara’s Mary, and Jonas Akerlund’s Spun.
Sulichin has clear ideas that not every film should be measured by its opening weekend stats. “In these days, you measure everything in immediate box-office results. I don’t measure three years of life in one weekend. You can’t do that with every film,” he says, pointing to the successful launch of his film South of the Border, about the elected presidents of several South American countries, and the mainstream media’s skewed perception of the area. “We do have box office success but our plan is different.”
The film – which opens tomorrow in the UK via socially conscious film distributor Dogwoof – is building on non-traditional platforms such as VOD, grassroots screenings and university showings in addition to traditional theatrical launches. Cinema Libre did the US launch, and 27 American grassroots organisations got involved. (Inferno is handling international sales, and currently closing more deals for Europe and Asia.)
In countries that can’t support traditional releases, they are taking the film direct to the people. “In South America, we have taken the film for outdoor screenings in football stadiums and alternative venues,” he explains. “It was the biggest doc of the year in Argentina.”
“Our main goal is to take the movie to as many people as possible,” he continues. “If they can’t pay, we don’t want to deprive them of the film.”
With Stone, Sulichin is also working on two more projects: a third documentary about Fidel Castro — “reflecting after he left power for 51 years” — and Showtime miniseries The Secret History of America. “That has been in the works for 2 and a half years. It’s 10 chapters about blind spots of American history. We go so fast and we overlook how we get here. Certain facts get buried or overlooked.”
With Lynch, Sulichin is producing a documentary about Maharishi, the first film done on the founder of Transcendental Meditation. Sulichin describes it “an unconventional documentary, a more complete audiovisual work.”
Of Lynch, he says: “He’s shooting real life and also using stock footage and animation. David is someone who works in a meditative way, we don’t know where we’re going to go in this film yet.”
And as if that wasn’t enough to keep him going, Sulichin also reteaming with Spike Lee for “a very interesting and subversive documentary.”