It has been weeks since the Oscar nominees were announced, and Carol, which many viewers and critics alike were rooting for, found itself robbed of a Best Picture nomination. “You know, it happens,” says the film's producer, Christine Vachon, shrugging it off. “We got six nominations. I can’t engage in any kind of ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda.'” As the producer who founded Killer Films with Pamela Koffler in 1995 and who has been delivering a variety of independent films over the past three decades, Vachon has had plenty of experience with awards season.
There is no reason for her to speculate about the nominations her film received or what might have played out differently. In the end, it’s all about getting people to see the movie regardless; “We really try and get people into the cinema,” she states. “And make their experience as rich as possible.”
Carol isn’t the only fascinating film Vachon has worked on. Her production company has put forth works like Kids, Happiness, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Savage Grace, and all of director Todd Haynes’ films. Though they’re often seemingly off-beat stories that other companies might not pick, Vachon explains that it really all depends on what’s being brought to them that piques her interest.
“We're pretty good at reading the marketplace and having a fairly good idea of what something's real worth is out there, and then making it accordingly,” she says of Killer Films. And as for picking certain movies, “It's kind of a mix of: Is the story something that I feel passionate about? Does it feel really original? Is the director or the writer... people I want to be in business with, that I feel like we have some kind of common ground? Is there something that Killer Films can bring to the table?”
In an industry that changes and evolves constantly, one thing has remained consistent with Killer Films over the years: existing as a platform for queer artists and stories. There was not the same amount of queer narratives on screen decades ago as there is now. “I think what’s really evolved is the access that LGBT people have to stories about themselves,” Vachon clarifies. “Which, when I started, it was extremely limited, so it meant almost anything that we made that even remotely had queer subject matter, people would line up to see.
"Now, there’s so many different kinds of platforms that people can get very specific kinds of content.”
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One of the queer filmmakers that the seasoned producer has spent her career working with is Todd Haynes, who brought the world Poison, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, and Carol, among others. Their relationship began in college and then at a New York company called Apparatus Productions, where they produced short films. “Todd started making Superstar around that time and I didn’t produce that film, but I helped him,” she says. “After I saw it, I definitely thought, ‘I don’t want him to do anything else without me.’”
The two have continued making all of their movies together, as well as television miniseries like Mildred Pierce for HBO. They are currently developing new projects.
She explains the shift between different types of visual filmmaking, saying, “We're fairly pragmatic, so we just get a sense of what each project needs, where it's going to be shown, what we're doing it for, [and so on].” And as a producer, that kind of ability to move from project to project is a necessity. “At the end of the day, you're just trying to make a good story and provide the best support for it possible.”
Introducing the 35mm screening of Far From Heaven at Cosford Cinema Wednesday, February 10, and participating in a Speaking in Cinema conversation with Cosford director Trae DeLellis and Rolling Stone critic David Ehrlich Thursday, February 11, at Miami Beach Cinematheque.