Mike Fleming

In a pre-Toronto blow to the indie film community, Bill Pohlad’s Apparition has let go almost the entire staff that hadn’t been laid off in July. That means about 8 staffers have followed the original cut of about 15 staffers. They got two weeks severance. Not sure what the skeleton crew will draw. Tom Ortenberg remains as a consultant as Pohlad figures out whether to restructure or not.

This development validates talk I’ve been hearing that Pohlad has been showing the Terrence Malick-directed Tree of Life to distributors. I understand the film will land shortly. That means Malick has finished it and it will likely factor into an Oscar race which has suddenly gotten interesting with films that include Black Swan and The King’s Speech. Tree of Life, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, was originally going to be the big title on the Apparition slate, but that scenario collapsed when Bob Berney made a surprise exit on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival. Berney is expected to start an indie distribution company at GK Films, though this hasn’t been confirmed.

I’m told the latest layoffs were done because there were no films to distribute, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Pohlad is out of the distribution game, though I wonder if his heart is in it. While it was clear Berney was frustrated because he didn’t have the autonomy to move quick and capture The Kids Are All Right after its electric Sundance premiere, Pohlad was shocked when Berney left.