Unfinished Orson Welles Film Gets a Netflix Commitment
By BROOKS BARNESMARCH 14, 2017
LOS ANGELES — After going silent for almost two years, producers working to salvage “The Other Side of the Wind,” the unfinished final opus of Orson Welles, re-emerged on Tuesday with a major development: Netflix is joining their rescue party.
Yes, one of the most famous movies never released — one that has bedeviled various directors, movie companies and cinema buffs since Welles left it unfinished upon his death in 1985 — may finally be completed and shown worldwide. “I’m not going to be defeated here,” said Frank Marshall, who was a line producer on the film in the 1970s and has been among those on a quest to finish it. “We’re going to get this made.”
They mean it this time.
Unless something else unforeseen happens — and, given the twists and turns that their completion quest has taken over the decades, anything is possible.
Mr. Rymsza and others with reels of the movie at a storage center near Paris. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
“The Other Side of the Wind,” a skewering of avant-garde directors, was conceptualized by Welles as a type of collage. The film is a reconstruction of a party (using various types of footage supposedly shot by guests and the paparazzi) held at the home of Jake Hannaford, a nonconformist film director, just before he dies. Scenes from Hannaford’s unfinished comeback film-within-a-film are interspersed.
After decades-long efforts to complete “The Other Side of the Wind” went nowhere — rights holders favored different approaches, to put it mildly — there was a breakthrough in 2014. A producing team that included Mr. Marshall, Filip Jan Rymsza and Peter Bogdanovich, who acted in “The Other Side of the Wind,” secured the rights to 1,083 reels of footage stored in a warehouse outside Paris.
But their financing plans fell through. They turned to the public, hoping to raise up to $2 million through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help pay for editing, music and other postproduction costs. They only raised $406,605.
Mr. Rymsza said in July 2015 that he had another financing plan up his sleeve, although he declined to discuss it. “The Other Side of the Wind” could still be finished by the end of that year, he said at the time, “but if we flip into 2016, so be it.” The producers then went silent, to the increasing dismay of their Indiegogo donors.
The reels, nearly 1,100 in all, are now in Los Angeles. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
As it turns out, Mr. Rymsza and his cohorts were talking to Netflix. That process required the producing team to go back to various rights holders and renegotiate the 2014 agreements. “In order to make a step forward, we had to take a step back,” Mr. Rymsza said.
Netflix, which has been moving aggressively to expand its original film offerings, has committed to making “The Other Side of the Wind” available to its roughly 90 million subscribers worldwide. With its backing, the footage that has been in Paris — eight pallets’ worth of reels, packed carefully by archivists — is now in Los Angeles, where Mr. Marshall and Mr. Bogdanovich will oversee editing based on handwritten notes that Welles left behind and their own memory of the production.
“This is a labor of love and a gift to the legacy of one of history’s greatest directors,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement.
Mr. Rymsza teased that there are other elements of the Netflix deal that have yet to be announced. (Fans have speculated about an accompanying documentary.) But he has learned one lesson over the last several years — to stop speculating about a completion date for “The Other Side of the Wind.”
“That’s the beauty of Netflix,” he said. “We can now take our time.”