Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

How “The Card Counter” Came to Be in a Time Like the COVID-19 Pandemic + Trailer & Screenplay!

For most of us, the last two years have been … challenging. From adapting to homeschooling kids, working remotely, not seeing friends and family, and of course, sickness, we can all agree that it has been harder than ever to get anything done. Television and movie production has not been without its challenges, but the creative people in Hollywood have been forced to get even more creative to execute their film and TV projects. And Paul Schrader’s recent award-winning debut of the American crime drama “The Card Counter” is proof that the show must go on. They’re still making magic happen to bring us incredible stories in movies and on television.

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For background, “The Card Counter” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early September 2021. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe, and it was almost entirely shot and edited during pandemic times. Paul Schrader wrote and directed the film, and Martin Scorsese executive produced it. The story follows an ex-military interrogator who becomes a card-counting gambler, but he can’t escape his past no matter how much money he wins.

One of the film’s executive producers sat down with SoCreate to reveal how the cast and crew came together to start and finish the film despite COVID threatening to ruin their plans. As Executive Producer Tiffany Boyle explains, quick thinking, great connections, and a little bit of luck all played integral roles in this film.

Tiffany is also the President of Packaging and Sales at Ramo Law, an entertainment law firm based in Beverly Hills, California. Her role there puts her at the helm of assembling the necessary people to bring independent film and episodic content to life. It’s no wonder she’s also recently been getting more involved in the executive production of some of the firm’s movie and TV projects.

You’ll notice that Tiffany is the second executive producer I’ve mentioned, and you may be shocked to learn there were actually 27 executive producers in total on this film. An executive producer’s role is varied and could range from overseeing financing, financing the film themselves, making sure the film stays on budget and schedule, representing distributors, bringing on other talent, and supervising other producers.

“I would say there are a lot of executive producers involved in this project,” Tiffany said. “Some are way more involved than others, depending."

As the saying goes, it takes a village. And in COVID times, this saying definitely applies!

Tiffany first learned of Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter” script (read the shooting script right here!) through a friend of a friend, as is often the case in Hollywood.

“I am friends with Paul Schrader’s agent slash manager slash friend, and he brought me the script,” she explained. “I think I was one of the first people to see the script, and I gave him some feedback on it, and we just kept talking about it."

As the President of Packaging and Sales, her job was to see how she could then help attach people to the project to see it to fruition.

“When they were further along, and they did the Martin Scorsese announcement, I had pitched this to my client Catherine Ann Mosely, and she dove in right away,” Tiffany said. “I think they were like one to two weeks from production, and we were just like, let’s do this. This is such a cool thing to dive into.” Tiffany also “brought in an initial investor that unfortunately didn’t work out,” she told me.

But little did she know at the time that the investor wasn’t the only thing about to not work out.

Filming began in late February 2020, and much like the rest of the world, it was shut down by March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The movie got shut down 17 days into production with three days left to shoot, and it was a scramble. And it was a scramble to get back into production. So, that one’s been a whole process, too. They all are,” she said of the movie-making process.

With an incomplete movie, HanWay Films and sales reps still tried their luck at a now virtual Cannes Film Festival to see if they could find a distributor. And lucky for them, Focus Features was a big fan. It was an ace in the hole.

“The Focus deal came before we were even – because we got shut down in March – and then they brought Hanway and also the sales reps brought it to Cannes, where they pitched Focus Features and Focus, thankfully, fell in love with it and bought it,” Tiffany recalled.

Production resumed in early July, with a distribution deal in the books.

“So, we were pretty locked up, knowing we were in a good spot before we even went to finish shooting the last three days, thankfully,” Tiffany said.

“And then from there, it’s just been overseeing and letting Paul do his thing. You don’t want to step on his toes or do anything that doesn’t feel right for his artistic side of this. So really, it’s just trusting the process.”

I am happy to report that the process worked. “The Card Counter” won one of the slots in the Top 10 Independent Films of the Year by the National Board of Review and was nominated for best screenplay by Gotham Awards and the Chicago Film Critics Association. The New Yorker, IndieWire, Cahiers du Cinema, and former US president Barack Obama named it was a favorite film of 2021. TIME said Isaac’s performance was one of the top 10 of the year, and he was nominated as Best Actor at several awards ceremonies.

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You can watch the trailer for “The Card Counter” below and catch the entire film streaming on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube, and Google Play Movies for $5.99.

Amazing what the right team can do even when all the cards are stacked against them,

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