Blye Faust ’97 knew that the subject of her film was an incredible story. The unbelievable part was that no one had told it yet.
On September 3, Blye Faust ’97 will be at the Venice International Film Festival for the premiere of Spotlight, a movie she produced featuring a cast headlined by Michael Keaton. The film has already attracted buzz as one of the year’s best.
Six years ago she was sitting with her production partner Nicole Rocklin at a table in The Boston Globe's cafeteria. They were about to ask a Pulitzer Prize-winning team of investigative journalists to trust their self-financed production company, which didn't have a major film credit, with the film rights to the 143-year-old paper’s biggest story.
In 2003 The Boston Globe’s investigative team (named “Spotlight” and composed of Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes, and editor Walter Robinson) won the Pulitzer for a series of stories that chronicled sexual abuse by priests. The award citation commended the Globe for courageous coverage “that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction, and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church.”
“At the time, nobody had written a book or article that we knew of about the Spotlight team,” Faust recalls. “The fact that Nicole and I were given the incredible opportunity to do their work justice with the film still gives us chills.”
Faust guesses that they were given the chance because of the passion they demonstrated in that initial meeting, along with a confidence that they could put the movie together. The past six years have shown that the Globe’s trust was not misplaced.
Michael Whalen, SCU's Knight-Ridder/San Jose Mercury News Endowed Professor of Communication, says, “From a standpoint of Hollywood, getting a movie made is a painstaking process that can take decades. Look at Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood was attached to it for 20 years in order to get it made.”
The process of getting Spotlight to the screen shows the momentum of a good story, as long as it’s given a careful push.
Faust and Rocklin struggled to find the right fit in production partners and screenwriters until Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy were able to nail a script. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), one of the earliest actors to sign on, was “a talent magnet,” according to Faust. He proved key in assembling a cast that also includes Keaton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Birdman), Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Midnight in Paris), Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Salt), John Slattery (TV's Mad Men), and Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones).
Now, just weeks from the film’s festival premiere, Faust hopes that Spotlight succeeds in shining light on a timely problem, the atrophy of investigative journalism at major papers.
“Spotlight is the story of the power of investigative journalism, but it’s becoming a dying game,” Faust says. “The resources to fund these investigative teams have largely gone away, and it leaves the question for stories like [the sexual abuse scandal], would they have been broken?”
Following Spotlight’s premiere in Venice, the film will head to the Toronto International Film Festival and begin a limited release on November 6 in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
ACADEMY AWARD UPDATE: BEST PICTURE — Oscar buzz turned to a pair of Oscar wins for Spotlight at the 2016 Academy Awards. The film won for best original screenplay and for the top honor: best picture.
Producer Blye Pagon Faust paid tribute to the people whose story the film tells: ”We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters. Not only do they effect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism."
In recent months, Spotlight has been nominated for scores awards around the world. The night before its Oscar wins, the film picked up four honors in the Independent Spirit Awards: best feature, best screenplay, best editing, and best director.
At the beginning of February, the Vatican hosted a private screening of the film for the commission entrusted with investigating the cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the Church. When the film was released last year, Vatican Radio described it as “compelling” and “honest.” Updated February 29, 2016.