Olive Films has become a favorite for fans of catalog releases over the past
several months, with a glut of Paramount titles coming out on Blu-ray and,
now, a series of Republic titles as well. Blu-ray.com staff reviewer Jeffrey
Kauffman had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with
Olive's Head of Acquisitions, Frank Tarzi, about the label, its procedures,
and some of its upcoming titles.
Hi, Frank. It's a pleasure to be talking to you. Olive has become one
of my two or three favorite labels over the past year and I'm excited to find
out more about the label. How did you get involved with Olive?
I was with Kino International for over twelve years. I left Kino early 2010
and wanted to try something new, something different. So I approached
Olive's owner Farhad Arshad about some ideas I had. Olive had been
around for a while, they had released about a dozen or so titles, mostly
smaller independent and foreign films, like Notes From
Underground. But I had an idea to take the label to a different
direction; by maybe doing deals with major U.S. and foreign studios while
continuing to acquire new films.
How big is Olive?
We're a pretty small company with 8 employees.
Do you have a corporate philosophy?
Not really. You know we've been called "the Criterion of the Midwest",
which is kind of funny because I'm in New York. The company's
headquarters are in the Chicago suburbs, so that's the Midwest, but here I
am in New York. I don't think we're really that similar to Criterion, although
I appreciate what they do. We're more diverse than they are; we release
everything from Joan Collins to Comedy Central TV shows to Perfect
Weapon. In reality, we release whatever is available to us that I find
interesting and think will have some viability in the marketplace.
I know I first really became fascinated by Olive when you released Amer at around the same time your first batch of Paramount
catalog releases came out—talk about diversity!
Yes, we acquired Amer in 2010 at about the same time as you say
we released the first batch of Paramount titles. We released Amer
theatrically and I'm sorry to say it didn't do that well in theaters, but it's
developed a cult following on home video and we're very happy to have
released it, I'm also proud all of our contemporary titles like Letters to
Father Jacob, Womb and Love Exposure and we are going to
continue releasing some very interesting films theatrically, including two
films from Sion Sono, Guilty of Romance and Himizu.
How did Olive get licensing rights to Paramount?
Well, I don't want to divulge too many secrets [laughs], but we
approached them as Olive Films. We told them what we were about and
what we were interested in. My background at Kino probably helped a bit.
I know there's a lot of confusion about how licensing actually works.
Can you explain the licensing process?
Well, again, I don't want to share too many details, but it's usually
different with every studio. Sometimes you're working off a list of available
titles or alternatively you need to come up with a list and hope those titles
are available for sublicensing.
How do you go about compiling a "request list"?
Well, that takes a lot of research. You need to determine what key titles
are in a studio's assets catalog that haven't been released on DVD or Blu-
As you may be aware, I also handle reviewing duties for another label
that licenses product, in this case from Fox and Columbia-Sony, the niche
label Twilight Time. In Twilight Time's case, they are provided with pre-
existing HD masters from the studios' assets catalog. Did you know going
in there were HD masters for your Paramount titles?
Well, here's the thing: Olive created HD masters for all our 2010 and 2011
Wow! Really? I had no idea. I just assumed you were being provided
with HD masters.
Well, in some cases we are. But in many cases, we're not; we created the
HD masters from the available film elements.
That's really interesting. That means, then, that you're really investing
some significant capital in bringing these catalog titles to Blu-ray.
Absolutely. Now in a perfect world, everything would have pre-existing HD
masters [laughs]. But for the first 25 or so titles, we did all the mastering
ourselves. We were luckier with the second batch, 6 or 7 of the titles had
pre-existing HD masters, but we did the rest ourselves.
Do you pre-screen the pre-existing masters or get some information
about the shape the elements are in before you decide to go ahead with
licensing a title?
Well, yes and no, again it all depends with the studio. Sometimes the
studios will just tell us up front that the elements have "issues", and then
we need to make a decision. Sometimes we actually need to see
something to determine if it will be good enough to release on Blu-ray. You
know, there's a big difference between DVD and Blu-ray, and that's why
some of our current releases were not released on Blu-ray, so instead of
dropping the title, we decide to release them on DVD only. In the
beginning we wanted to wait for the format to grow a bit before we
released titles on Blu-ray, but now everything is released on both formats,
unless the material is unacceptable for Blu-ray. We will eventually release
some of the 2010 and 2011 releases on Blu-ray.
This puts some recent comments on another site that High Noon should have been given a 4K
scan at a cost of $150,000 in new light. What do you say about the
I don't get it, frankly. First of all, let's be honest about something: a 4K
scan costs nothing approaching $150,000. A full blown restoration? Sure.
Maybe even more, maybe as much as $500,000. But in terms of High
Noon, I really don't get the criticism. I think the release looks
fantastic. I'm really proud of the release.
I agree. Though speaking of High Noon, why weren't some of
the supplements from the previous Lionsgate DVD release ported over to
the Blu-ray? In fact, why on several of your releases aren't already
existing supplements ported over?
There are a ton of legal reasons why we can't always include already
existing supplements. When we can include them, we do, or we
sometimes create them ourselves. For instance, we did the interview with
Clint Walker on The Night of the Grizzly. And
we did a new audio commentary for The
Boogens. And I'll break a little news for you today: we're about
to announce Twilight's Last Gleaming, and which will include the 70
minute making-of documentary, Aldrich Over Munich. But I have to
ask myself with these classic films if there's anything really worthwhile I
can add with a featurette, especially when most of the cast and the crew
has passed away.
Another complaint your releases get is the lack of subtitles. Is it cost
prohibitive to add them to your releases?
Look, I understand those complaints and I feel really bad for non-native
English speakers or hearing-impaired people. But it's not just a cost
situation. It creates a huge time lag to create subtitles and then there are
a whole bunch of ancillary issues that pop up, like increased QC time, and
it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective and in terms of
trying to get our releases out in a timely manner. Also, we're not the only
label that doesn't include subtitles on all of our releases.
Just recently there were concerns voiced about your release of Bound, in that it contained two versions of the film on one
Well, what people don't realize is that they're accessing the extra 14
seconds of footage on the Unrated cut via seamless branching, so disc size
is not an issue.
Well, you're breaking more news, then, because another site
was claiming there wasn't seamless branching on this release.
What about not including the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix that was
available on a foreign release of the title?
Well, what you have to realize is that legally sometimes we simply can't
use something. Someone may have created that mix and owns the rights
to it, and it's just not available to us. Our version looks much
Now you've started releasing some Republic titles. Tell me about
Some of the Republic titles do already have existing HD masters, but we
still do general clean up, you know, things like scratch removal or getting
rid of reel change markers, things like that. The key thing is putting our
best foot forward. We'd love for everything to look fantastic and that's the
reason some things just won't come out on Blu-ray. However, with regard
to Republic itself, it's a large library of titles and we're proud to be
releasing some all time classics like Johnny Guitar and Letter
From an Unknown Woman, for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray.
One of the most eagerly talked about Republic titles is The Quiet
Man. Can you confirm that's coming out on Blu-ray?
Yes, I'm able to confirm that. But there's a lot of work to be done on it. I'd
love for it to come out this year, but I can't guarantee that's going to
What kind of work needs to be done?
Well a 3-strip Technicolor film like The Quiet Man needs special
care. We've done a 4K scan off the original negative from the studio's
archives but that's just the beginning. There's a very complicated re-
mastering process that needs to be done for a Technicolor film like this and
we want to get it right.
Any other studios in the pipeline?
Yes. We've already done a deal with Bavaria, which includes titles like Billy
Wilder's Fedora and The Stationmaster's Wife. We'll be
releasing more French classics from the Gaumont and a few titles from
Pathé, as well as a few Bo Widerberg films like Man on the Roof
and Elvira Madigan. These foreign films will only be released on Blu-
ray if we have an existing HD master, like Carmen for
instance. Otherwise we will just release them on DVD like Police
and the Godard titles. Creating an HD master overseas is very expensive
and complicated. There are other potential deals, but we cannot discuss
Thanks so much for your time, Frank. It's been a really informative
chat and I can't wait to see what else Olive will be releasing in the months
and years to come.
Thank you, we're very excited about our 2012 and 2013 release schedule.
But... If Olive handled the High Noon transfer and mastering themselves, then there's really no excuse for the technical issues Robert Harris highlights then is there! Rather than lack of funds, it would seem that Olive's well-documented attitude problem, their rejection of constructive criticism and offers of outside help (eg. Tag Gallagher), is the real cause of the floating grain issue.
Poor response about subtitles! With an attitude like that, I can proudly state that I do not own any Olive releases and never will. "We're not the only label" just means that there are more than just one worthless label producing sub-par products.
He says that 6 or 7 of the titles had pre-existing masters, but doesn't make clear which ones. He also makes clear that they can (and do) remaster titles if the provided elements aren't up to scratch. So... no, this is their own QC issue, and ultimately a question of the company ethic: the idea that the release is 'good enough', that they'd rather blithely spin their customers (Tarzi: "I don't get it... it looks great to me") than listen to acknowledged experts like Mr. Harris and work to improve their output. This is a pity, as they obviously have deep pockets + a strong catalog and imho could build a Criterion-like reputation releasing half as many titles and putting in more work on the AV quality, subtitling and supplements. This would surely aid their profits in the longer term.
On the plus side though, at least they don't price their product like Twilight Time. Bottom line - I'll buy an Olive release if I REALLY want it (eg. High Noon, the forthcoming Ophuls and Aldrich) and suck up the sub-par quality, but I won't take a chance on a release the way I would with Criterion.
I wish Olive would get rid of their terrible logo, not only looks bad but sounds worse! Even if they made it silent it would be better. I also wish they would do some resortaion work, I would rather pay more for a good looking print than a poor one that sometimes is better just on DVD. Frank obviously doesnt use a projector with a 140" scope screen as he thinks the images look fantastic, ha! I have invested hundreds of dollars on Olive titles as I have most of them, I just wish the quality was better. I dont mind the scratches but I do expect a sharp image for blu-ray discs.
Grateful for the interview and the information within, however the attitude toward subtitles and Bound's lack of 5.1 sound, a deal breaker when EVERY other blu ray and dvd has included it, is depressing. Sure 'Bound' looks good, it should also sound good too, Mr Tarzi, you had a chance at releasing a definitive release and for whatever vague reason, dropped the ball.
Thankfully the region free French release looks just as good and includes the original English HD 5.1 soundtrack and running commentary.
Its 2012, information on which is a better release is shared instantly via the net, this is no longer niche, and with all due respect, if you're truely in the market in building a succesful company, it would be wise to listen to the criticisims and right those wrongs.
Picked up Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thank you, Olive! It looks quite good. It's totally "bare-bones", but at least there's a nice slip and it's a picture disc with the film's original poster graphics.
Why are they going to the "studio archives" for Quiet Man, when UCLA has already done a full restoration? It seems kind of pointless, and a needless cost. Even if UCLA charges a licensing fee, it would most likely still be cheaper than going back to the OCNs.
If this is Olive's so called philosophy than they have no damn right to release films of such a stature as High Noon in such a lack lustre way.It's a shame that Paramount could'nt handle it themselves, they handled Wings, The African Queen and The Ten Commandments wonderfully. I'm sure if Paramount was serious enough we would have seen a good release of High Noon, and I hope we still will and also hopefully an 8k sourced transfer of My Fair Lady which is more than well deserving of one.
ALL i repeat ALL Blu rays should have subtitles!!! You are cutting out a huge portion of your audience, what they think deaf people don't like movies? Or even people who are hard of hearing? Just give the options if you don't want the subtitles don't turn them on, the same with special features, put them on if you can, you don't have to watch them. But I do get the licensing reason for the reason some may not have special features.
Can you guys stop with this subtitle crap, do you think they're gonna scrap the existing releases and re-release everything with subtitles. Like it or not, he gave an explanation on why they don't include them. None of the key independent labels include English subtitles for their English language films - Kino, First Run Features, Zeitgeist, New Yorker, Hen's Tooth, Shout Factory... just naming a few major ones.
Jet2mo42, and you could perhaps think before you ignorantly crap on others opinions. And simply because those other companies listed don't bother with subs, does not make it right. They're also not majors by any means.
I don't want them to re-release anything, I'm just saying it's a feature that should be on all formats no matter who releases it. Same concept as places having handicap accessiblilty, that's all. If they don't put subtitles on it, it won't stop me from buying the blu-rays. Because I have my hearing, I guess I'm just speaking for those who don't. But no skin off my back if they do or do not include subtitles on the releases.
Great interview, although it's a real shame about the lack of subtitles. I'm especially concerned how this will effect films like Macbeth, which combine rapid fire dialogue, Shakespearean English and poor sound recording.
Jet2 when you suffer some form of hearng loss, perhaps you'll be less inclined to share your selfish ignorance to the rest of world. Regressive attitudes such as yours merely reinforce ignorance towards those with hearing loss, or where English isn't as easily understood. Think before you write.
In France, it is now compulsory to have French SDH subs in all discs released. I don't buy at all the time lag and QC delay at all. If all titles are delayed due to this, then there is just a shift in your release dates. Moreover just review the HD encoding with subs and you're done.
I heard that UCLA had restored "The Quiet Man" but how many years ago was that? Technology doesn't stand still and if they are doing a 4K scan of the original negative it may look even better than that restoration. It's a great film and I am looking forward to purchasing the blu-ray.
I deeply admire recent releases from Olive Films, but the subtitle issue is painfully depressing, as one of those "non-native English speakers" he feels bad for. 'I'm sorry you guys but it doesn't profit us much and needs lots of time. That's against business. And hey, we're not the only one.' Gee, that sounds like coming out of a mouth of an OCP executive.