Firm seeks a pic presence

PRO FilmWorks is developing its most ambitious slate to date, with projects spread between medium-budget independent films and bigger-budgeted studio fare.

Launched in 1986 as Producers Representatives Organization, the Los Angeles-based film division was conceived by the Becker group to make American movies for an international audience. “Any entertainment company that competes on a global scale has got to have a presence in Los Angeles,” president Craig Saavedra says.

Until recently, the development and production company concentrated on “tightly financed” independent titles such as Curtis Hanson’s “Bad Influence,” “Scorchers” with Faye Dunaway and “Only You” with Andrew McCarthy. While PRO will continue to make some pictures in the $4 million range, president Craig Saavedra says, “It’s just not worth the trouble” to work on projects in the under-$3 million realm.

Projects are financed with a diverse combination of presales, international co-productions, the Becker group’s in-house backing, and studio deals, Saavedra says. The recent “At First Sight,” which Trimark opens theatrically in November, was produced by PRO for Trimark, who provided 100% financing and took all international rights except Australia and New Zealand.

The comedy stars popular television actor Jonathan Silverman as a guy in love who needs the help of his smooth-talking friend, played by Dan Cortese, to help him win the girl.

PRO is partnered with Capella on the romantic comedy “Timeshare,” its biggest project to date with a $20 million budget. The screenplay, about two single-parent families who mistakenly rent the same beach house, is currently out to U.S. distributors, and Saavedra expects a U.S. commitment soon, with filming planned for early next year.

“Hobson’s Choice” is being developed completely in-house at PRO, and will likely land at a major studio soon. Written by hot screenwriter Jason Rothenberg, the thriller’s set in New Orleans, and revolves around a female reporter.

Depending on casting, the project could be budgeted upwards of $40 million.

“We’re making a concerted shift to bigger-budgeted studio films, but at the same time, we’re not turning our back on smaller, niche films,” Saavedra says. “The financing situation is getting really ridiculous. The independent marketplace is shrinking more and more, which makes financing difficult. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience in co-productions, and we can even cash-flow pre-production.”

PRO’S “Gross Misconduct ” directed by George Miller, was a co-production with Australia, while “Only You” was done in partnership with Highlight in Switzerland.

Parent company the Becker group has a reputation as a dependable television producer, and PRO FilmWorks intends to continue the tradition with a production target of two to three films a year, possibly comprising a medium-budget independent film, a studio picture, and a telefilm.

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