Survival strategies for newcomers
HOLLYWOOD — Several new companies involved in producing, financing and/or distributing films for the international market will be on the scene at Mifed this year. Founded by veteran film execs, each company has niched out a strategy for survival.
One of the most recent developments is Creative Union Entertainment, an international distribution and financing company launched this month by Neil Sacker, a former Miramax Films biz exec and WB senior counsel, and Julie Savay-Ross, an ex-IEG sales exec.
Sacker, CEO of the L.A.-based company, and Ross, prexy and chief operating officer, formed CUE after briefly working together at Miracle Entertainment. CUE will finance, produce and distribute features for the theatrical marketplace as well as handle two to four specialized titles a year for distribution.
Company has also signed a seven-picture production and worldwide distribution deal with producer Rudy Langlais (“The Hurricane”), director Jeremiah Chechik (“Benny and Joon”), and Smokestack Prods.’ Jeffrey Klein and Chris Bongrine.
“More and more high-level producers are looking for an alternative means to procure financing and distribution for their pictures,” notes Sacker. “After speaking to experts in the independent arena we discovered there was a real need in the marketplace for companies to independently finance projects
Turn to page A10
through equity, funds and tax credits to deliver commercial films that can get studio or wide release in the U.S. and Canada.”
CUE will be handling international distribution for the indie action drama “Madison,” starring Jim Caviezel. It is also finalizing financing and distribution for the Sigourney Weaver-Bill Murray comedy “The Wedding Contract,” and the drama “The Italian.” The latter two titles come to CUE via Savay-Ross’ international distribber Voltaire Entertainment Group, which has been folded within the new company.
In September Penny Karlin and Kelly Green, veteran players in the international distribution consultancy business, bought out their old company Bjorck Film Corp to form Karlin-Green Media.
Green, who joined Bjorck in 1989, and Karlin, who joined in 1996, will be equal partners and co-presidents of the new venture, while Bjorck’s founder and former chairman, Lennart Bjorck, remains as a consultant.
Karlin-Green Media’s will be repping foreign distributors, but it also will expand into the U.S. marketplace, introducing Stateside producers to international buyers to help raise coin for their films.
“You cannot just be agents and acquisitions agents,” says Karlin. “To survive you now have to be diversified in a lot of areas, including both the financial and creative packaging of projects.
“We are now expanding on the U.S. front, looking to create more solid relationships with domestic distributors. Our intent is to bring our foreign distributors to the table, and work together with the domestic distributors to make projects happen.”
Added Green: “With our expertise, we can engineer co-productions and financing arrangements for budgets anywhere from $18 million and up for commercial mainstream films.”
KG Media’s clients include such international distribs as Shochiku in Japan; Splendid, Germany; MediaFilm, Italy; Manga Films, Spain; Gussi, Mexico; Lider Films, Argentina; Grupo Paris Filmes, Brazil; Entertainment Consortium, Latin America; and Italia Film in the Middle East.
Company recently secured selected territory deals on such high-profile projects as “I Am Sam,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Penn, from New Line Cinema Intl., and “Gangs of New York,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, from Initial Entertainment Group and Miramax.
After more than 12 years as president and partner of PM Entertainment, which recently became a subsidiary of Harvey Entertainment, international distribution exec George Shamieh set up indie production and distribution entity American Cinema Intl..
As its CEO, the multilingual Shamieh, who has worked in the international distrib biz for more than two decades, aims to produce an average of 10 geared-for-TV films a year that he claims will be “both intelligent and entertaining and so action-packed that viewers won’t succumb to channel-surfing.” Company may also expand into the TV series and animation biz.
ACI titles for Mifed this year include “Flying Virus,” starring Gabrielle Anwar, Craig Sheffer and Rutger Hauer,; and “Phase IV,” with Dean Cain and Brian Bosworth.
Peppermint, a subsidiary of Germany’s Helkon Media that took its first trip to Milan last year after its March 2000 launch as an international distribution company, returns the market as a larger entity.
“We started with three people and now we are 28, and at Mifed this year we will be introducing Peppermint as a theatrical distributor on a bigger scale,” says company prexy Michael Knoblof. “Last year at Mifed we had two or three German movies, this year we will have a big lounge and a big slate of titles. Ultimately, we will try to handle around 20 pictures a year for theatrical distribution.”
Distribber’s primary markets are Europe and Asia, with operations in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Malaysia, and it hawks a wide range of genres and formats, including theatrical, TV, video, DVD, Internet and new media. It also co-finances and develops projects with international partners.
Peppermint titles include German thrillers “Bundle of Joy” and “Butterflies in the Night,” romantic comedies “Moonlight Tariff” and “Vienna,” and dramas “Birthday” and “The Devil’s Tail.”