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Venture hits A-Mark

Cassavetes, McNall launching with 'Alpha Dog'

Writer-director Nick Cassavetes will be the creative catalyst behind A-Mark Entertainment, a new venture powered by overhead and development funding from Santa Monica-based entrepreneur Steve Markoff.

Markoff’s many business interests include A-Mark Financial Corp., an investment banking and precious metals acquisitions and sales firm.

He’ll be joined in the venture by Bruce McNall, former owner of the Los Angeles Kings, whose first film foray, Gladden Entertainment, left him broke and behind bars. He’ll be CEO of A-Mark, which has Cassavetes, Markoff and chief financial officer Robert Geringer as partners.

A-Mark aims to hatch movies and TV series, including several scripted and directed by Cassavetes, whose credits include “The Notebook” and “John Q.”

A-Mark gets off the ground with “Alpha Dog,” a Cassavetes-directed murder mystery that has nearly completed production. Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake and Emile Hirsch star in the fact-based story of a drug dealer who masterminded the kidnapping and murder of his rival’s teen brother. “Alpha Dog” was produced by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, in association with A- Mark, and was financed by Kimmel.

Making more movies

Cassavetes got involved so he could direct more than one picture a year. He has set “One Tree Hill” cast member Paul Johansson to direct Ashley Judd in “Unless That Someone Is You,” a script Cassavetes wrote with his late father, indie maverick John Cassavetes. Johansson previously directed the Cassavetes-produced “The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie.”

A-Mark also has optioned Richard Zacks’ book “The Pirate Hunter,” which will be used as a template for a period epic about Captain Kidd that Cassavetes will write and direct.

Cassavetes has enlisted gaming expert Steve Forte for “Crossroaders,” a pic about illegal ways to beat casinos, with Cassavetes writing and directing.

Cassavetes also hopes A-Mark will allow him to realize a 10-year dream to direct his adaptation of the Tim O’Brien novel “Going After Cacciato.”

A-Mark also is involved in “Rehab,” the HBO series toplining Courteney Cox Arquette; Cassavetes, who wrote and will direct the pilot, exec produces.

Past is past

For McNall, A-Mark is an opportunity for a new start after a false start last year at Seven Arts.

A-Mark’s financier wasn’t put off by McNall’s past, either. Markoff, whose A-Mark Financial was ranked the fifth largest privately held company in Los Angeles last fall by the Los Angeles Business Journal, decided to risk his own funds specifically because the venture involved McNall, whom he met when McNall was dealing coins. Unlike most rich guys who bankroll movies, Markoff isn’t a film buff and has no interest in calling the creative shots.

“I’m not as concerned with the outcome as I am in making the process as rational as circumstances will permit,” Markoff said. “I don’t want to actually finance films until we’ve been through at least three, because I want to see the mistakes and how they are handled. I have always learned the most from messes and disasters.”

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