CANNES — Rick Hess has been named head of CAA’s Film Finance Group, a division devoted to forming a bridge between outside capital and CAA’s sizeable talent resources by packaging and financing features.
Announcement was made a week after longtime CAA agent John Ptak, whose specialty was international indie finance, ankled to form Arsenal, a financial consulting company for the film biz.
Since Hess arrived at the tenpercentery in 2002, CAA’s finance group has doubled in manpower and volume as new outside equity resources have arrived in Hollywood in the form of Wall Street hedge-funds and high-net-worth individuals.
“Last year, over 90% of industry films were put together with outside money, or had some form of co-finance,” Hess told Daily Variety. “With the advent of studio slate deals, such as Credit Suisse (which raised the money for Disney’s hedge-fund-backed Kingdom Fund) and Gun Hill Road (a hedge-fund deal that’s backing pics at Sony and Universal) that number is rapidly reaching 100%. Since we’re conversant in that space, it’s a really unique time for us.”
CAA’s film finance team — which includes Hess, Micah Green, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Kevin Iwashina, Emanuel Nunez, Roeg Sutherland and Bart Walker — is one of the biggest finance divisions of the Hollywood tenpercenteries, but others are beefing up.
ICM recently secured an indie film financing fund, NewBridge Film Capital, currently worth $40 million and hired a Gotham-based agent for the division.
CAA also has substantial talent resources, repping most of the town’s A-list actors, writers and directors.
“CAA has a system of sharing, and that’s what makes us capable of handling so many films a year,” Hess said. “We work as a cohesive unit and share in all projects.”
Recent pics that Hess and his team have arranged financing for include “Brokeback Mountain,” “Crash,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Syriana” and “The New World.”
In addition to putting together film projects, the finance team works with production companies as both financial consultants and product suppliers.
“It’s in our interest to build other companies,” Hess said. “There’s a direct value in the success of these companies and more movies getting made. If any of them turn into the next New Regency or Spyglass, it’s good for everyone.”
CAA worked with Bill Pohladand his River Road Entertainment shingle, which co-financed and produced “Brokeback Mountain,” consulting on the company’s financial and personnel structure, establishing a studio deal at Focus, helping raise a debt facility, and ultimately delivering product such as “Brokeback Mountain,” “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Into the Wild” and “Fur.”
CAA is also consulting on the recapitalization of ThinkFilm.
This year at Cannes, CAA is behind Par Classics’ “Into the Wild,” the adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s best-seller that Sean Penn wrote and is directing, and Pohlad and Art Linson are producing. Focus Intl. is selling off major international territories at the film market this week.
Before joining CAA, Hess held executive and management positions at TriStar Pictures, the William Morris Agency, Phoenix Pictures and Propaganda Films.