Real-estate mogul enters film prod’n

Steiner will invest initial funds in Grand Illusions projects

NEW YORK — Gotham real-estate magnate David Steiner is joining the world of feature-film production, investing in and becoming a partner at Jonathan Sanger’s Grand Illusions Entertainment shingle.

Steiner, who helped found the bustling Steiner Studios production facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has never been involved with film production before. But in an interview, he said that he saw the move as “a natural adjunct” for the film shoots at the studio that could also help bring business into the facility.

Exec will invest initial funds in Grand Illusions projects and will become a full partner at the company. Ed Elbert and Sarah Ryan Black are the other partners at Grand Illusions.

Sanger said that as a result of the deal, company could increase lensing at Steiner Studios.

Steiner, who has invested in theater and homevid production, likely wouldn’t be involved directly with film projects, though he said he did expect to funnel ideas to Sanger and the other partners.

Move is part of a larger revamp at Grand Illusion, in which execs will seek to finance projects exclusively through equity money and outside sources instead of relying on studio funding.

Grand Illusions is looking to domestic and international tax incentives, as well as private international investors, to help fund its movies, which generally run in the $5 million-$30 million range.

Sanger and GIE are known for producing a range of dramas and comedies, including “Vanilla Sky” and “The Producers,” the latter of which shot at Steiner Studios.

Sanger offered an unusually candid assessment of why he preferred to opt for funding outside the studios. “What studios do least well is make films, and what they do best is distribute films. Any film that I’ve made at a studio I could have made for one-third less if I had made it myself,” he declared.

He also said he preferred to “come in as a real partner” on a project after it was closer to completion instead of relying on a studio to get it off the ground.

Sanger’s reinvention is part of a larger tend: As studios look to hedge funds and Wall Street money to finance projects, producers themselves are finding a rich vein of capital among outside investors.

Separately, Sanger said that Fred Schepisi has signed on to direct Grand Illusions’ WWII pic “Beast of Bataan.”

Paul Verhoeven was originally attached to direct but fell off the project when production on his WWII movie “Black Book” moved forward.

Australian helmer Schepisi is known for directing the adaptation of ’90s legit hit “Six Degrees of Separation” that starred Will Smith and Donald Sutherland.

Pre-production is set to start before the end of the year, and the movie will begin lensing in Australia this spring. “Bataan” is funded by a wide network of financiers that includes equity investors in Australia and China.

Grand Illusions is also developing an “East of Eden” remake with Universal and Ron Howard’s Imagine and “Paraiso Travel,” a Spanish-language pic starring John Leguizamo.

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