The past three years have been good to Keith Calder, Felipe Marino and Joe Neurauter. After the trio graduated from USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program, they formed Los Angeles-based production banner Occupant Films in 2005 and went on to produce three pics, including this year’s Sundance darling, Jonathan Levine’s “The Wackness,” which Sony Pictures Classics acquired for an estimated $2 million.
And at the 2006 Toronto Film Fest they sold their first film, Levine’s “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” to the Weinstein Co. for more than $3 million. The horror pic ultimately was sold on to new U.S. distrib Senator and is slated for a release this fall.
“The Wackness,” on the other hand, went out to theaters this summer.
“We saw a lot doors open once we sold ‘Mandy Lane,’ but it’s a whole different level to have a movie released,” Neurauter says. “It gives you a totally different perception in the community.”
Delivering films that are commercially viable but also intelligent is one of the company’s main objectives. The shingle’s focus seems to be working for their filmmakers, at least according to helmer Levine.
“These guys are financing and producing films they believe in: films that are independent in voice and independent by execution,” Levine says. “I think we have been able to make two films together that are unique, provocative and entertaining, that could not have been made within the traditional system.”
Calder, Marino and Neurauter are at work again with Levine on his third project, “Positive,” and say reteaming with the writer-helmer is a conscious decision.
“We are not in the business of trying to reinvent the wheel every time,” Calder says. “We want to continue working with strong, creative partners and build a long, lasting relationship with them.”
They all admit that their first three years in the producing business have been “incredibly valuable,” and the trio hope that the next three years are that much more productive.
“We learned a lot, and we are definitely ready to step up our game a little bit,” Marino says. “The goal in the upcoming years is to do two to three movies per year.”
The trio’s latest endeavors include “The Key Man,” written and directed by Peter Himmelstein, starring Hugo Weaving, Brian Cox, Judy Greer and Jack Davenport; “Peep World,” directed by Barry Blaustein; and a police thriller written by Pat Healy and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo.
INSPIRATION: “I loved ‘The Graduate.’ It really impacted me as a producer because it’s a smart, strong, personal vision and story but appealing and accessible to a wide, mainstream audience.”
INSPIRATION: “Peter Rice and everyone at Fox Searchlight. They have really created a business out of independent film and become real tastemakers. We base a lot of our company the way they do things and their success.”
PROVINCE: Innsbruck, Austria
INSPIRATION: “‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino.’ I thought they were visually stunning, had strong characters and great storytelling.”