Working with Ryan Kavanaugh

Producer understands finance and artistry

Mark Canton
Chairman-CEO, Atmosphere Entertainment

Producer Mark Canton got to know Ryan Kavanaugh during his venture-capital days and was one of the first to introduce him to Hollywood players when Kavanaugh decided to become a showbiz financier.

“I always thought the world of him,” says Canton, a former studio chief at Sony who was impressed by Kavanaugh’s economic artistry.

“Ryan’s a quick study for nuances of rapid changes in markets. A lot of problems have played into his hands. With tough times come opportunities.”

When Canton was forming his Atmosphere shingle in 2003, Kavanaugh put the money together. Kavanaugh’s company has since backed several film projects for Canton.

Next up is Relativity’s most expensive production yet, “War of Gods,” a $110 million movie about war-torn ancient Greece. Canton and the rest of the team that produced “300” are putting the movie together; it begins shooting in Montreal in February.

Canton is also producing “Den of Thieves” and “Tunnels” for Relativity and is eager to continue collaborating with Kavanaugh.

He’s heard the negative talk about the entrepreneur, which he attributes in part to Kavanaugh’s youth and wide-eyed passion. “The reason some people don’t believe in it is because they don’t understand it,” he maintains.

But make no mistake about it, Kavanaugh’s “incredibly focused on what he’s building,” Canton says. “It’s now become evident that he’s here to stay.”

Jesse A. Cohn
Portfolio manager, Elliot Management Corp.

“Ryan’s brilliance is in bringing deals together. He is able to find creative solutions that enable every participant’s needs to be met, even in circumstances where this didn’t seem possible.

“In one deal, for example, a number of parties had been negotiating for hours in a conference room, and there seemed to be no path toward agreement. Ryan suggested a break, and then he spent time with each party alone. When everyone returned, he sketched out the solution for the room, and it worked, and the deal happened. This is typical Ryan.”

Charles Layton
President, Allian Films

“My first impression was that he was really, really smart. It was the way he talked about the business and the way he thought through problems. He would come up with solutions and strategies that wouldn’t occur to everyone. The other impression I had was that he was fun to be around. (Both) have turned out to be true in the long term.”

Alliance will release “Nine,” on which Kavanaugh has an exec producer credit, in Canada.

Jame Mangold
Director, “3:10 to Yuma”

“It was very clear from the beginning of talking about ‘3:10 to Yuma’ that we had someone who was thinking outside of the box and operating from something other than the same playbook that everyone else is using. He made his decisions based on the people involved in the film and in the material, and then he set us free to make the movie. That feeling of trust was huge. I don’t think we ever felt so free to make a movie.

”The rare thing about Ryan is the exuberance. He’s really pumped to be doing what he’s doing. The first time I ever showed him a cut of ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ he was really excited and proud of the movie. That was great, too. When everyone puts stuff on the table, it’s great when you get the feeling people were proud to be part of it.”

Michael Joe
Exec VP, Universal Pictures

“He has the spirit of an entrepreneur, and he’s a creative dealmaker with great instincts. He doesn’t get bogged down in problems. That’s what really makes him stand out in terms of closing deals. Sometimes when both sides dig in a little, he’s very good about quickly sitting down and finding out how to address everyone’s needs.

”When things are challenging, he doesn’t let the pressure of a situation overwhelm him, either. He keeps the tone good so everyone stays focused on finding solutions. As all of us are finding changes in the marketplace, it’s great to have a partner interested in making deals that work for everyone and make everybody money.”

Tucker Tooley
President of production, Relativity Media

“The goal of producing is to find that crossroads between the financial and the creative where both sides feel like they’re getting their due. You want a product that works in both ways. Ryan knows how to talk to both sides. Bankers respond to him, and directors respond to him. So, he can bring both things together.

”The way we make films is that we’re a partnership. If you’re all playing for the same result — which is a good movie that makes money — it will turn out good. At the end of the day, it’s easier to arrive at a conclusion if there’s a challenge that needs to be solved.”

Michael Burns
Vice chairman, Lionsgate

“When I first met Ryan, I thought he was full of it. I thought there was no way that he could deliver both the product and the money he promised, but over time he won me over. He’s consistently done what he said he was going to do, and he shares in the risk on his pictures. He puts his money side by side with the studio. That alone makes him one of the most attractive women in the bar.

”Ryan is successful because he understands that the business is about a portfolio of product. He’s got very significant pieces of such diverse movies as ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and ‘The Fast and the Furious.’ You cannot have just one bet in the movie world. He understands that much more clearly than others who have come into the industry and been decapitated.

”Ryan also has a great team that includes Tucker Tooley and now Scott Lambert who have contributed, and likely will continue to contribute, big-time to his success.”

Kavanaugh exec produced “Season of the Witch,” a Lionsgate 2010 release.

Bob Osher
President, Sony Pictures Digital Production

“It’s not by accident that he’s successful.

”When I first met him, I could see that he’s a very sharp and engaging person as well as an enthusiastic person who knows his stuff. He has been very clever in structuring deals that work for both sides.

”He’s also a realist. He might tell you things you don’t want to hear. He understands what can be accomplished and what can’t. He also has a lot of confidence, and he understands the proper way to get things done. He involves the right people in a deal. I don’t think people realize how much effort goes into what he does.”

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