Though Rena Ronson ranks as the industry’s top female film packaging and finance agent, she thinks it’s time to lose the gender modifier.
“It frustrates me that we still delineate between men and women in this business, but I guess that’s the reality we live in, and not just in Hollywood,” says Ronson, who enjoyed a stellar Sundance, striking the fest’s biggest deal with the Paul Rudd starrer “Our Idiot Brother” and finding distribution for the other 13 films that UTA showcased there. “I don’t know why the film industry self-selects to be predominantly male, because I’ve never felt at a disadvantage as a woman in my career.”
Instead, Ronson finds herself facing a very different obstacle: keeping coin flowing in the indie sphere as investors have become more frugal amid the global economic downturn.
Putting movies together with big-name directors and actors is very achievable in our arena with the right budgets,” she says, “but on the smaller films, equity financiers are being forced to take more risk than ever before, as presales on some of these films has decreased, making the need for equity all the greater.
“One of our biggest challenges is to keep this equity investing wisely so they come back to invest more, and to balance the budgets with the risk (in mind).”
The New York native managed to do just that this past year, successfully hawking a pair of pics at Cannes: Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place.”
For the former William Morris agent who ankled amid the Endeavor merger, it’s all about finding small ways to manage the chaos. “During one all-night negotiation, I remember needing a mental break and speaking to my partner Rich Klubeck around 5 a.m.,” she recalls. “We laughed as we realized we had nothing to say to each other but just wanted to connect with someone (who was) awake.”
Title: Co-head, UTA’s Independent Film Group
Role model: “All the women in (showbiz) whom I’ve befriended over the years who continue to take risks in an industry that can be challenging to those of us who also have families.”
Career mantra: “Keep calm and carry on!”
Leisure pursuits: “Spending as much time with my daughter as I can.”
Philanthropic passions: “Children’s issues have always been of prime importance to me, (particularly) as a single mom.”