Producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg is a product of a Hollywood upbringing. Her father Jonathan Taplin is a veteran producer (“Mean Streets”) and her mother Rosana DeSoto is a character actress. When Taplin Lundberg was doing the awards season push for her feature “Beasts of No Nation” last winter, she recalls her parents’ colleagues approaching her. “I’d love to have a meeting with you,” they’d say. “I can’t figure out the business model.”
That’s the problem she’ll be grappling with at her new company, Stay Gold Features. The kinds of films Taplin Lundberg makes — edgy, adult-oriented movies with nary a comic-book hero in sight — have become dinosaurs. Just ask Harvey Weinstein, who has been slowly gravitating away from producing films like “Pulp Fiction” and into television.
To navigate these choppy waters, Taplin Lundberg will rely on her reputation, honed at the New York-based Red Crown Prods., for backing challenging indies — such as “Beasts” or “Hello, My Name Is Doris” — that others might have blanched at. Both landed big deals, and “Doris” (starring Sally Field) has been a surprise hit at the spring box office.
The name of her company is derived from the classic line from “The Outsiders” (“Stay gold, Ponyboy”). “It’s originally a reference to a Robert Frost poem, (‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’),” Taplin Lundberg says. “I thought it was appropriate for a producer who wants to make original, bold material and not compromise too much.”
Taplin Lundberg is launching Stay Gold with financing from about a dozen private investors. Kristen Konvitz (formerly of Indiegogo) will serve as head of production. Among upcoming offerings is “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” based on the Edmund Morris biography, with Alex Timbers (Broadway’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”) attached to direct. Young Il Kim (of the Hillary Clinton movie “Rodham”) is writing the irreverent script that traces Roosevelt’s life from his privileged upbringing to his trust-busting presidency. Dan Crown and Riva Marker will also produce.
Taplin Lundberg will finance and produce a Harriet Tubman biopic with Macro Ventures’ Charles King and Debra Martin Chase, and Greg Howard. The project, which will begin shooting in early 2017, is timely, given that the Underground Railroad icon will appear on the $20 bill. Also in the mix: shepherding “Choose Your Own Adventure,” based on the series of children’s books, at Fox; and Cary Fukunaga’s next drama at A24, about gay high school student Jadin Bell who took his own life.
Although the market for indies is perilous and the profit margins small, the exec believes that there’s plenty of opportunity, given the new players in the film business. “It’s a really exciting time with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu,” says Taplin Lundberg, who has learned to keep budgets modest, while not sacrificing quality.
“She delivers a very high level of bang for your buck,” says producer and documentary director Bill Benenson, an investor in Stay Gold. “‘Beasts’ was about $6 million. If you see it, it looks like a $20 million movie.”