Industry imports veteran Gruskoff

Management firm ramping production

NEW YORK — With producing credits on six greenlit pics this year, Industry Entertainment partners Nick Wechsler and Keith Addis have brought in veteran producer Michael Gruskoff as an inhouse producer who’ll help expand Industry’s producing activity.

Although Industry has been the focus of much speculation following the defection of Rick and Julie Yorn along with clients like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz to AMG, Wechsler and Addis said they are doing just fine. The company has recently focused on ramping up production, prompting the hiring of Gruskoff, whose producing credits include “Silent Running,” “Young Frankenstein,” “My Favorite Year” and “Quest for Fire.”

‘A terrific traffic cop’

Wechsler, who supervises the production side of the company, said Gruskoff has the hands-on experience to make a terrific traffic cop. While Gruskoff will develop his own projects and shepherd existing Industry scripts, Industry is counting on him to mentor its roster of managers, including Geyer Kosinski, David Seltzer, Margaret Riley and Rosalie Swedlin, who are branching out to become hands-on producers.

“We’re starting production on a lot of films this year, and we wanted somebody who has made movies all over the world and dealt with every conceivable problem,” Wechsler said. “It’s a shortcut, instead of hiring young people and training them. Michael was a pal and mentor for me when I was learning the production business, and we are encouraging our people to get involved not only with talent clientele, but in getting hands-on producing experience as well. It’s a part of the process you can’t learn behind a desk.”

Gaining clout

Gruskoff, who began as an agent at CMA and repped the likes of Robert Redford, Peter Sellers and Faye Dunaway before becoming a producer, has worked solo on nearly all of his 14 films. But he said joining Industry gives him the clout to get earlier looks at strong material.

“I’ve read most of the 60 or so projects in development (at Industry),” Gruskoff said, “and will work closely with Julia Chasman, Marc Evans and David Carmel in the production department to move them along. And having begun as an agent at CMA, I understand how that part of the business works as well.”

Development on the Line

Unlike some management companies, which get producing fees as the price for putting their top clients in projects, Industry gets in on most of its films on the ground floor, optioning material and often funding development with its production deal and discretionary fund at New Line and Fine Line. Wechsler noted that 75% of Industry’s producing efforts are done independent of its management clientele.

Industry will have a surprisingly busy year. Productions set for 1999 starts include “Quills,” Philip Kaufman’s film starring Kate Winslet, Geoffrey Rush and Joaquin Phoenix, for Fox Searchlight; “Fifteen Minutes,” the John Herzfeld-directed drama starring Robert De Niro and Ed Burns, for New Line; the Cameron Diaz starrer “Invisible Circus,” at Fine Line; the Mel Smith-directed “The Laird of Tomintoul,” starring Gabriel Byrne, for Phoenix Pictures; the Griffin Dunne-directed film “The Rain in Spain,” for Miramax; and “Requiem for a Dream,” the next film by “Pi” director Darren Aronofsky for Artisan Entertainment.

On the small screen, Industry got a second season pickup for CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom “Becker,” and a pilot order with Columbia/TriStar on “Only Joking,” an Americanized version of an international hit comedy series involving pranks and hidden cameras.

‘Daddy’ done

Industry recently wrapped several films, including the Billy Bob Thornton-directed Miramax ensemble “Daddy and Them”; the Mark Wahlberg starrer “The Yards,” for Miramax; and the Showtime remake “Inherit the Wind.” “Noriega,” meanwhile, is currently shooting for Showtime.

There are a bunch of flashy development projects to follow, including the “Cinderfella” remake at New Line; the Chet Baker biopic to which DiCaprio is attached at Miramax; “Stanford Prison Experiment,” with DiCaprio and director Lee Tamahori, at Fox; and “Smuggler’s Moon,” the New Line project about pot smugglers to which Brad Pitt is attached.

Wechsler said the company often buys material to prime the pipeline, as evidenced by a deal he was finalizing for Michael Tolkin’s next script.

The emphasis is on edgy subject matter too complicated to be loglined in a short sentence.

“This is a time when studios are constricted and filmmakers are looking for quality pieces, and we feel our focus on developing unique stories with some depth has begun to pay off,” Wechsler said.

No more Yorn yarns

As for the lingering fixation on the Yorns’ departure to AMG, Wechsler said, “There’s no question we lost a significant part of our management clientele when the Yorns left, but we have a strong list of writers, directors and actors represented here, and a strong production operation. Everybody takes hits now and then; it’s a cyclical business, and it’s inevitable that when you have success that the young people who do well might want to do something else, or can be seduced to, as the case may be.

“They can take clients, but what they can’t take is skill sets, ability to train managers and producers, and our ability as producers. That,” Wechsler said, “will continue to be one of our assets. That will never leave.”

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