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Rosenberg revels in risk-taking filmmaking

HOLLYWOOD — Being an independent producer is not a career for the security minded. Pouring blood, sweat and tears into projects that can — and often do — fall apart at the last moment is a high-stress job that comes with no guarantee of a paycheck, much less health insurance or a pension plan.

But then again, everything’s relative.

For Paul Rosenberg, who came to filmmaking after performing daredevil ski stunts in “Hot Dog: The Movie,” trading bonds on Wall Street and working as an assistant to the notoriously volatile Scott Rudin, producing is a virtual walk in the park.

“I’ve always been a risk taker,” the soft-spoken Rosenberg says. “As a skier, I used to do double, twisting double flips. When I started producing, I’d say to myself, ‘I can’t break my neck on this phone call, so why should I be scared?'”

Rosenberg most recently took a chance on the low-budget dark comedy “Go,” the sophomore directing effort of “Swingers” helmer Doug Liman.

After all of the major studios had passed on John August’s script, Rosenberg set up “Go” at fledgling indie Banner Entertainment. But about a month before shooting was to begin, Banner’s financing fell through.

“It was like ‘Jerry Maguire,'” Rosenberg recalls. “We all had to go back to my office and man the phones to find someone else to pick it up in a matter of days.”

Rosenberg learned his trade from some of the best in the industry, working under such successful producers as Rudin, Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Miramax co-founder Bob Weinstein.

These past jobs paid off in more ways than one. While working as a development exec at Imagine, Rosenberg gave August his first writing job, an adaptation of “How to Eat Fried Worms.” August returned the favor years later by giving Rosenberg, who had just hung out his producer’s shingle, first crack at “Go.”

TriStar eventually stepped up with the financing for “Go,” which Sony Pictures released in April. But while the pic enjoyed rave reviews from key critics, it performed only modestly well at the box office.

The $7 million-budgeted pic is on target to finish its run with roughly $15 million in domestic ticket sales — although some see brisk business ahead as a video rental.

Many industryites were left scratching their heads about why “Go” didn’t do better commercially. But Rosenberg is philosophical about the experience.

“I’m really proud of the movie,” he says. “I love doing things that are original and unique, and people seemed to really love it. The hard part is that as a producer, you have to go out and get the next one going. It’s like creating a new startup company from scratch each time.”

Rosenberg and his Saratoga Entertainment production company have a number of development projects set up around town, including “Georgie Radbourn,” which “Mouse Hunt” helmer Gore Verbinski is attached to direct for DreamWorks-based ImageMovers.

Rosenberg will exec produce writer-director Albert Torres’ high school thriller “Waydown,” which Trillion Entertainment is financing.

While the edgy, drug-infused “Go” is on the artier end of the spectrum, Rosenberg gets high marks from no less a mainstream filmmaker than Tom Shadyac.

While at Imagine, it was Rosenberg who championed Shadyac — who at the time had only “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” on his resume — to helm Eddie Murphy’s remake of “The Nutty Professor.”

“Paul’s always got good ideas,” Shadyac says. “He’s in it for the love of moviemaking and has a genuine passion for storytelling. He’s not in it for the player aspect. I have no doubt we’ll work together someday.”