THE DEALMAKER: A pioneer of using tax incentives to the benefit of film budgets, Don Starr and his Grosvenor Park have backed some 400 film and television productions. “We are the go-to people in this business,” says Starr, an avuncular, plain-spoken and practical man whose beginnings in the real estate business honed his skill with a film budget.
Grosvenor Park uses a mixture of gap, super-gap, presales and tax credit discounting, and will invest equity to provide 100% financing if a film has a solid U.S. distribution deal backed by a significant P&A guarantee. Starr cites Ed Zwick’s “Defiance,” starring Daniel Craig, as the model for the equity business. “‘Defiance’ shot in Lithuania with no tax but we own that movie,” says Starr. “You take a $50 million movie and make it for $35 million. ‘Defiance’ is the model. The studios are trying to get out of that business — those movies are more available to people such as ourselves. We call it the sweet spot: risk management.”
In May, Grosvenor Park inked a $200 million theatrical slate financing deal that includes the bigscreen adaptation of vidgame “Castlevania.”
“With (the) low U.S. dollar and states that have been proactive, filmmakers are now coming back to the U.S., and we have quite a bit to do with that,” says Starr, whose says his company is the biggest operator in Louisiana and New York, and who’s advised many state film commissions on tax incentive legislation.
“Business is not that complicated — add up the negatives but see how to fix the business.”
DEALMAKER DOS: “Make sure to be careful of the downside risk.”
TOP DEALMAKERS ENCOUNTERED: “Mentors from the real estate business. The same way you finance real estate is how you finance movies: Commit to build it, then rent off the risk. … (There’s also) Mickey Meyerson, Jake Bloom, Bryan Lourd.”