Rister: Casting a precise net

10 Producers to Watch 2011: Laura Rister

“Build the cast and they will come,” says Laura Rister, head of production at Untitled Entertainment and principal of Waterfall Media, the joint venture between Untitled and Cassian Elwes.

It’s hard to question Rister’s philosophy. She knew she had to start finding a cast after reading J.C. Chandor’s script “Margin Call,” which she had gotten from Zachary Quinto’s Before the Door Pictures in May 2009.

A year later, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Paul Bettany were on board and principal photography on Chandor’s directorial debut had begun. Pic went on to close a number of key foreign territory deals during the American Film Market last November and was a hit at Sundance in January. (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions acquired and released pic Oct. 21.)

” ‘Margin Call’ is the kind of film that I said I wanted to be a part of when I left CNN to work in the film business,” says Rister, former Miramax Films head of casting and a production/development exec. “It’s strong material that has something to say, with terrific roles and a talented filmmaker who just needed a shot.”

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Rister describes herself as a “hybrid” producer, who can package, cast, troubleshoot, help find financing and sell.

During her 8 1/2-year tenure at Miramax, Rister says she wore many hats working in production. “I think that prepared me for being adaptive to any given project’s needs.”

These days, Rister is moving nonstop. She is in post-production on Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s directorial debut, “The Words,” starring Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons and Olivia Wilde.

“I read the script 10 or so years ago at Miramax and I wanted to make it, but studios have a hard time supporting first-time filmmakers,” she says. “Now I get to go with my gut instincts and make those decisions because I work at a company where I can chose when I want to make something and I have the resources and relationships to do it.”

Other projects in the works include Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Lovelace,” Ariel Vromen’s “The Iceman” with Michael Shannon and “Scar Tissue,” based in part on Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography for FX.

Jason Michael Berman | Borderline Films | Tyler Davidson & Sophia Lin | James Gay-Rees | Lawrence Inglee |

Red Granite Pictures | Laura Rister | Jonathan Schwartz | Diarmid Scrimshaw | Kevin Walsh

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