Most successful film producers have taken the apprentice route, toiling for a Hollywood hitmaker before branching out on their own.
Intrepid Pictures’ Trevor Macy and Marc Evans opted for a different career path. The pair honed their skills working the studio finance side of the business. Now appropriately enough, their eight-year-old company is one of the first multipicture indies to raise and deploy Wall Street coin.
After the success of their 2008 low-budget horror pic “The Strangers,” Macy and Evans seemed poised to become a major player in the field of independently financed studio-released genre films. But that world quickly shifted, due to a series of quakes that included the shuttering of Fox Atomic and the sale of Universal’s Rogue Pictures to Relativity. Suddenly, a “Strangers” sequel was on hold due to the Rogue sale, and the Intrepid duo retreated to development mode.
Now, the company is back in the spotlight with the release of three pics over the next three months. Denzel Washington starrer “Safe House” is based on an idea hatched internally at Intrepid. Macy and Evans helped develop the David Guggenheim-penned script and sold it to Universal during an otherwise moribund spec market. The action thriller opened strong for U, with a $40 million domestic bow.
On April 6, Summit will release “The Cold Light of Day,” which Intrepid produced and co-financed. The action thriller , made with a budget in the mid-$30 million range, stars Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver. Three weeks later, the James McTeigue-helmed “The Raven,” a mid-$20 million period thriller that Intrepid produced and fully financed, will hit theaters. Relativity will release the film, which features John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, on April 27.
“What you’re seeing now are the fruits of that development labor,” says Macy, an Oregon native who landed his first industry job at Disney after being recruited by the Burbank studio while finishing his undergraduate studies at Stanford. “We had to adjust to that shakeup in the industry, and it took a while to read the landscape.”
Macy, a one-time chief operating officer at Propaganda Films, and fellow Stanford alum Evans credit their years of experience working in studio financing with helping them gauge what kinds of films make the most sense to invest in. What sets the pair apart from most of their contemporaries is that they don’t raise money on a project-by-project basis. Instead, Intrepid operates on a portfolio model, with JP Morgan leading the company’s senior debt.
Each year, Intrepid aims to make one or two films with budgets of less than $10 million, as well as 2-3 moderately budgeted genre pics a year; the company is looking to fill the void left when the studios largely retreated from financing low- and modestly budgeted genre picks.
“We bring a business mind to the art of producing, says Colorado native Evans, a former chief financial officer at Revolution Studios who created the financial and production infrastructure to handle that company’s growth from five pictures and $100 million in revenues in 2000 to 10 pictures and more than $650 million in revenues in 2003. “When we were looking to raise capital, guys on Wall Street saw that we had the skills to package films in a creatively attractive way, but were also able to speak to them with a grounded financial perspective.”
With “The Raven,” Evans and Macy took advantage of tax incentives and cheaper labor by shooting the film in Serbia and Hungary, which doubled as 19th century Baltimore. Ditto “Cold Light of Day,” which moved the script’s original setting from Italy to Spain in order to exploit Spanish co-production opportunities.
Also on tap for 2012 is the teen thriller “Crush,” which Intrepid made for a budget in the single-digit millions with a teenage cast.
In fact, the company — aided by Intrepid VP of development Anil Kurian — prides itself on keeping budgets low by working with up-and-coming talent like Cavill before he was cast as the next Superman, and “Cold Light of Day” helmer Mabrouk El Mechri, who was hired coming off of the buzz-worthy Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle “JCVD.”
“If we can afford you in two films, we’re not doing our jobs,” Macy quips.