Emmett (above, right) had worked for Jerry Bruckheimer, ICM and Mark Wahlberg. At that point he was on his own, looking to get financing for “Speedway Junky,” with Darryl Hannah attached and Gus van Sant exec producing.
And Furla? He was a hedge fund manager. What more could any aspiring indie shingle ask for?
“I met George at a Mexican restaurant and he started writing checks that I thought would bounce,” Emmett recalls. “He was wearing sweat pants.”
But it wasn’t long before “we wound up spending $1.5 million and going to Berlin.” “Junky” was released in 1999.
But while they may not have expected much from that first meeting, they brought to it a combination of industry savvy and seasoned financial chops. Now, 15 years later, the duo have credits on more than 70 films and have become a powerhouse in the indie financing world, specializing in mid-budget action pics. Recent releases include “2 Guns,” which opened Aug. 2 with $27 million for a No. 1 spot, and “The Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack.
Coming up: “Escape Plan,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone; Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor”; Martin Scorsese’s “Silence”; Baltasar Kormakur’s “Everest”; and “The Witch Hunter,” starring Vin Diesel.
The company has risen quickly in recent years. In July, Emmett, 42, and Furla, 53, announced fresh financing by selling an undisclosed stake in their shingle to Dubai-based Oasis Ventures Entertainment. The rebranded company will rename itself Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films and plans to open up an office in Dubai.
Emmett/Furla’s last major financing came in 2012 when it announced it had partnered with Envision Entertainment to raise $275 million. A year after, Emmett/Furla and Envision’s Stepan Martirosyan and Remington Chase announced during the Toronto Film Festival that they’d partnered to establish a $250 million revolving equity and debt fund.
Where’s the company headed? Furla has a simple answer: “We’re looking at another 15 years. We keep on ramping up and with the funding from Oasis, we really control our own destiny.”
The next big project: a Monopoly movie with Hasbro as a partner. That project had been in development at Universal since 2008 but the toymaker decided to ally last October with Emmett/Furla.
“ ‘Monopoly’ will be our largest project,” Furla says. “We are looking at starting production in the first part of 2014. We think Monopoly and Hasbro’s Hungry Hippos could be franchises.”
Emmett/Furla has also moved into TV with the reality show “SAF3,” with Dolph Lundgren.
Film has been a lifelong passion for Emmett. He started studying acting at 8 and went to the New World School of Arts in Miami, where he made films every weekend. He still has the handbill for a film called “Five Dollars.” “I got the meanest teacher in the school to star,” Emmett recalls. “I was mesmerized by the movie business.”
He says he had a transformative moment while working on the second unit of “The Hard Way” in New York City.
“They gave me a walkie-talkie so I could block traffic and I decided right then that I did not want to go back to acting,” he recalls. “I knew there were people who were better at it than me. I wound up at City College of New York and discovered that nobody wanted to be producer on student films except for me. Word got around that I was pretty good at pulling things together.”
Eventually, he produced the $50,000 “Eyes Beyond Seeing,” starring Henny Youngman and set in a psychiatric hospital. He moved to Los Angeles and went to work for Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer in the days when they were producing “Bad Boys,” “Crimson Tide” and “Dangerous Minds.”
Now, 15 years later, Emmett sees the upcoming Scorsese film as a major milestone. “One day I was doing $5 million and $10 million movies,” he enthuses, “and now I’m coming on to ‘Silence.’ When I met Martin, I told him that all I ever wanted to do was work with greatness. I can’t wait to start.”