Dan Fogelman had built a praiseworthy list of writing credits with such hits as “Cars,” “Tangled” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” But that didn’t bring the world clamoring to finance what he hoped would be his directorial debut — a dramedy about an over-the-hill rock star who rediscovers his soul.
The sound of doors slamming shut might have become deafening had his script not fallen into the hands of an ambitious recent film school graduate named Shivani Rawat.
With the financial backing of her godfather, 5-Hour Energy drink magnate Manoj Bhargava, Rawat turned Fogelman’s passion project, “Danny Collins,” from a might-have-been into a bigscreen reality. Starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer, it debuts in New York and Los Angeles on March 20.
“Danny Collins” only whetted the appetite of Rawat, 29. “I want to be in this for good,” she said. Bhargava has now funded three films for New York-based startup ShivHans Pictures, with budgets from $8 million to $14 million. He appears ready for more. “Shivani has the best instincts of anyone I know,” the entrepreneur said. He gave his goddaughter only one ultimatum: “that I could stay totally uninvolved in the business.”
Rawat and her team have impressed filmmakers by sticking to tough budgets while letting the talent have artistic free rein. Fogelman predicted his “Danny Collins” partner could become “the next Megan Ellison.”
Director Jay Roach, who is completing “Trumbo” with ShivHans, called Rawat “empowering and supportive.” Roach said the new company has a good shot of proving the financial and artistic viability of films in the low to middle budget range.
Growing up in New Jersey, the daughter of a successful investor, Shivani became mesmerized by movies like “Terminator” and “Jurassic Park.” Study at New York Film Academy and the New School broadened her cinematic palate.
The “two pillars” of her budding career became her father, Mahipal, and his best friend, Bhargava. The Fogelman script came to Rawat in 2012. Ten pages in, tears began to pool in her eyes. She told her future head of acquisitions, Nimitt Mankad, “We are making this movie.”
Bhargava subsequently bankrolled “Trumbo,” a fall release that stars Bryan Cranston as the blacklisted writer; and “Captain Fantastic,” another 2015 opener, starring Viggo Mortensen as a father who leaves a woodsy paradise and confronts the modern world.
All three films are to be distributed by New York-based Bleecker Street, in which Bhargava is an investor. “We make films with talented filmmakers and top talent, but we make them on a medium-scale budget,” Rawat said.
Rawat explained the ShivHans Pictures mandate to her production chief, Monica Levinson, this way: “We like to make movies that are artistic and creative, but without hangups — drama-free.”