Three weeks before the opening of the Toronto Film Festival, Media Content Capital and veteran film exec Paul Hanson are launching Covert Media to produce, finance and distribute three to four films a year.
The films will carry budgets in the $10 million to $50 million range, which is less popular with the six major studios, given their focus on tentpoles and franchises.
Media Content is led by financiers Sasha Shapiro and Anton Lessine. Hanson is the former co-founder and chief operating officer of QED International and served as chief operating officer of Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures for the past two years.
He will serve as co-founder and CEO of the new company. The company said Wednesday that it will expand into a broader spectrum of budget sizes and into other media such as episodic content.
Covert will also service and support the library and upcoming projects for QED, which has been owned by Media Content for the past three years. Those titles include the Bill Murray comedy “Rock the Kasbah”; “The Family Fang,” directed by Jason Bateman, who co-stars with Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken; “Franny,” starring Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning and Theo James; “Time Out of Mind,” starring Gere; and the thriller “Strange but True,” starring Imogen Poots, Bill Paxton and Melissa Leo.
Hanson co-founded QED in 2002 with Bill Block and oversaw all aspects of the company, including film financing, production and distribution activities. Notable projects during his tenure included Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9,” Oliver Stone’s “W.,” John Turturro’s “Fading Gigolo” and David Ayer’s “Sabotage.”
The company said it selected the Covert Media name from Hanson’s “quiet, effective, behind-the-scenes approach.”
“Paul has always been known as an extremely smart, hard-working professional who gets things done while fostering great relationships with talent,” said Shapiro and Lessine in a joint statement.
Media Content Capital bought a majority interest in QED in 2012, and Block departed earlier this year. QED Holdings then sued Block for trademark infringement and unfair competition, alleging he illegally used QED’s assets for personal gain — an allegation that Block’s attorney strongly denied. The federal judge handling the case ordered arbitration in July.
“We are restricted from commenting in detail by the confidentiality rules of arbitration where the case is still pending,” Shapiro and Lessine said. “We continue to vigorously prosecute our claims and we are quite confident that we will win.”
UPDATE, 4:53 p.m. — Block’s attorney Martin Singer responded to the comments from Shapiro and Lessine by issuing a statement: “QED has no news without using media to attempt their ad hominem strategy against Mr Block. We look forward to the depositions of Anton Lessine and Sasha Shapiro when their statements will be taken under oath.”