A multicultural entrepreneur at heart, Adrian Politowski has turned his Belgium-based Umedia venture into an international film financing powerhouse over the course of 10 years. The company, which started with three employees in a Brussels basement, now employs over 100 people and boasts subsidiaries in London, Los Angeles, Paris and Brussels.
A Sweden-born, Oxford-educated businessman who has Polish and Bangladeshi origins, Politowski — with partners Nadia Khamlichi, Jeremy Burdek — has recently expanded Umedia’s scope, diving into film production and developing TV series
“When we started a decade ago we were only providing services, raising money from tax rebates, and through the years we’ve gained knowledge of the film industry and cultivated a large network that we’re now able to tap into to produce our own content,” Politowski says. He adds that he would like Umedia to lead-produce or co-produce six to eight projects a year.
To date, he’s been involved via Umedia in 230 films, including Oscar-winning “The Artist” and “Black Book.”
Umedia has been playing an active role in the financing of European movies, many of which lense in Belgium to take advantage of the tax rebate.
Following the government shakeup of the local tax shelter implemented last year, Umedia has moved deeper into production to diversify and own rights.
However, Umedia continues to raise substantial coin via the tax shelter. Last year, the company said it raised €58 million ($65 million) for approximately 30 features and TV projects, including Ben Stassen’s “Tuesday’s Tale,” Julio Soto’s “Deep,” and Steve Barker’s “Generation Z.”
Politowski says, “Umedia will remain open to a wide range of French films to finance each year.” The shingle for instance backed Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent” and Eric Lartigau’s “La Famille Belier.” However, on the production side, the topper is “mainly targeting movies with strong commercial appeal budgeted in the $10 million to $30 million range.”
Among the high-profile projects on Umedia’s development slate are Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Correspondence” and Skip Woods’ “Universal War One.” As the company looks to own rights and build a library, it’s become increasingly proactive in sourcing and optioning material. For instance, the company picked up the remake rights to Pierre Salvadori’s “Hors de Prix” and tapped Thomas Bezucha to direct the English-language redo.
Meanwhile, Umedia is structuring the financing from Europe and handling the physical production on “The Crow,” a project that Relativity Media is lead-producing.
Up next, Politowski aims to conquer the TV landscape, following the model that applies to its film production. The outfit is looking into commercial material, mainly premium miniseries based on historical events or best-selling novels
As for expanding its geographic footprint, Politowski hopes to try tapping into the Chinese market by collaborating with local partners, although he admits that he doesn’t plan to open an actual office there. “Julian Soto’s ‘Deep’ marks the first time we worked hand-in-hand with an Asian producer and we hope they’ll be many more,” Politowski says.
But for now, Umedia is eying an expansion of its L.A.-based branch. “We’ve come a long way: Three or four years ago nobody knew Umedia. Today, however, we’re seen as a strong international player.”
Mandalay’s Cathy Schulman, who is producing Mike Figgis’ “Exit 147” says: “Umedia’s unique business structure, global reach and European production expertise makes them an ideal partner for American independent films. They are always on the lookout for unique and cutting-edge financing strategies.”