Content venture Level Forward was born out of anger and frustration during the Weinstein Co. sale process earlier this year.
Adrienne Becker, CEO of Killer Content (parent of Killer Films), and filmmaker/investor Abigail Disney joined forces in January to launch a female-led studio that aims to redistribute some of its proceeds to non-profit orgs fighting gender discrimination and sexual harassment, among other causes.
Killer Content and Abigail Disney, who is the granddaughter of Walt Disney Co. co-founder Roy Disney, had been pursuing the acquisition of Weinstein Co. assets in the hopes of using them as the engine of a company that would support female-empowerment organizations and initiatives — a reaction to the horrifying allegations of sexual assault leveled at Harvey Weinstein. But as the partners developed concerns about the level of transparency in the auction process, Killer Content and Disney decided to go it alone.
Six months later, Disney and Becker have formally raised the curtain on Level Forward, which is based in Los Angeles and New York. Disney is chairman while Becker serves as CEO, based in Los Angeles. Abigail Disney is providing the initial seed money for the company, which has also attracted other private investors. Disney declined to specify the size of her investment. Becker described it as offering the fledgling venture “plenty of runway to bring people on, make producer pod deals and investments.” The company is also still in the hunt for library and IP assets to acquire, Becker said.
“We are working with a wonderful group of investors who believe in the mission and the team and the creative relationships we are making,” Becker said. Some investors are signing on as equity players while some are investing in the portfolio of projects coming together under the Level Forward banner. Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler’s Killer Films banner is also part of Level Forward.
The company’s focus is championing projects spearheaded by female creatives and persons of color. “It matters what people see on the screen,” Disney said. “It matters who’s on screen and it matters what happens to people on screen. It shapes our expectations for ourselves and for the world and for the people around them.”
Level Forward has ambition to produce movies and TV shows, theater, digital content and live experiential events. Rachel Gould is co-founder of Level Forward and head of business affairs. Angie Wang is co-founder and member of the board.
Among the venture’s initial creative advisers are producer Christina Norman, formerly an executive at MTV, Broadway producer Eva Price (“Dear Evan Hansen”), and film veterans Stephanie Allain and Donna Gigliotti.
Level Forward-affiliated projects in the works include “Jagged Little Pill,” the Alanis Morissette musical that Price is shepherding with hopes of landing on Broadway. Documentary filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick are working on a film about the #MeToo movement. Level Forward is working with digital content firm Refinery29 on a short-form content series. Rocker Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are working on an adult animation series titled “Welcometo the Jungle” that will incorporate the pair’s music. Part of the company’s pitch to the creative community is that Level Forward can offer them more creative control and greater upside in success than a larger studio.
Level Forward promises to “bake in” social action and community outreach efforts into all of its projects, with 10% of profits going to relevant non-profit and community-based organizations. As an example, Becker said company vows to decommission at least 10 real guns for every fake gun featured in any of its productions.
“We are a new-breed entertainment company,” she said. “We are committed to leveling the playing field in this business and advancing economic and industry transformation.”