Filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney has teamed with Killer Content to launch Level Forward, a startup studio venture that aims to focus on backing projects driven by women and persons of color.
The goal is to offer creative partners a hub for producing a range of content for all platforms. The venture has $2 million in developing funding in place, and it plans to launch a philanthropic fund with the New York Women’s Foundation that will support non-profit orgs focused on helping survivors of harassment, abuse, and discrimination. The fund will be supported by proceeds from Level Forward productions.
“The best stories are birthed from the authentic experiences of the people who tell them,” said Disney. “Level Forward is committed to the vision of unlocking and amplifying storytelling from all corners and perspectives.”
Disney is working with Killer Content CEO Adrienne Becker in raising financing and assembling the venture, which expects to unveil its first round of creative partners at the Sundance Film Festival next week. Level Forward will assume the assets of Killer Content, which include the respected indie film company Killer Films, headed by Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler, and Killer Impact social action arm.
Plans for Level Forward came together during the past few months as Killer Content/Killer Impact, Disney, the New York Women’s Foundation and others banded together to field a bid for the Weinstein Co.
Weinstein Co. went on the block after the company’s fortunes were torpedoed last fall by the cascade of sexual assault and harassment allegations leveled against co-founder Harvey Weinstein by dozens of women going back decades.
“Level Forward” was the moniker that Killer Content and partners came up with to describe the vision for building a new company with the assets of Weinstein Co. Now that it appears Weinstein Co. is heading toward a deal with a rival investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Level Forward partners decided to move forward with their vision as a wholly startup venture. The name refers to the goal of leveling the playing field for women and others who have been at a disadvantage in the traditional Hollywood system, and moving forward into a more equitable marketplace for content.
“Today we are ‘Level Forward,’ tomorrow just ‘Forward.’ Until then, we will commit to our industry’s collaborative and ongoing imperative to level the playing field and support the creation of positive go-forward structures,” Becker said.
The company has been set up as a Public Benefit Corporation, which is similar to a non-profit in that its charter calls for serving the public good, but it allows for ownership by shareholders and for the company to be a profit-making entity.
Level Forward is also pledging to offer pay equity to all of its partners as well as flexibility in its dealmaking to offer incentives to creative partners.
The focus at Level Forward will be on bringing to life works that shine a light on substantive social and cultural issues. The intention is for the company to develop marketing and social outreach campaigns that will amplify the stories and the messages of projects beyond the screen.
(Pictured: Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler, Adrienne Becker)