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RISK TAKERS - Creative Financing: There Are As Many Ways To Put Together A Deal As There Are To Tell A Story.

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 15, 2016




So, How did you find your way into film financing?

I’ve always been interested in the creative arts. I was an actor through college and a musician afterward, but the starving musician thing wasn’t working for me. I went to UCLA Anderson School of Management and spent all my time doing internships and projects in the film industry. I worked for Dino De Laurentiis for a year while finishing my MBA, then spent the next 15 years as an entertainment lender with BofA, Paribas and Union Bank, financing all types of films, including Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, The Madness of King George and Air Force One (the first independently financed film with a budget over $100M). I left banking to form Endgame Entertainment with Jim Stern, where we raised private equity and created a wide variety of innovative financing structures to produce film and television projects over the last 14 years.

What’s the most recent project you’ve backed?

The Discovery directed by Charlie McDowell and staring Rooney Mara, Jason Segal and Robert Redford. We took the film to the market at AFM to sell foreign and had a lot of offers. Netflix came in wanting US SVOD rights and eventually bought the world. It turned out to be a good deal for everyone involved and extended our relationship with Netflix, which started in 2011.

When you’re looking at a project, how do you approach risk assessment?

As far as being a "Risk Taker”—after you have 30 years of experience financing entertainment projects and seeing how they go from script through release—­­­you get a feel for risk. Quality projects with entertaining stories are easier to finance. Then it is about the budget, your risk tolerance given the project in front of you and then structuring the financing to address your risk appetite.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken on a project?

Looper had a reasonably large equity risk from the start and was creatively and financially gratifying. We were able to bring a ton of financing pieces to the table: banking pre-sales, a Louisiana tax credit, a Chinese co-production structure, as well as financing 50% of the P&A as the first project in our new P&A fund. Financially, True Romance was the largest gap financing of the time. The last film I financed as a banker was Terminator 3 with a budget over $200M.

What’s a story that really connected with you in the last year? Which contemporary artists are telling the kinds of stories you want to see?

I thought that Birdman was an amazing example of how an original film can surprise and entertain you. And Rian Johnson is the man for me. I can’t wait to see what he’s done with Star Wars VIII and his story for Star Wars IX.

What’s the quickest way to make sure you will never back the project I’m pitching?

Pitching a tired story that brings nothing new to the table. The audience has no time (or money) for the same old thing.

 -illustration by Elana Lacey

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