DANCING ON THE EDGE
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
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
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