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RISK TAKERS - No Costumes, No Capes: Championing Movies For Grown-Ups

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 10, 2018




Every producer has at least one “movie that changed my life.” What’s yours, and why?

For me it was definitely Fences. It’s a piece of material with an incredible pedigree, and it was a privilege to help bring August Wilson’s words to life. Also Fences was the movie where I met my partner, Joseph F. Ingrassia, who was an investor in the film, and out of that opportunity came Romulus. He’s been an amazing partner. We’re cut from very similar cloth.


Lord knows, there are easier and more reliable ways to make a living than by making independent movies. What draws you to film as a business opportunity?

I consider myself truly blessed to have the capital and the resources we have to make the movies that the studios aren’t willing to make, like these prestige dramas and passion projects we make for talent. Studios have stopped making them, so we’ve stepped into this lane. There are no superhero costumes or capes in our movies. We want to tell stories that have a social impact and give people an opportunity to see films that are artistic, powerful, that get them to think.


What’s a project you’re excited about backing right now?

I’m really excited about the film I just wrapped this week, The Banker. It’s the true story of two African-Americans who tried to buy real estate in Texas and Los Angeles in the 1960s, but due to racism and segregation weren’t able to get approved for mortgages until they found a white handyman to be their front man. While the film has a civil rights core, the story is told like a heist movie. All of the issues raised by the film are completely relevant today … the nature of discrimination, how people are treated as outsiders and the struggle to find a way inside. The moment I heard about the film, I knew this was our kind of story.


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

We did a movie called Driven, which we filmed last year in Puerto Rico, during and after Hurricane Maria. As the hurricane was bearing down, everyone got sent home. We didn’t know if the locations were going to be standing or salvageable or whether insurance was going to pay. We hadn’t funded yet and could have easily walked away from it, but we decided the movie was too important to us. We bet on the film, on our amazing cast and crew, and the people of Puerto Rico. Everyone there gave us so much support when we returned. It was a great feeling to be able to help keep our crew working so they could take care of their families during this terrible tragedy, as well as invest some money into the local economy at a time when they really needed it. We were so thankful for the support of the people and the government in Puerto Rico that we ultimately dedicated the movie to them.


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

By telling me that you just want us to finance and not be involved in producing the movie. We’re a financing and production company. We don’t just drop money into a project and walk away. I physically produce every film we make and try to be involved as early as possible so we can weigh in on all of the elements. If my name is going on it, then I am going to make damn sure that it is the best possible version of the film that audiences will see.

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