Berlin: The Solution's Myles Nestel on Pierce Brosnan Playing a Better Bond in 'November Man' (Q&A)
UPDATED: Coming off a hot streak at Sundance, Nestel talks to THR about the parallels between moviemaking and real estate and how to slash a budget fast (shoot in Serbia).
Growing up in London, Myles Nestel spent his summer holidays ensconced at his dad’s postproduction company in Soho. Nestel, 45, fell in love with the movie business, but he also loved number crunching, so after graduating from the London School of Economics, he embarked on a career in film financing, moving in 1996 to Los Angeles for British bank NatWest before doing stints at various companies, including Cobalt Media.
Next, he raised $100 million on Wall Street and launched Oceana Media. Today, he and veteran sales agent Lisa Wilson run The Solution Entertainment Group, a financing, production and foreign sales boutique that has burst onto the scene with a slate of films including two 2014 Sundance titles that quickly have found U.S. homes, the dark comedy Laggies and Cooties, a horror-comedy from Solution’s genre label Synchronicity, headed by Ruzanna Kegeyan.
The Solution and its strategic partner Siren Studios have set up a $50 million revolving equity fund to finance six to 10 movies a year (Siren also provides overhead). In addition to its own slate of films, Solution represents international rights to third-party titles, such as Infinitely Polar Bear, another Sundance film that Sony Pictures Classics has picked up for the U.S. and that Wilson is selling in Berlin.
Nestel sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about his induction into Sundance and why the company’s upcoming spy thriller The November Man features Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond-like character Nestel always wanted to see.
Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, starring Keira Knightley, sparked a bidding war at Sundance before U.S. rights were picked up by A24 for an estimated $2 million. How did the project come about?
We saw an article about the project’s announcement and called UTA. The next day, we met with Anonymous Content and committed to financing it.
Sundance is famous for its all-night dealmaking sessions. Did that happen with Laggies?
The official offers didn’t come in until the day after the premiere. We had six or seven. I don’t think I left the room on Saturday. That night, I was at the midnight premiere of Cooties and I got an email from [UTA agent] Rich Klubeck saying that A24 wanted to close the deal. I said, “Can’t I wait until the movie ends?” and he said, “No,” so I ran back up to our house. UTA and CAA closed the deal around 2 a.m.
Was it nerve-racking?
No. It was a really good high. As a deal guy, that’s what you love. Cooties took a little longer, but Lionsgate is the right distributor. What’s great is that every movie we’ve financed or been involved in now has a U.S. theatrical release.
When are you going to start shopping The November Man?
I’m not sure. It’s one of those movies that plays great with an audience. Pierce [Brosnan] is back to spy mode. I like to think this is the James Bond he always wanted to play. The character isn’t so debonair and his edges are slightly rougher. I’m kind of a Bond freak, so this is a passion project.
What is the biggest challenge right now in terms of film financing?
I think it is relatively straightforward. We’ve been very successful because Lisa [Wilson] and her team have a great nose for product, and if you get great product that can attract cast and a director. The critical thing we bring to the table is budget discipline. Movies live or die by their budget. The new dynamic is not, “Oh, I can make this movie for $12 million, here’s $12 million.” It’s, “This movie has to be made for $6 [million],” and then you make it work.
What is the range of your budgets?
We’ve done everything from $1 million to $30 million. I would think the max for an independent movie — unless you are making a Martin Scorsese movie — is $40 million to $45 million. You have to be creative. November Man was originally set in Berlin, but we rewrote it so that we could shoot it in Serbia, which was significantly cheaper.
How would you describe your brand?
The name Solution is very important to me, because it’s what we do. When producers come to us and they don’t know how to put their movies together, we help them. We want to make quality theatrical-level product that has longevity and franchise-ability in certain cases.
Is November Man a potential franchise?
Yes. And Cooties has franchise possibilities. And in June we’ll start shooting Mara with [Oblivion’s] Olga Kurylenko, which is a great horror franchise that we’re financing.
Why do people with money still want to invest in movies?
It’s exciting and glamorous. Everybody wants to be in Hollywood, right? A lot of real estate people get into the movie business, because real estate is similar. The architectural plans are the script, and just as you pre-lease your building, you pre-sell your film through foreign sales. And the building process is like shooting. I’ve never been more positive about the amount of capital there is. Knowing the people we are in business with and knowing the balance sheets they control, it’s very interesting because in some ways it’s more positive than it’s been in the past 10 years.
Do you miss England?
When I first started off, I wanted to be a big producer and get England out of its cottage-industry status. But that didn’t happen. I figured I’d do it in L.A. instead. And then once you’re here for a couple of years, your blood thins and the weather is too cold anywhere else. (Laughs.) But seriously, for me and for what I do, L.A. is the place to be and I can’t go back. Maybe one day.