IndieVest tries new business model

Production president taking 'managed risk approach'

With "St. John of Las Vegas," which opens in limited release Friday, new producer/distributor IndieVest is rolling the dice on a new business model.

Directed by Hue Rhodes, the film stars Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman and Romany Malco in a dramedy about an ex-gambler lured back to the tables.

Headed by president of production Mark Burton, the two-year-old company is more akin to a mutual fund than it is to an indie production company.

High net worth investors buy into IndieVest, which allows them the opportunity to invest in a slate of their choosing as well as to enjoy the perks of the indie film circuit, parties and all.

If a film does well, the company's investors stand first in line for a return on their investment -- a film's first-dollar gross goes back into investors' pockets. No distribution fees or other costs are deducted. For its own pockets, IndieVest holds a 10% back-end position.

So far, the company has raised about $10 million on "St. John of Las Vegas." Of that, $1 million will be spent to open the film, while an additional $4 million is being held back, to be used either to push the film onto more screens or to help investors recoup their losses.

"One of the things we advocate is a managed risk approach to investing in films," says Burton. "Our model works in a very dynamic way, so that the company enjoys the success but we're also a bit sheltered from films that don't fare so well. (Even) in failure we look to return 50 to 60% of their investment."

IndieVest says that "St. John" as a make-or-break release. The company is slated to go into production on an unnamed project in April, it and has two more lined up that could get underway in the summer.
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