Industry voices

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CASSIAN ELWES,
President, William Morris Independent
"They have been extremely important to independent film. At a time when a lot of foreign sales companies were being more circumspect about the films they were making and their foreign value, Avi Lerner has always gone with his gut and has consistently been able to sell those films, thereby becoming a major buyer in Hollywood. He is a very, very hard negotiator -- he has yelled at me many times! But whenever the deal was done, he always stuck to the terms, whether they were in writing or not, as a total gentleman. People respect him a lot, though they also find him amusing because he is always talking about how he wants 'action, action action.' And with his accent, the word comes out as 'ick-tion!'

"He is a genius. Brilliant. Probably the best businessman in the international sales business. He knows how to shoot his movies to a price, maximize every benefit that's out there, and he is extremely lucky to have Danny Dimbort as his partner, who can sell virtually anything, along with Trevor Short, the master of all co-productions. He has a great team around him. Occasionally, I can force him into a small art house film as a favor, and he moans and moans all the time while he is making the film. But then when we see it together, he is secretly proud of it -- films like (2006's) 'The Tenants' and (2005's) 'The Chumscrubber' and Kevin Bacon's (2006) film 'Loverboy.' Everyone pigeonholes him, but I know he has a soft spot for art house cinema."

RANDALL EMMETT,
Producer
"I have been in business with Avi for about five years, and we have made together probably 30-something movies, from 2006's '16 Blocks' to (the upcoming) '88 Minutes' to (2006's 'The Wicker Man'). There is nobody better at understanding the terms than Avi. What he has always taught me is, the movie business is a business. You want to keep the integrity of being creative, but you don't have to spend $100 million to make the same movie with the same quality of people. You can make it for half the price. He does that by being very creative. We make the movies without the overhead costs of the studios, and every dollar means something.

"Avi is the king at finding incentives around the world and knowing you have to shoot in places that are filmmaker-friendly. Avi is a master at putting these movies together, and Danny is a master at selling them, and that combination has given them an unbelievable run."

AMIR MALIN,
Founder, Qualia
"I first met Avi, Danny, and Trevor at MIFED in fall 1993. They were just getting off the ground, and we were just into our initial launch of October Films, where I was president. Avi was selling (a 1994) Eric Roberts film called 'Freefall.' I saw the film and thought it had great potential. I went into the Nu Image booth, and Avi and I hit it off immediately. We then spent a few hours negotiating. (Later,) I generated $4.5 million in advances. I told Avi what I had done. He told me, 'I don't want to sell you any more films. I want you to take my films for nothing and sell them in the domestic market.'

"It was at that point we struck up a strategic partnership between Nu Image and October Films: Nu Image would finance and produce the films, and Danny would sell them overseas. I would sell them domestically, and October would make a nice sales agency fee. This partnership was extremely advantageous for both parties. If it were not for the fees that we earned from Nu Image, there would have been some lean days at October. Don't let their poker faces fool you. These are some of the warmest, wisest and (most) charitable guys you'll meet in this business."

IRWIN WINKLER,
Director, "Home of the Brave."
"Avi is a risk-taker. (2006's) 'Home of the Brave' was a very risky project, but once we got going, he never wavered. He was true to his word, and whenever we had a problem, he was there. He was incredibly supportive, and whenever he said something, he stuck to it.
"Avi likes to see himself as an outsider. He is like Sam Goldwyn. Goldwyn always called himself an outsider -- he prided himself on that -- and Sam Goldwyn also put up his own money to finance movies, while all the others were financed by major studios. Avi is the same way. He doesn't run around seeing if he can sell off the rights first. He makes up his mind and then tries to sell it afterward. That is a real risk."    
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