20 movers and shakers you've got to meet at AFM


Ashok Armritraj, chairman and CEO, Hyde Park Entertainment

Films financed -- "Moonlight Mile," "Bringing Down the House," "Street Fighter -- The Legend of Chun-Li"

Money to spend -- $250 million through a seven-year financing partnership with Imagenation Abu Dhabi

Business philosophy -- "One of the things I've always done through my career, which is now 30 years, is I've made different kinds of movies and tried to move with the marketplace. Now the marketplace calls for the higher end of indie films and studio caliber films to fill the void of New Line and the old Miramax, which is where we are positioning ourselves with 'Machete' and 'Unbound Captives.' On the other hand, if we find wonderful material that attracts actors, like 'Blue Valentine,' which has Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, we'll do those, too."

Matty Beckerman, CEO, Natural Selection

Films financed -- "The Experiment"

Money to spend -- $100 million-plus in private equity for 20 films during the next five years with budgets of $5 million-$30 million

Business philosophy -- "The tough economic environment has been good for companies like ours. Most of the fat has been trimmed and fewer films are being released. Yet, as we saw this past season, the public's appetite for film continues to grow. With the major studios cutting back their slates and focusing on big-budget tentpoles, distributors around the world are clamoring for the kind of movies we make. The fact is, this may well be the best time ever to be an independent producer."

Arianna Bocco, vp acquisitions and production, IFC Entertainment

Films acquired -- "Che," "Paranoid Park," "Antichrist," "Fish Tank," "Art of Steal"

Money to spend -- Up to $1 million (and sometimes higher) each for 24-26 films a year for day-and-date theatrical and VOD release via IFC Films and another six a month for exclusive VOD release via IFC Direct

Business philosophy -- "Nothing is an automatic pass. We look at every film from every angle and think, 'Can this work for us?' Sometimes the way it works for us
doesn't make the filmmaker happy, so we can't come to an agreement, and that's fine. It's kind of amazing to be able to take some risks every so often and buy films that you know will never find another outlet in the U.S. that can really help a filmmaker get off the ground."

Ed Borgerding, CEO, Abu Dabi Media and Imagenation Abu Dabi

Films financed -- "The Crazies," "Fair Game," "Fuzzy Vengeance," "The Way Back"

Money to spend -- Production funds with Participant Media ($250 million), National Geographic Entertainment ($100 million) and Hyde Park Entertainment ($100 million)

Business philosophy -- "Making good sound investments and running (them) in a professional way is really what we're trying to do. Home runs happen when they happen, but in the meantime you have to keep hitting singles and doubles and managing the business."

Jeannette Buerling, Magnet Media Group

Films financed -- "The Experiment," "13"

Money to spend -- Launched $250 million joint venture with Inferno in fall 2008; plans three to five films a year for $15 million-$60 million

Business philosophy -- "Nowadays, we basically say, 'If we cannot get at least 25% of a movie presold, it's not a movie that should be made.' A lot of movies were made in these past years that were not only too expensive, but also shouldn't have been made for quality reasons. The reason was they were easy to sell. Then the recession hit and now people can only buy what they can really distribute in their market for a price they can actually pay. That means that Hollywood is forced to do more commercial films, rather than art house and drama, for feasible budgets."

P. John Burke, attorney, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Films financed -- Closed the $600 million/60-film Dune Entertainment deal with Fox Filmed Entertainment; represented Comerica as collateral agent for senior debt in $1 billion Summit Entertainment transaction

Money to spend -- Represents Hollywood investments for multibillion-dollar SGF development fund of Quebec and other sovereign wealth funds

Business philosophy -- "There's going to be a real opportunity here to release independent films in about nine to 12 months, because the market will have cleared itself out and there will be distribution, theaters and all sorts of other things available then that are not available now. But in order to be prepared for that, you have to greenlight your picture (now) and starting making it."

Robert Darwell, attorney, Sheppar Mullin Richter & Hampton

Films financed -- "Milk," "Che," "Brokeback Mountain," "Obsessed," "The Queen," "Taking Woodstock," "9"; upcoming: "The Details"

Money to spend -- From the $650,000 documentary "Lost and Found" to the two-part $65 million biopic "Che"

Business philosophy -- "I was a waiter throughout college. I view my job as a lawyer very much the same way. It's kind of like I'm waiting on tables all day long, juggling a variety of different clients, all of whom want to feel as if they're first priority. It's very service-oriented. Our group doesn't do much motion picture work on a contingency basis. Given the current challenges in raising financing, we would be all the more reluctant to take on projects on a spec basis."

Hopwood DePree, CEO, TicTock Studios

Films financed -- "Tug," "What's Wrong With Virginia"

Money to spend -- Two to three films a year with budgets less than $10 million

Business philosophy -- "The last few films we've done have been with first-time directors. We're looking to give filmmakers, artists and actors a chance to really be heard. We want to find projects that we really love and that are created by people who have the right philosophy in life. We're a business, but if the people involved don't seem to have a positive attitude or a passion for the project that extends beyond cash flow return, that may not be the project for us."

Jean-Luc De Fanti, managing partner, Winchester Capital Management

Films financed -- "The Men Who Stare at Goats," "The Private Life of Pippa Lee," "The Killing Room"

Money to spend -- Fully finance three to four films a year in the $10 million-$40 million range; gap and tax credit financing on variety of other projects

Business philosophy -- "In the past, we've done investments that were below $5 million and ones in the high $20 million (range). But going forward I think our range is probably going to be $10 million-$40 million. On the tax credits, we can make loans or advances that are smaller than $10 million, but (given) the amount of time and energy it takes to service an investment and the producers, and monitor the production and so on, anything where we put to work less than, say, $8 million-$10 million would have to be very exciting for other reasons."

Guy East, president, Exclusive Media

Films financed -- "The Resident," "The Way Back," "Let Me In"

Money to spend -- $100 million fund from Cyrte Investments to make two to three films a year for its feature film divisions -- Spitfire Pictures and the revived British horror house Hammer Films -- as well as acquire titles for distribution

Business philosophy -- "We can finance a number of films on our own, but we're very happy to have partners. When we make our Hammer films, we're not looking to make slasher gore porn. We're looking to make sophisticated horror-thrillers like 'The Resident,' starring Oscar-winner Hilary Swank. And at Spitfire we're trying to make what you'd call award-winning movies. We work with a lot of famous Hollywood writers, like Chris McQuarrie, Stuart Beattie, Bill Broyles."

Amit Khanna, chairman, Reliance Big Entertainment

Films financed -- Equal partners with DreamWorks via a $325 million co-financing agreement in addition to co-production deals with various Hollywood banners of stars such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, among others

Money to spend -- Through various "silo arrangements" Reliance provides initial development money to the talent-controlled production labels and gives Reliance the option to co-finance the emerging projects alongside the talent's U.S. studio partner, if existing first-look deals are in place. Silo projects include "Things They Left Behind," a Stephen King short story about Sept. 11 survivors; Thurston Clarke's book "The Last Campaign"; and David Dorfman's script "It's a Miserable Life."

Business philosophy -- "While enhancing our various activities in India, our strategy of going international is part of our overall philosophy to be present across the value chain, from production to theatrical to digital to postproduction. We are not only co-producing films in Hollywood, we also run 240 theaters in the U.S. and acquired the film restoration division of California-based DTS (for $7.5 million in cash in April). In addition to our partnership with DreamWorks, we have independent production agreements with top banners run by A-list Hollywood stars such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, among others. There are 30 projects at various stages of development as part of these deals outside of projects being developed by DreamWorks. We are also co-producing two films with Kintop Pictures run by L.A.-based producer Deepak Nayar."

Mickey Liddell, Liddell Entertainment

Films financed -- "The Haunting of Molly Hartley," "The Details"

Money to spend -- Produce three to four films a year with budgets of $5 million-$20 million, acquire others for distribution (e.g. "Good Hair," "The Collector")

Business philosophy -- "We're all over the place. We have 'Good Hair,' which is an African-American documentary with Chris Rock, all the way to horror movies. We're just looking at things that are kind of falling between the cracks, but can get out to the public and actually make money. A lot of people are staying away from adult dramas, but I still think there are great adult dramas and comedies. It just a matter of finding the right price and hitting the target audience for it."

Noel Lohr, managing director, Incentive Filmed Entertainment

Films financed -- "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits," "Blue Valentine"

Money to spend -- $100 million to fully fund up to 10 features a year budgeted up to $15 million

Business philosophy -- "With the current state of the foreign sales market and the lack of domestic distribution opportunities, when we look at films, we really have to focus on the presale potential given the budget, and not only will we be able to sell it, but how quickly. If it's the type of film that will not really generate a lot of sales until people see the final product and like it, it's probably not a film that's going to be greenlit."

Schuyler Moore, attorney, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

Films financed -- Closed the $800 million DreamWorks-Ambani deal; set up $100 million production fund Natural Selection; engineered Dutch-based Cyrte Investments acquisition of Spitfire Pictures and Imagenation Abu Dhabi's $100 million partnership with Hyde Park Entertainment

Money to spend -- $5 million-$100 million

Business philosophy -- "I like the keep-it-simple-stupid approach. Keep the documents short and try to get to the finish line with the least theatrics. Instead of worrying about every imaginable risk people can worry about, I try to deal with the big issues and then close the deals with the least amount of paper work and the least screaming. You can always break a deal down into three issues -- money in, money out and control. I focus on those."

David Molner, founder/managing director, Screen Capital International

Films financed -- "Blue Valentine," "Blink," "W," "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt," "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits"; upcoming: "Paranormal Activity" sequel

Money to spend -- Partnered with William Morris Entertainment in Incentive Filmed Entertainment, a $100 million vehicle designed to fully fund up to 10 features a year budgeted up to $15 million

Business philosophy -- "The future of the business is figuring out how to not overpay for content and how to market differently in a world that's based on the interaction that's created today. The other side of our business has been hunting distressed opportunities. We've made a lot more corporate loans to companies big and small that have entertainment assets and need cash, and that's a good thing to focus on right now as opposed to doing the same old business of gap finance."

Gigi Pritzker, Odd Lot Entertainment

Films financed -- "The Wedding Planner," "Buried Alive," "The Spirit"; upcoming: "From Prada to Nada" (aka "Sense and Sensibilidad")

Money to spend -- Three to four films a year with budgets between $5 million and $60 million, with an additional three to four acquisitions

Business philosophy -- "We like peppering our slate with smaller, midsize and big projects. I think if there's one thread in the stuff that I'm attracted to, it's interesting social comment. For example, we're working on an adaptation of the book that Walter Isaacson wrote about Einstein ("Einstein: His Life and Universe") with (screenwriter) Stephen Schiff. There are a lot of ways to make different movies about Einstein, but ours really focuses on the moral dilemmas that he faced."

Neil Sacker, president and CEO, the Film Department

Films financed -- "The Rebound," "Law Abiding Citizen"

Money to spend -- Launched in 2007 with $200 million fund; looking to make four or five films per year between $10 million and $45 million, plus pick up additional four to five for distribution

Business philosophy -- "The thing that has really differentiated us is that we have a really deep development slate, so we can have a reliable, steady flow of product. But when projects come along that are packaged, we can still be opportunistic. We're also most of the way to setting up our own distribution entity. Being able to ensure the international buyers that you have U.S. distribution from the get-go is a big benefit."

Rick Schwartz, CEO, Overnight Prods.

Films financed -- "The Lucky Ones," "13," "Machete"

Money to spend -- Private investments and bank financing to take 25%-35% equity stake in three films a year in $10 million-$40 million range

Business philosophy -- "It's a matter of being judicious in what you make and not blindly saying, 'Hey, let's make a movie and hope that someone goes to see it.' Our model is really, 'Let's make a movie for the right number,' and when you make things independently, you can generally make them for less than the studios. We want the studios to say, 'They've got this thriller that we would've made for $50 million. They made it for $20 million.' You have to make the economics too good for them to pass up. Obviously, the movie has to be good."

James D. Stern, CEO, Endgame Entertainment

Films financed -- "The Brothers Bloom," "An Education," "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy"

Money to spend -- Three to five films a year with budgets of $10 million-$40 million

Business philosophy -- "The world is changing, we still need product. The most important thing is to figure out how people can make movies for prices that are commensurate with revenues. I don't think the industry can exist the way it has. If you go out and make a movie and you know it's worth $3 million domestic and everybody's bidding $1.5 million, the distributor is going to be chortling about that, but at the same time, they're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg."

Chris Tuffin, Social Capital

Films financed -- "The Countess," "Tell-Tale," "2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams," "Dark Tide"

Money to spend -- $2 million-$20 million on two to three films a year

Business philosophy -- "As a producer, I came up through the horror business. I didn't come up at a time when there was so much money in the marketplace that you could recklessly go out and make a movie that was all about the upside with no downside protection. We're increasingly going into more ambitious projects, which sometimes means they're riskier, too. My job is to engineer down the risk on those endeavors so that the creative can have the biggest canvas possible without having such a big canvas that they start painting off the edges."