Adam Fogelson on Joining Robert Simonds' Studio: "There's No History, There's No Baggage"

Adam Fogelson Robert Simonds Split - H 2014
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Adam Fogelson Robert Simonds Split - H 2014

The former Universal Pictures chief has been named chairman of Bob Simonds' ambitious new film studio

After a year of reflection and ferrying his two daughters to dance and soccer practice, Adam Fogelson is back in the business of making movies.

On Wednesday, the former Universal Pictures chief was named chairman of the motion picture group at Bob Simonds' ambitious new film and television studio, which has amassed more than $1 billion in financing from TPG Growth, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, leading Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, Gigi Pritzker via DNS Capital and the business interests of Beau Wrigley.

Despite overseeing Universal's biggest winning streak in history, Fogelson was unceremoniously asked to leave the studio in September 2013 as parent company Comcast installed Jeff Shell to oversee the studio. Fogelson served in the top Universal job for five years.

Read more Source: Universal's Adam Fogelson Kept in Dark, Blindsided by Shake-up

Simonds' yet-to-be-named studio intends to make eight to 10 movies a year with budgets in the $20 million to $60 million-plus range. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Simonds and Fogelson talked about their new partnership, what life has been like for Fogelson without the trappings of a studio chairmanship and how Adam's brother, Noah, played an instrumental role in the hire.

Adam, there were reports you were in contention for former vice chairman Jeff Blake's job at Sony. Why this, and not a big studio?

Fogelson: I think it's dangerous to get too flowery at the beginning of any situation because you will end up eating some of your words, but it's hard for me to come up with a more perfect scenario. It's a chance to do everything about running a motion picture company that I love, but in an entrepreneurial, start-up environment. There's no baggage, there's no history, there are no hard-and-fast rules other than what kind of movies do you want to make, who do you want to work with and how do you most efficiently create the best quality content for a new company. That's the only mandate.

You have never spoken publicly about your forced exit from Universal. Are you resentful?

Fogelson: No, no. Absolutely not. To be honest, it’s been an incredible year. It will sound like a bunch of cliches, but when you are in this business, you never truly get a break or a vacation. Yes, you go away, but you're on your iPhone and email seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Most people don’t voluntarily step off that treadmill. You're just on it. People giggle when I say this, but I not only got to drop off my kids off at school, I got to pick them up. I got to take them to dance class, and I got to go to soccer practice and make them dinner at 5 o'clock. I may never have that opportunity again. It was one of the most rejuvenating experiences of my life.

Bob, how did Adam's hire come about?

Simonds: When we were building our company and raising our funding, which actually closed in March, we were talking about making a certain type of movie the major studios aren't making  as much as they used to. The exception was Adam at Universal, who made these kinds of movies and did them exceptionally well, including Bridesmaids, Identify Thief, Safe House and Contraband. So we started talking to Adam, who had a ton of options on his table, about what we could do to entice him to come over as a producer. And then Adam, through his brother, Noah Fogelson, who is a key architect of our company as head of strategy and general counsel, knew what we were doing and how real we are.

Fogelson: It’s hard to think of too many times in the last many, many years to create a movie company this well capitalized and with this much broad support.

Why hasn't your new studio announced any film projects yet?

Simonds: We wanted to have everything in place before we figure out which we're were going to do. Adam isn't going to rush anything into production, but we are as motivated as any human beings on the planet to make a lot of good things fast because we’ve got the money sitting there. We need to deploy it.

Read more Producer Robert Simonds Partners With TPB, China's Hony Capital for New Studio Venture

When do you envision releasing your first film?

Fogelson: I would say somewhere between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.

Simonds: We really are trying to fill a vacuum that the studios have created. The normal Hollywood approach is to have a super-charged production company and then go to the studios for distribution and marketing. We can do our own marketing and distribution, and there's no better way to do that than to hire people who  actually have been doing it at the major studios.

Will you make buy finished films or will your slate be all in-house productions?

Fogelson: The stated focus of the company will continue to be self-generated, $20 million to $60 million-plus, star-driven movies. I think if you look at the films in the zero to $80 million range that we made at Universal when I was there — I think there were 35 to 40 movies — we are going to look at any and all that make good business sense for the company.

Earlier this month, you hired veteran marketing executive Oren Aviv to serve as president and chief content officer of the motion picture group. Will he personally run marketing?

Fogelson: I suspect we will hire a head of marketing who works with him, as well as a head of production.

And what about the studio's name?

Simonds: Great question. Shortly.

Fogelson: As long as there is a name and logo by the time our first movie comes out, we’ll be in great shape.