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The company just closed a two-year first-look renewal with New Line, its home for the past 14 years, and will soon celebrate a decade and a half in Hollywood. The duo are coming off a year that saw Benderspink produce the comedies The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (with Steve Carrell’s Carousel Productions) and We’re the Millers. Millers has crossed $250 million worldwide and is a bigger hit domestically then The Hangover Part III, on which they also have a producing credit.
“We’ve seen partnerships come and go, particularly within the management and production world,” says Bender. “But we are loyalists. And it’s nice to be still together and doing the same thing.”
“They are quite a pair; they’ve been together longer than most Hollywood marriages,” says Rawson Marshall Thurber, who directed Millers. Thurber worked closely with Bender on the hit comedy and describes Bender as “part on-set therapist and part old-school Hollywood producer, putting out fires left and right while being an incredibly decent human being. That’s rare in this town.”
Bender’s connection to New Line actually goes back further than 14 years. It was the first place he interned out of college, in the company’s distribution office in New York. When he moved to Los Angeles, he began working for the production-management firm Zide-Perry, where Spink later began as an intern. The two decided to partner and branched off in 1998.
The company has been involved in the initial installments of the American Pie comedies, was instrumental in 2009’s The Hangover, and made a play into TV with ABC Family’s Kyle XY. In 2005, it produced the comedy hit Monster-In-Law, followed that up with David Cronenberg’s most accessible movie in years, the Oscar-nominated A History in Violence, and closed it with Red Eye and Just Friends.
“In the last 14 years they’ve grown from the manager-producer label to full-fledged producers,” says New Line’s president of production Richard Brener. “And in their quiver, they have all the arrows required in a producer, whether it’s talent relations, pinpointing the right material, or execution.”
The company weathered a contraction in the late 2000’s but rebounded with a reconfiguration. Jake Weiner is now a partner and head of production, as the once-upstarts now find themselves leading a younger crop of hungry execs. Ryan Revel is head of talent, Elisa Oliveras is head of TV, and Jake Wagner is head of management.
And it could be entering another busy period. Benderspink just put Marvel storyboard artist Federico D’Alessandro on its low-budget creature feature Lockdown at Franklin High and has several projects in active development: Y: The Last Man at New Line, Agatha at Paramount, Criminal at Millennium and an untitled female action project at Summit.
There also is talk of a sequel to Millers, with New Line about to start a search for writers.
The two say they have seen a lot of changes since starting out.
“As long as I have been producing, people say it’s been getting harder and harder,” says Bender. “In some respect it has, but from my point of view it is constantly changing. You have to adapt to the changes, the technology, the different mediums. But on the other hand, you have to not lose sight of the goal of making entertaining movies that feel fresh. They will find their way. Oddly, I’ve gone from being a young optimist, to a young cynic to an older optimist.”
Spink, on the other hand, laments the nosedive taken by the spec script market and Hollywood’s overreliance on branded properties.
“It’s really become an IP business and it’s left movies that are less creative, I think,” he says. “But I remain optimistic that good material will rise to the top.”
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