Gordon Steel points to Compass

'Toad Trip' is first pic for production, finance entity

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Longtime international film broker Gordon Steel is setting up Compass Entertainment Media, a production and finance entity aimed at delivering big-budget theatrical pictures to the marketplace.

The first pic for the venture will be the live action/CGI animated family comedy "Toad Trip" from screenwriters Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson of the "Air Bud" franchise.

"This project marks our first foray into filling the demand in the international marketplace for theatrical-quality, television-friendly family entertainment," said Steel, who will also continue to run his distribution consultancy, the Steel Co.

Budgeted in the $25 million budget range, "Toad Trip" is a co-prod with finance outfit Social Capital Films and animation house Rhythm and Hues ("Alvin and the Chipmunks"), the latter of which is currently overseeing the pic's animation and character development.

"Toad Trip" had previously been set up at DreamWorks under Michael DeLuca and was acquired out of turnaround by Tamasy, who will also serve as a producer alongside Steel and Christopher Tuffin and Martin Shore of Social Capital Films. No director has yet been set.

As well as being under contract with foreign film distributors for strategic planning and product acquisitions, Steel has spent much of the past 30 years focusing on major Hollywood studio deals such as an ongoing Disney/Pony Canyon output arrangement in Japan and a recent Sony Home Entertainment partnership in France with broadcaster TF1. Steel's company also previously represented Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media and was integral in its first major transaction, involving some $500 million, with Marvel. Compass will be housed alongside the Steel Co. on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Despite the current downturn in the indie film biz and a number of bankruptcies among producer-distribs, Steel told THR he is optimistic Compass will go in a fruitful direction. "Repping major distributors all over the world means we will have our finger on the pulse of market tastes, we have access to capitol to fund and produce mainstream movies, and most importantly we know it all starts with a good script."

Throughout Steel's career his company has consulted for international players such as Rank, Canal Plus, Samsung and CJ Entertainment. The Scottish-born dealmaker has also been active in the world of investment banking, starting in 1990 with Roy Salter at Houlihan Lokey and subsequently at the Salter Group.

Along with funding from Social Capital, Compass is backed by Canadian media conglom Remstar and by foreign distribs Steel works with including Fujisankei, Tri Pictures, TF1, Zon Lusomundo and Ster Kinekor. Compass also has pacts with several unspecified high net-worth partners so that, per Steel, the new entity has "the capability to fully finance pictures and then set up distribution arrangements throughout the globe with the companies under contract." Steel has already exec produced several pics with Social Capital Films.

"Gordon was integral in our evolution from independent financier to a studio-level producer of quality product," Tuffin said. "As a result, we look forward to working closer on the production side with one of the few individuals who truly understands the appetites of global audiences."

Steel, who has a booth at the Loews Hotel during AFM, said an outside sales company will handle the pics Compass produces.