Guggenheim sets up film fund


NEW YORK -- Financial services firm Guggenheim Partners is launching its first film finance initiative, spearheaded by founding ThinkFilm executive Daniel Katz.

The initiative is part of a Guggenheim division that manages $10 billion. Katz will lead funding for independent feature producers with slates of about four to 12 films budgeted in the $5 million-$12 million range. The money will be used for production financing, P&A and distribution financing for independent features, studio films and corporate financing as opportunities arise.

"We're trying to empower filmmakers that are businessmen," Katz said. "This initiative is primarily for a handful of first-class producers interested in putting together a library of films and expanding the scope of their abilities, giving them the power to sell these films on their own. Studios are focusing almost exclusively on tentpoles and franchises, and we'd love to be the financial engine to fill the void they've left behind."

The practice also will support existing production companies that want to increase their production capacity, own more of their content, beef up their libraries and maintain and control the way their films are distributed.

Katz said he began meeting with people in the entertainment financing arena during his trip last year to the Festival de Cannes, and he approached Guggenheim with the idea for the venture a few months ago while he was ThinkFilm's vp acquisitions. Guggenheim had been considering a similar enterprise.

While it's an unusual transition for someone on the creative side of the business to move into film financing, the executive said his background makes him well-suited for his new position.

"After more than eight years in production, distribution, acquisitions and international sales, I know what it's like to be on the ground and experience the same obstacles and challenges as independent producers," Katz said, "so I'm better equipped to empower and invest in them and know what they need to succeed."

Katz served as an executive producer on two ThinkFilm projects, the Beastie Boys concert film "Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!" and the upcoming bestiality docu "Zoo." Since his start as ThinkFilm director of acquisitions when the indie distributor was launched in 2001, Katz was instrumental in finding such indie hits as the comedy docu "The Aristocrats," the Oscar-nominated drama "Half Nelson" and the Oscar-winning docu "Born Into Brothels."

Guggenheim Partners, founded in 1999 with backing from the Guggenheim family's more than century-old fortune, supervises more than $110 billion in assets and provides capital markets services and portfolio and risk management advice.