Sundance: 'Frank Zappa,' 'Weiner' Doc Seller Launches Non-Fiction Investment Venture (Exclusive)

Weiner still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The new venture brings together Submarine ('Blackfish', 'Citizenfour') with Grosvenor Park, which has arranged more than $1 billion in financing for 400-plus film and TV projects.

As documentaries continue to flourish in the indie film marketplace, premier doc seller Submarine is teaming up with financier Grosvenor Park Media on a multimillion dollar venture that will invest in nonfiction fare for theaters, TV, SVOD platforms and web outlets.

The new venture brings together Submarine, the New York-based company behind such recent doc hits as Blackfish and Oscar winners Citizenfour and 20 Feet From Stardom, with Grosvenor Park, which has arranged more than $1 billion in financing for 400-plus film and TV projects. Submarine principals Dan Braun, Josh Braun and David Koh will manage creative development and production of the slate of films and serve as the exclusive domestic and international sales agent, while Grosvenor Park will provide the financing.

Submarine brought one of its biggest slates ever to this year’s Sundance Film Festival with such films as Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, which opened the festival; Werner Herzog’s Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World; Life, Animated; The Lovers & the Despot; Nuts!; Tickled; and Kiki. The company already sold Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words to Sony Pictures Classics earlier in the fest and the controversial doc Weiner to IFC Films/Showtime Networks before the film event.

Grosvenor Park CEO Don Starr enlisted longtime associate Stanley Buchthal and his Dakota Group to bring the deal, valued at high seven figures, to fruition.

"Stanley has worked with both us and Submarine, and we all share a passion for and belief in the power of documentaries," said Starr. "We have seen the nonfiction form change and evolve, becoming one of the most unique forms of artistic expression, and we have seen Submarine’s movies change the world in a short amount of time."

Submarine has carved out a niche in the indie film world, having represented such Oscar winners as Searching for Sugarman, The Cove and Man on Wire as well Finding Vivian Maier, Spellbound, Supersize Me, Meru, The Wolfpack, Muscle Shoals, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Dior & I, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Buck, Herb & Dorothy, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, NAS: Time Is Illmatic, Iris, Tangerine and Best of Enemies.

Grosvenor Park Media, led by founder Starr and partner Joe Kaczorowski, is a privately held specialty finance company focusing on entertainment and media. Over the past few decades, Dakota Group has financed a slew of indie films from John Waters’ Hairspray to David O. Russell’s Spanking the Monkey to more recently Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict and Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.

"There has been an expansive global growth of nonfiction programming and television, including all the new platforms, creating a great, insatiable and worldwide demand for intelligent programming,” said Buchtal. “It is a perfect fit to combine the great content and creativity of Submarine, with the financial acumen and impressive track record of Grosvenor Park."

The deal was negotiated by Lindsay Conner of Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips on behalf of Grosvenor Park and Dakota Group. Rick Brookwell and Robb Scott of Scott & Salmanowitz repped Submarine.