ThinkFilm inks Killer deal for financing, distribution


NEW YORK -- Indie distributor ThinkFilm has signed a first-look pact with Killer Films. The agreement, which includes a six-figure overhead deal, will see ThinkFilm finance and distribute films developed with the New York-based producer.

The nonexclusive one-year contract with a one-year option is designed to emulate the structure of a studio specialty division, calling for a minimum of two to four joint projects a year.

Budgets for features from the companies are expected to range from $1 million-$10 million but might go higher with certain talent attached. ThinkFilm will retain a financial cut of all Killer features developed while the deal is active regardless of whether it bankrolls or distributes them.

Killer also will continue to receive overhead financing from its open-ended deal with John Wells Prods., and Wells will retain executive producer credit on all features along with ThinkFilm.

"This alliance allows us to more strategically plan our release schedule, get involved in projects at the earliest stage of development and not depend on film festivals to fill our slate," said ThinkFilm executive vp acquisitions and business affairs Randy Manis, who negotiated the arrangement with CAA and John Sloss and Dan Steinman of Sloss Law.

Added ThinkFilm theatrical head Mark Urman: "We know we cannot subsist on the buying-finished-film business. Growing your own seems like a good idea."

The companies already are in discussions about producing several undisclosed projects that have been in development with Killer principals Christine Vachon, Pam Koffler and Katie Roumel. No projects that already have been financed will be part of the deal. The partners announced the alliance Wednesday with ThinkFilm CEO Jeff Sackman and Urman.

"It took us a year to formulate this arrangement," said Manis, who noted that the deal had a complicated structure in which "logical and emotional concerns" needed to be considered. The resulting agreement is fluid: ThinkFilm may approach Killer with a project to produce or vice versa; the company may provide full or partial financing on any given film; and a project may be pushed for distribution domestically, overseas or both.

"We're still going to be figuring things out as we go along," Urman said. He said the appeal of the deal was enhanced after ThinkFilm's purchase by David Bergstein and Ron Tudor's film financing and production outfit Capco Group in the fall for about $25 million. Bergstein is now chairman of the company.

One key area of interest for both parties is ThinkFilm's international sales division, with the distributor looking to fill its international pipeline and Killer seeking overseas outlets for its films. The worldwide option "not only increases productivity but also allows us access to better material," Vachon said. Her 12-year-old company produced a record four projects last year.

This is Killer's third first-look deal, after a two-year pact with former MGM specialty division Goldwyn Films signed in 1998 and a two-year deal with Warner Bros. Pictures that began in 2002. Vachon wrote about her disappointment with Warner Independent Pictures' 2004 release of "A Home at the End of the World" in her recent book, "A Killer Life," and was said to be dissatisfied with the distributor's handling of the Truman Capote biopic "Infamous."

Upcoming projects which might end up at ThinkFilm include Julian Schnabel's biopic of children's author Dare Wright, "The Lonely Doll," and an adaptation of Brad Land's college-hazing memoir "Goat."