Monday, June 15, 2009

Indie Super Team/Company Formed...

[from indieWire] Ted Hope, Ira Deutchman, Jennifer Fox, Glen Basner, Scott Free and even Tilda Swinton are among the notable film industry names aligned with a major independent film venture being unveiled Monday. The new company, dubbed DF Indie Studios, is uniting veteran producers with sales and distribution experts. DF Indie Studios (DFIS) will fully finance as many as a dozen films per year, each at a budget of up to $10 million. Significantly, the movies will also have guaranteed U.S. theatrical distribution through the company.

“Indie Style, Studio Dependability” is the slogan for DFIS, underscoring an effort by those involved to apply some studio concepts to cost-effective independent film production. DFIS projects, of varying genres, will come from an eclectic core of established film producers including This is That’s Ted Hope and Anne Carey, Scott Free, Jennifer Fox and Redbone Films. Veteran Ira Deutchman is guiding distribution plans. Glen Basner’s FilmNation is handling international sales and output deals for the company’s slate, which an announcement said are valued at $150 million.

CEO Mary Dickinson and COO/President Charlene Fisher are leading the self-described “end to end financing” initiative. Chatting with indieWIRE last week, Dickinson and Fisher called producers “the engines” of the emerging venture, which was more than a year in the making.

Dickinson and Fisher, executives with a background in company restructuring, told indieWIRE that the first five films will go into production this fall and hit the festival circuit next year, they said. Boldly, the company hopes to create some 10,000 to 15,000 film jobs over the next five years, according to DFIS CEO Dickinson. They declined to detail the sources of their funding, some of which is still being raised. Monday’s announcement, included on page two of this article, seems aimed at generating attention from additional investors.

“DFIS’ mandate is to serve as a home for a carefully selected group of producers, providing the tools to give their commercially viable films in this price bracket the best chance for national and international success,” the company said in an announcement being released today. They will celebrate the new venture at a launch event tonight in Midtown Manhattan. More information on DFIS is available on their website.

In addition to fully financing films at up to $10 million each, Dickinson and Fisher told indieWIRE that they would acquire a handful of films each year. Additionally, the founders are touting an “unlevered model” for the new company that will give investors shares in all revenue streams generated by the company over the life of a film.

Included on their core team at DFIS are CFO Rita Chiappetta-Thibault and EVP of Production Amy Slotnick, who recently served as SVP of Production at Miramax. John Hadity, chairman of the Producers Guild of America East and a former EVP of production at Miramax, is on board to work on production finance.

CEO Mary Dickinson’s twenty-year background includes work running Teton Gravity Research, an extreme sports film production company, she also produced two NBC primetime pilots with Ben Silverman’s company, Reveille and she was a consultant on the development and financing of Redbone Films. President and COO Fisher has sixteen years of experience, recently working to restructure a company for GE Asset Management and then working with Redbone.

“There is a growing demand for commercial features, and a lack of quality products at the right price,” Fisher’s prepared statement said, “At DFIS we have worked with our production partners to provide end to end financing, a rigorous green light process and guaranteed U.S. distribution to meet this increasing demand. No one else is supporting films produced for up to $10 million in this way.”

Of the producing partners, leading New York City producer Ted Hope from This is That Productions boasts the strong track record in independent production, while other producers come from a Hollywood background. Hope and Anne Carey’s track record includes Greg Mottola’s recent “Adventureland” and Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu’s “21 Grams” to Todd Field’s “In The Bedroom” and Ang Lee “The Ice Storm” from the Good Machine days. Jennifer Fox has a produced acclaimed mid-budget studio films including “Michael Clayton,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” and “Syriana,” while Scott Free is known for work with Ridley and Tony Scott’s company, producing such studio movies as “Gladiator,” “American Gangster” and the recently released remake, “The Taking of Pelham 123.” Finally, Redbone Films is from co-founder Samara Koffler from Harrison Ford’s production company.

Veteran Ira Deutchman, a founder of Fine Line Features and Cinecom, who now runs Emerging Pictures, praised the new initiative as, “an industry-changing studio model for indie film,” in a statement, adding that he has worked with Dickinson and Fisher for more than a year on the company.

Tilda Swinton is among those on the DFIS advisory board, joined by NBC Universal Co-Chair Ben Silverman, GE Asset Management president David Wiederecht, and Duff and Phelps Technology and Entertainment Practices’ David Spieler. In a statement, Swinton called the new company “inspired and inspiring,” proclaiming in the statement that DF Indie, “is set to become an invaluable saving grace of a currently endangered species: the intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent film - maybe even of intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent filmmakers themselves.”

From the financial side, advisors emphasized the uniqueness of this new initiative. “DFIS offers its equity investors an unprecedented opportunity by providing an unlevered business model with 105% downside risk protection and guaranteed North American distribution for all greenlit films,” said advisory board member and investor David Spieler, in a statement. “And best of all, equity investors will share in all revenue streams of the studio including distribution fees and any exit.”

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