LA is the Mecca for investors looking for glamour, to party with stars, act like big shots and to make a fortune
as executive producers. With chequebook in hand, Investors arriving at LAX are ripe for the pickings by
hordes of dubious producers, directors and packagers – all offering the inside track to the next Big Thing.
Unfortunately, the temptation to write a cheque before discovering the harsh realities of just how difficult
it is in this business to ever recover even a portion of your investment is all too enticing. For those who grab
for the dream too quickly, the money often runs dry and the party ends. But for those who stick around,
Hollywood remains the stuff that dreams are made of.
For those looking to make deals, the American Film Market is the place to get noticed. AFM is where Hollywood insiders meet outsiders. Armed with Insight’s production strengths, some industry credibility and partnership with another investor’s funds, in 2005 I took on the role of Hollywood newbie at the AFM.
When you first visit the AFM it’s nothing short of amazing. The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is transformed into the preeminent film industry marketplace. Beds are removed from the rooms turning them into offices; larger rooms become exclusive screening theatres for premier event movies looking for distribution or investment to pay back loans. It’s wall to wall producers selling their dreams, writers desperately trolling the rooms with bound copies of their scripts in tow and packagers – agents -- ready with turn-key movie opportunities that are oh so urgent you need to sign today or maybe lose the deal. And everywhere, dangled like shining lures attached to the end of a direct line to fame, are stars --famous and infamous – each attached to a project waiting for a bite from someone with dollars to invest. Looking back, I have to admit to being completely taken in by the glamour and star power of Hollywood.
Meandering through the hotel taking in the pitches, the atmosphere and the big names dropped at
strategic moments during each conversation, I overheard producer, Mary Aloe talking about a film that needed some financing with Sharon Stone attached. I knew Mary from collaboration on an earlier film, “Downtown” so we quickly started a discussion that was something like: great opportunity, great script, great cast – and a Sundance lab developed script. The script was titled, “When A Man Falls in the Forest” and had been developed through Sundance Festival’s Screenwriters’ lab. According to everyone involved, the Festival was bound to accept this – their own -- film into the festival. I was intrigued because Sharon Stone’s name was attached and she was willing to make this film far below her normal pay range. It was also a big selling point at the time that Sharon was about to shoot Basic Instinct II which would make When A Man Falls in the Forest a sure fire success riding the coat tails of the release of Basic Instinct II.
The writer was also slated to Direct. Mary explained that he was the next Steven Soderbergh and Sharon was on board to support his career. As Mary Aloe talked, I ran a myriad of financings schemes through my mind until I knew I could make the financing work.
Next I spoke to the distributor who had a German film fund interested, plus a new film equity investment fund looking for mid budget projects. Everyone was on board because a Sundance premier offered big profit potential. Financing quickly fell into place and before the close of AFM, I had agreed to finance and produce this film in Canada as soon as Sharon’s schedule permitted.