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Unions Are Biggest Obstacle In Indie Film Production, Film Execs Say

ifta1Foreign film sales execs took aim at Hollywood guilds and unions at the Independent Film & Television Alliance Production Conference today, citing them as the biggest roadblocks in getting indie films made. “I get it that stars like Bruce Willis are getting paid the big money, they are the driving force behind these films getting made, but I don’t get the guys who pull cables that make $100,000 a year,” said Voltage Pictures president and CEO Nicolas Chartier during the IFTA panel on indie finance and production.

chartierChartier, whose credits as producer include The Hurt Locker and Killer Joe, specifically cited SAG-AFTRA residuals, and how indie filmmakers are required to make deposits on residuals for films even if they haven’t generated revenue. “Residuals used to be based on movies playing on free TV. Hurt Locker and Michael Clayton never played on free TV, so why am I paying residuals two years before the movie is made?” he said. He added: “It’s getting worse: the amount of paperwork we have do with the unions. All we do is is contracts and collections. I came into this business as a writer with Cassian Elwes as my agent. Now, we’re lawyers, suing people and going to arbitration.”

Related: Cassian Elwes Slams Studios & Agencies Over “Rubbish” Tentpole System

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Indie Bigwig Cassian Elwes Slams Studios & Agencies Over “Rubbish” Tentpole System

By | Friday April 25, 2014 @ 10:43am PDT

Film Independent Forum - Day 1Producer and Elevated Film Sales CEO Cassian Elwes used his keynote address at the Independent Film & Television Alliance Production Conference today to rip studios for ignoring movie audiences’ demands for smart, theatrical fare in exchange for comic-book franchises, and warned that the current flood of franchise movies threatens smart filmmaking, particularly for the younger generation. “Studios don’t want to make a movie for $10 million and see it fail, rather they’re looking to make films that generate $100 million-$200 million profit,” he said. “This has made the agencies complicit in this business.” The result, he says: Studios have dwindled their picture pipelines and stars’ salaries have eroded. “Twenty years from now, I’m convinced we’ll be seeing Fast & Furious 37 and these characters will have an advantage because they’ll be able to park in the handicapped zones,” Elwes quipped to the crowd. Read More »

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Cassian Elwes To Tyro Scribe Matthew Hickman: You’re Going To Sundance!

By | Thursday December 19, 2013 @ 11:32am PST
Mike Fleming

cassianEXCLUSIVE: Indie producer Cassian Elwes and The Black List chief Franklin Leonard have chosen screenwriter Matthew Hickman to attend the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as the recipient of the inaugural Cassian Elwes Screenwriting Fellow. Elwes, whose producing credits just this year include Dallas Buyers Club, All Is Lost, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints sundance-2014__131210193644__131217201040and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, hatched this plan in October for aspiring scribes who are agent-less and haven’t made more than $5000 writing. The scripts were chosen from among those displayed on the Black List service. The winner gets their trip paid for, and will be mentored by Elwes as he makes his way around the slopes for the films he will undoubtedly be talking up at Sundance. Hickman was chosen from among 10 finalists for his script An Elegy For Evelyn Francis. That work was described by the Black List’s evaluation as “a script that never lets up; it constantly plows through the consequences of every action, raising the dramatic tension and emotional stakes at every level.”

Elwes wants to make this an annual event. Who knows where Hickman ends up, but aspiring writers need a leg up and this seems a worthy gesture, as did the one I wrote about yesterday, in which neophyte scribe Tasha Huo got a blind script deal through a program initiated by Warner Bros’ movie chief Greg Silverman and The Black List. Hey, you never know. Read More »

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AFM: Cassian Elwes And Cohorts Launch Bridge-Financing Service Lifeboat Capital

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 9:01am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: e2b Capital’s Robert Ogden Barnum and Cassian Elwes have teamed with Windy Hill Pictures’ Buddy Patrick to form Lifeboat Capital, a service that will provide bridge financing to makers of indie films. The trio will manage the fund from Los Angeles and New Orleans. The plan is to make loans of between $1 million and $5 million to between 15-20 films. Piecing together indie films is a tightrope walk, and the service aims to be a resource for filmmakers who fall short of the funding mark, or have to scramble if a financial commitment disappears. Between Barnum, Elwes and Patrick, they’ve financed or assisted in funding over 200 films. They will use a combination of institutional lenders, private equity and commercial banks here.  
“Bridge lending, while considered a high risk business, is often a requirement on independent films that need to commence production while simultaneously closing loans and completion bonds,” Barnum said in a statement. “With Cassian and I overseeing the loans, we’re able to assist filmmakers in the closing—protecting both the producers and the bridge lender.”    
Said Patrick: “In some cases, lack of bridge funding could cause the production to lose creative elements that result in financiers backing out or the production to fold. We hope to ensure a smooth pre-production period and confidence to all parties as they … Read More »

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Cassian Elwes, Black List’s Franklin Leonard Will Take A Wannabe Scribe To Sundance

By | Tuesday October 29, 2013 @ 10:39am PDT
Mike Fleming

Producer Cassian Elwes and Black List founder Franklin Leonard have created the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship. They will send one writer who doesn’t have an agent and hasn’t made more than $,5000 from scribbling to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. They’ll cover the trip’s cost, and Elwes will mentor the scribe. The portal of entry is Leonard’s Black List. Writers with scripts on the service since October 15, 2012, can opt into consideration. They’ll tally a shortlist after December 1 and pick a winner. The plan is to make this an annual deal.

Related: Warners Turns To Black List To Find Scribes In Underserved Demos
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Cannes: Cassian Elwes, Robert Ogden Barnum Launch e2b Capital

LOS ANGELES, CA (May 17, 2013) – It was announced today that independent film producers Cassian Elwes and Robert Ogden Barnum have launched e2b Capital, a new entertainment company for independent filmmakers and financiers seeking financing and global distribution expertise.

Elwes and Barnum will serve as co-heads of the Los Angeles-based operation. Backed by a growing group of financiers, e2b will arrange financing for commercially viable, fiscally responsible independent films. Working collaboratively with producers, talent agencies and foreign sales companies, e2b offers equity, gap and debt solutions through strategic partnerships, in addition to bringing strong relationships in the global marketplace. e2b expects to work on 10-12 films annually.

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New Law Could Boost Crowdsourcing As Viable Film Finance Option: Panel

By | Thursday October 18, 2012 @ 9:16am PDT

David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo so far have been only moderately useful for most independent filmmakers trying to finance their next movie, but that could change significantly under the federal JOBS Act passed earlier this year, said members of a panel at the Digital Hollywood conference, which wraps today in Marina del Rey.

Under previous rules, crowdsourcing sites couldn’t offer equity stakes to contributors. Instead they receive modest tokens of appreciation such as T-shirts or tickets to screenings — in other words, they get nothing more than the satisfaction of helping a movie get started. The new law will allow intermediaries such as crowdsourcing sites to sell members modest equity stakes in films, up to $10,000 or 10% of each user’s income. The project must set a fundraising goal and if it doesn’t raise at least 60% of that, no money would change hands. “There are many more opportunities to come and we’re just seeing the start of this,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, which has raised $3 million on behalf of 85 films through Kickstarter. The SEC is currently establishing regulations under the new law. Read More »

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Cassian Elwes Preps Herzog’s ‘Queen Of The Desert’; Weinstein Selling ‘Bodies’

EXCLUSIVE: Wind and rain have been sweeping the Croisette but Cassian Elwes says, “I feel like I’m on fire.” The former WMA head of independent film who’s now producing and packaging indies has skin in the game in Cannes with Lawless, which he exec produced and which screens tonight in competition And, he produced Lee Daniels’ much-buzzed The Cassian ElwesPaperboy which premieres next week. Elwes will screen it for select buyers on Tuesday. Elwes also tells me foreign sales are starting on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints via The Weinstein Co. David Lowery is writing and directing the contemporary Bonnie And Clyde-esque picture with Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck attached. James Johnston, Toby Halbrooks, Amy Kaufman, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy and Elwes are producing.

Working with Werner Herzog for the first time, Elwes is also prepping Queen Of The Desert. The picture, he says, is like Lawrence Of Arabia but with a woman. It’s based on Gertrude Bell, the English writer, archaeologist and cartographer who mapped Iraq and Jordan in the early 1900s. Naomi Watts is attached. Shooting on Queen Of The Desert is expected to begin in the fall. Elwes is producing with Nick Raslan. Elwes, who recently teamed with Evolution Entertainment principal Mark Burg to launch Evolution Independent, made 7 movies last year. He expects to do 8 this year. “I’m totally driven,” he says, “I’m … Read More »

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Cassian Elwes And Mark Burg Start Evolution Independent To Fund Films

By | Wednesday February 22, 2012 @ 3:04pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Cassian Elwes, who two years ago transitioned from WMA independent film head to producer and packager of indies, has made a partnership deal with Evolution Entertainment. Elwes and Evolution principal Mark Burg will team for Evolution Independent. While Evolution is best known for genre fare like the Saw franchise and for Two And A Half Men, Burg and Evolution president Mike Menchel will rely on Elwes to find highbrow independent film projects to invest in.

Elwes left WMA when that agency merged with Endeavor and Endeavor partner Graham Taylor took the reins of the department. He is still a fixture at film festivals, as a sales agent brokering distribution deals and also on behalf of a high number of films he has been producing. Having ready access to funding strengthens those efforts. Elwes said he continues relationships with financier/producers like Michael Benaroya.

“I thought after WMA I might never work again, and that has turned out not to be the case,” Elwes told me. “It has been two years, I just started the 15th movie I’ve produced, and I’ve sold eight others. Mike and Mark were willing to put their company resources to fund a certain number of films each year. We will do four or five this year, and beyond that, my guess is it will be even more than that. This is a fresh infusion of cash into a … Read More »

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Freestyle To Release Sarah Palin Doc ‘You Betcha!’

Mike Fleming

Days before its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Nick Broomfield’s hot-button expose documentary Sarah Palin: You Betcha! has been acquired by Freestyle Releasing. The plan is to open in New York and Los Angeles on Sept. 30 and roll out. Broomfield raised more than $30,000 on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to support the doc’s release, with private investors kicking in more money to launch the film. Cassian Elwes made the deal with Freestyle co-president Susan Jackson. The doc, directed by Broomfield and Joan Churchill, is not a fave of the Palin crowd, and the filmmakers say it lifts the veil off her image as a former hockey mom as the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate gears up for a possible presidential run in 2012.

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CANNES: Weinstein Company Near Deal For ‘Wettest County’ While Distribs Fret Over Buying Pics Sight-Unseen

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company, already on a Cannes acquisition spree, has emerged as the clear frontrunner for  domestic distribution rights on The Wettest County in the World, after another all-night bargaining session between Harvey Weinstein’s acquisition team and CAA. I’m told a deal is very close. Considering how many distributors showed interest going into the weekend, it might  seem surprising that the Wettest County in the World has taken this long. Relativity Media had been the favorite all weekend since posting the highest bid, north of $5 million. I heard they got word from the producers last night that it wasn’t going to happen with them. I suspect what gave TWC the edge is its awards season experience, and a relationship that is growing between Harvey Weinstein and Megan Ellison, who financed the picture with Michael Benaroya. Ellison just sold to Weinstein world rights to the untitled Paul Thomas Anderson-directed film, which starts production next month with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix starring. I believe that The Wettest County in the World will get a platform release at year end, and open wide in early 2012.

The behind the scenes drama that has been going on all weekend illustrates the predicament for distributors on the Croisette who are trying to maintain some discipline in the closest thing to a sellers market that Cannes has seen in years. Buyers in this case wanted some control over a film that is done … Read More »

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Sundance: Anchor Bay Acquires Dito Montiel’s ‘The Son Of No One’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Anchor Bay has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Dito Montiel-directed cop drama The Son Of No One, which was the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s final premiere last Friday. I’m told the deal was in the $2 million minimum guarantee range and a P&A commitment for a theatrical release in at least 10 of the top 20 markets. The film stars Channing Tatum, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche and Al Pacino and is a police thriller about a young cop assigned to the Queens neighborhood where he grew up. He’s forced to confront past troubles. The picture was financed by Millennium Films/Nu Image’s Avi Lerner and his partners Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Boaz Davidson. Before its premiere, the film had an early screening for buyers, and was forced to overcome a nasty trade article that claimed an “exodus” of walk outs, a story disputed in Deadline by sales agent and exec producer Cassian Elwes. Elwes had the last laugh as he and WME Global’s Graham Taylor closed what might be the last big sale of a festival full of them. Despite the one bad article, Elwes and Taylor had several bidders circling with offers in the $2 million range but Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha has sealed the deal.

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Sundance: ‘Son Of No One’ Sales Agent Cries Foul Over Trade’s Hatchet Job

Mike Fleming

Cassian Elwes, who’s selling distribution rights to Dito Montiel’s The Son of No One, is crying foul over a barbed trade story about the film’s first Sundance screening. The piece reported that a multitude of buyers were in attendance, and described an “exodus” of walk outs before the film was over. The trade declared The Son of No One is Sundance’s first bomb, a crushing blow for a film with a great cast that includes Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, and Juliette Binoche.

Elwes blamed the exits on a mistake by a projectionist, and said the trade story painted an unfair picture by omitting that information. He said the slam piece has negatively impacted discussions with distributors. Elwes said he’s got three offers, but suitors are trying to use the report to get a discount.

I wasn’t at the screening, but I granted Elwes’ ask to explain what happened: “About a month ago, Dito decided to add a card, two scenes before the end of the film, that says, ‘Based on the book, Story of Milk.’ That is the character’s name in the film. Yesterday, the projectionist thought that meant the movie was over, and he turned the lights on. That’s when people got up. They thought  movie had ended. Some left, but most stayed. This nasty little piece didn’t mention any of this. It’s not true … Read More »

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Sundance: ‘Margin Call’ To Roadside Attractions And Lionsgate

Mike Fleming

The JC Chandor-directed drama Margin Call sold to Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate after an all night bargaining session. The film stars Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell and Stanley Tucci. That cast alone had buyers circling the modestly-budgeted film because of its ancillary prospects. Talk last night had the film in the low-seven figure range, and plans for a theatrical release that’s described as a joint release between the companies. I haven’t heard deal figures yet, but the film becomes the second Sundance sale, after Like Crazy sold to Paramount and Indian Paintbrush.

The Margin Call deal was brokered by Cassian Elwes and UTA’s Rena Ronson, with Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Lionsgate’s Steve Beeks. The film premieres Tuesday night at the Eccles. Chandor wrote the script, which takes place in a 24-hour period at the start of the financial collapse of 2008. A group of characters at a financial firm make decisions that have moral implications as the firm teeters on the brink of collapse. Myriad Pictures is selling international, and brokered many of those deals at AFM.

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