Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who wants to make a movie?

IndieVest connects film and money

Express Staff Writer

IndieVest investors and their guests party at Sundance. Photo by

The 2009 Sundance Film Festival lacked in fanfare partly due to a recession, and in large part, due to an unprecedented, high attendance of A-listers and Hollywood moguls at President Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C. The hype for film buying was quiet, but films were being sold. Watching on the sidelines was a group of film and capital financiers called IndieVest.

"Entertainment does exceptionally well in recessions," said IndieVest CEO Wade Bradley. "Historically, independent film delivers a high yield on investment."

Bradley and several IndieVest investors, members and employees were attending the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to reveal its independent film investment model to a very receptive audience.

"It's like a Silicon Valley start-up," Bradley said. "We are an independent film studio, financier and distributor."

Bradley is a former venture capitalist who wanted to get into the film business but realized the current business structures were too convoluted and did not work. There are about 9,000 independent films made every year, and only 1 to 3 percent ever get distribution.

"Everyone sells the farm to make a film, but one never thinks about the print and advertising costs, which can be three times the cost of the film," Bradley said. "All the money is up front and we don't have to find a distributor because we are the distributor."

IndieVest went to iconic people in the film industry for feedback on its investment model for independent filmmaking, and former MGM president Mike Marcus said it solved a core problem in Hollywood, which is a depleted distribution structure. Marcus serves on IndieVest's business advisory board.

"What really resonated is that everyone we brought the idea to said it was about time," Bradley said. "The advisory board we assembled, which was to act as ambassadors for us, all wanted in."

IndieVest's Indie Insider Board includes actors Don Cheadle, Liev Schreiber and Tim Blake Nelson, and director Mike Binder. IndieVest's first film will be "Saint John of Las Vegas," to be released sometime this summer, and stars Steve Buscemi, Romany Malco and Sarah Silverman.

"Actors look for independent film roles they can sink their teeth into and roles which are unique," Bradley said. "Investors do it because they put up capital and will receive the first dollar gross and the film's gross until their investment has been given back. Investors are given an A-level production from head to toe."

"Saint John of Las Vegas" was a union production shot in New Mexico, a state that has very good incentives for film production. The state of Idaho considers New Mexico a model for its own incentive package to attract feature filmmaking.

"You could have all the incentives in the world," Bradley said. "But it has to be an A-level production."

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