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Red Crown Productions: The talent pool

Set up in 2010, US outfit Red Crown Productions has an impressive production pipeline that mixes big names and rising talent.

The Sundance sensibility is in the blood at Red Crown Productions, the New York-based producer that boasts close ties to Park City favourite The Kids Are All Right.

Partner Daniela Taplin Lundberg produced Lisa Cholodenko’s family drama while at Plum Pictures - a frequent supplier to the Utah festival over the years - while head of production and development Riva Marker served as executive producer.

The Kids Are All Right premiered in Park City in 2010. Shortly thereafter Lundberg and her partners at Plum called it a day to pursue other opportunities. Later that year Lundberg established Red Crown with former Crown Theatres chairman Daniel Crown.

The hunt for talent

Lundberg and Marker, a TV documentary veteran who ran post-production on most of the Plum films, were at Sundance recently, shuffling through the snow and ice in service to the usual producer goals: tracking films, taking meetings and scouting fresh talent.

The Kids Are All Right was a real light-bulb moment,” says Lundberg. “We [at Plum] had produced so many films that went to Sundance and Kids was the type of film we realised we should aspire to be making all the time.

“I approached Dan [Crown] and we set up this company to focus on films that felt like they were fresh and had a message. We also put money into development because we felt nobody was really doing that and people weren’t paying for interesting and unique stories.”

The result is a formidable early pipeline. Red Crown produced the highly regarded Toronto 2012 world premiere What Maisie Knew and is preparing Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts Of No Nation to star Idris Elba.

The privately held company, backed by Crown and three other investors, has closed a deal to finance The Family Fang, which Jason Bateman will direct and star in, alongside Nicole Kidman.

Red Crown will greenlight films in the $5m-$10m range and the partners will go higher if they can secure pre-sales on a project. They work with different sales agents and are under no obligation to produce a certain number of films.

“It feels like we’re being aggressive and going after the things that have real talent behind them,” says Lundberg. “On the other hand we’re pursuing new film-makers, so we started this micro arm a few months back to back scripts we feel have real promise with people who have not necessarily directed features before.

“It will be [for films] under $1m, but in this day and age you can make quality films for that money if you’re hungry and young.”

Two micro-budget projects are in post and Lundberg says both are likely to see festival launches, although the company is interested in exploring digital distribution: Life Partners, a Bridesmaids-esque comedy by Susanna Fogel, boasts an ensemble cast of Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody and Gabourey Sidibe; while Marker describes the drug-dealer story Unreachable By Conventional Means from UK first-time feature director Rory Rooney as “Woody Allen meets Danny Boyle”.

Open to opportunity

After years in exhibition, Daniel Crown had been looking to move into production.

“It was an opportunity to work with two incredibly bright, talented women who I respect immensely. They demonstrated a real feel for finding elevated material and executed it with great sensitivity,” he says.

Crown adds that the company has funded all the IP, acquisitions and screenplays that have been developed there and, depending on the size of the budget, may seek supplemental financing. The partners will commit to a p&a spend if it makes sense.

But top of the agenda is an openness to opportunity. “We were sent the script to Fruitvale [Station] by WME and the project needed some cash,” says Lundberg, “but at that moment we felt we were not ready to help and we realised we closed ourselves off and don’t want to do that.”

The company has agreed to underwrite the Sundance Producers Brunch for the next two years and just presented the Red Crown Producers Award to Elisabeth Holm.

“Dan was in theatres,” says Lundberg, “and tries to remind us that people want to see movies. We’re trying to keep that in mind.”

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