Goldcrest’s Adam Kulick and Penny Wolf
Goldcrest Capital’s Adam Kulick talks about the company’s success with US slate deals and its new focus on backing UK indies; new head of sales Penny Wolf talks about why producers can benefit from Goldcrest’s one-stop shop.
Goldcrest is the legendary company (established in 1977) behind such classics as Chariots of Fire and Room With a View. Building on that legacy, the London-headquartered company has been involved in post-production since 1991 (including a large New York facility) and has ramped up its financing activities in recent years with the joint venture Goldcrest Capital. And more recently, the company has revamped its international sales business under respected industry veteran Penny Wolf (its six-film Cannes slate includes new drama The Girl set to star Emily Blunt.)
Screen caught up with Goldcrest Capital principal Adam Kulick (a financial veteran who previously worked at Merrill Lynch and CitiGroup) and Goldcrest head of sales and distribution Wolf ahead of Cannes to talk about the company’s new focuses.
Goldcrest Capital raised £19m (mostly from high net-worth individuals in the UK) in 2009 (levering up to £30m) for a fund with an advisory board including industry luminaries such as Michael Kuhn, David Parfitt, and Graham Broadbent. The company has in the past few years been concentrating on financing for US films (including slates with the likes of Summit – they were involved in Twilight) – but has now turned attention to UK independent films, starting with Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.
What was the idea behind Goldcrest Capital?
Kulick: About four years I talked to Goldcrest about their goals of refreshing the library, boosting their sales efforts and harnessing their infrastructure; we decided that there was great potential to revitalise the brand by combining their knowledge and assets with clever financial ideas to sit at the heart of the company….I started off doing some consulting with the company and looked at the competitive landscape and thought some of the deals being done were similar to what I had been doing on Wall Street. So we decided to give it a go, I came back here full time from New York and we set up Goldcrest Capital as a joint venture. Since then, we have been fortunate enough to finance a good number of films with excellent producers. Money we’ve raised has funded slates with DreamWorks, Paramount, and Summit. And we’ve been involved with four number ones at the US box office (including Twilight). Up until a year and a half ago, we focused mainly on studio films, and then we made a strategic decision to look at UK independent finance as well.
We’re interested in revitalising Goldcrest as British brand, and that means financing UK independent movies. For that we’ve put together a variety of structures which enable us to fund UK films. We raised a reasonably big fund last year and we’ve started spending. We’re really pleased to be attached to the new Wuthering Heights. That’s one so far. And we’re aiming to do another three to four of those this year.
We’ve hired Nadia Ward [formerly of Momentum], she’s our main interface with the UK producing scene, so we’re able to track all the projects in the UK. We try to track everything, we don’t do development, but we do look at quite a bit where the BBC or UKFC or Film 4 are committed, and we’ll come in as an equity player.
Even with the UK focus, will you continue those US relationships?
Kulick: It’s very important to us to still cultivate those relationships, and we’re lucky to have a relationship with a company like Summit. The money we raise, some of it is portable outside of the UK, some of it is not, and the size of film has to fit the structure we’re using to raise the money. UK films tend to be smaller budgets, so that fits nicely with some of our structures. We would expect to continue our relationships with the studios as well.
Will you finance any wholly Goldcrest projects in the future?
Kulick: We’d like to eventually fund films that we’re producing and doing post on and selling. We haven’t yet, but one of our goals is to give that a go. Until recently we haven’t had the capabilities to bring all that to the table.
Wolf: I think that’s what attractive to producers, then they’ve got the three strands of the company (sales, post and finance). So when producers come to us we can attempt to mesh all three together to make a viable financial contribution to the finance of a film.
Kulick: In an independent production, there are a remarkable number of moving parts, particularly with UK films. Therefor the more we bring to the table, the more we can simplify, the better that is for the producer, as less time is spent on legal bills and the more the producer can concentrate on their job.
Wolf: It’s more like a one-stop shop. Also that can set us apart as a sales business, because there are something like 31 sales companies in the UK.
Will you be hearkening back to Chariots of Fire-style Goldcrest in the types of films you want to be involved in?
Kulick: Wuthering Heights is a completely new take on established material. With Andrea [Arnold], this has the potential to open that story to a whole new audience. That’s a really exciting prospect. So we aren’t particularly genre focused and we look at everything. We’re looking for something that is a bit unusual that has an appeal to a broad audience. We try to use an analytical view when examining articular stories and how they resonate.
The combination is quite powerful as we marry our analytics and insight from a very creative/commercial board of directors. They have that broad market knowledge which is so useful.
How tough is raising money in the UK for films right now?
Kulick: For the right proposition, for a well structured deal, the money is there. It also helps that we have a bit of a track record with films like Twilight, Eagle Eye, Knowing, Tropic Thunder — they are financially successful movies.
Will you do most business in US or UK in future?
Kulick: Ideally we’d like to do both. We’d like to stay in the US market, we’ve done a reasonable amount of financing and producers do answer our calls. For the remainder of this year we’ll focus on the UK. And for next year start looking at both again.
Penny, what’s your approach on the sales side?
Wolf: Really the brief was to reactivate the sales division. We’re looking at budgets up to $10m and no particular genre. I think it’s based much more on script: Does this script work, are there any attachments?
How will your sales projects differ from what other people are taking on?
Wolf: This first four or five films was really about establishing this sales company, you have to be really careful in the type of films that you go for. We’ve got good quality films. It’s really a case of establishing the sales company to say that it’s not genre driven, it’s really based on the quality of the script. We’ll probably handle 6-10 films per year, mostly English language.
We are not pigeon holing ourselves into a particular genre, it’s all very material driven and on the one hand we are looking to work with established film makers and on the other hand with emerging talent like Gavin Wiesen in HomeWork (a new coming-of-age film starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts).
It’s the actual stories you read that will be universally loved by everybody, that’s what distributors are looking for now. Before it was much easier to sell. It was much more cast-driven in some ways, you could sell something just on cast. Now people take the time to read the script and ask, Do we really like this script? Is every single box ticked? I find all the acquisitions execs have to be much more sophisticated these days. People are tracking films much in the same way as in the past but this time people want to see finished film.
Being under the same Goldcrest umbrella, how do the sales business and the finance business benefit each other?
Kulick: We would like to be an integrated business but we’re also using outside investors’ money; so everything we do has to be arm’s length which means that we can’t do everything Penny brings us. That’s why we have independent boards. But it’s a compelling proposition to offer a more integrated package to producers. There’s no doubt in my mind about that, so that’s the direction in which we’ll move.