Canadian producer-financier Aaron Gilbert talks to Jeremy Kay about Berlin entry A Single Shot, his stable of film companies and upcoming projects.
When David M Rosenthal’s A Single Shot premieres in the Berlinale’s Panorama programme on Feb 9, it will signify a moment of great pride for Aaron Gilbert. The Canadian producer-financier has devoted a lot of time to building up a stable of businesses and the crime thriller marks the first collaboration between two of his companies, Bron Studios and Media House Capital.
“The quality of our films and the quality of our partners gets stronger and stronger,” says Gilbert, a former animation executive who turned to his advantage years of experience in that arena as well as in motion picture business affairs, financing and licensing.
He launched the British Columbia-based Bron Studios several years ago with the goal of growing a stable of artistically and commercially appealing properties. It recently completed production on Trust Me, a comedy directed by and starring Clark Gregg, who previously directed Sam Rockwell in an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke.
Trust Me also stars Rockwell and Amanda Peet. Gilbert places great emphasis on lasting relationships with talent and Rockwell is also the lead in A Single Shot, playing somewhat against type as a hunter who incurs the wrath of redneck criminals.
The Berlin-bound thriller married Bron Studios with Media House Capital, the senior debt lender Gilbert set up, he says, after listening to the needs of the marketplace. “The experience I had with broadcasters and in publishing and music and the finance world helped me launch Media House Capital,” he says.
“We identified an opportunity in the independent film space that didn’t have a tremendous amount of competition and was needed. In other words, a senior lender that can operate nimbly and work with film-makers and be more than a banker on the other side of the desk. We are on to our 14th and 15th films.”
Media House Capital is always the first position senior debt lender and will loan up to 35% against a production budget. To date it has invested in Toronto 2012 hit Ginger & Rosa, as well as upcoming releases The English Teacher starring Greg Kinnear, Lullaby with Garrett Hedlund, Elsa & Fred with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, and Australian production Son Of A Gun to star Ewan McGregor.
The lender launched the Crystal Wealth Strategic Media Fund in 2011. “[The fund] has gone very well and we are in the process of setting up a second that will be a little bit different and will be operational in 2013,” says Gilbert, adding that the investment entity will become involved in bigger budgets.
“My intention with Media House Capital is a long-term business for me but I like how it introduces me to wonderful talents,” says Gilbert.
A corollary to Bron Studios is the newly launched Bron Empire, a strategic partnership with writer-director Deon Taylor’s California-based Hidden Empire Film Group dedicated to producing genre, sports and music-oriented films.
Gilbert met Taylor through his casting agent on A Single Shot, Mary Vernieu. Media House invested in Taylor’s drama Supremacy, which is expected out later this year, and the new partners have wasted little time assembling the Bron Empire slate, where budgets can range from $1m to $10m.
“Our first picture is called Akuma and it’s in post. It’s a new genre for us [found footage],” says Gilbert. Post-apocalyptic horror title Terminated will star the rapper Common and is set to shoot in February, while the American football heist tale Free Agents aims to shoot in the spring.
To ensure he does not get too idle, Gilbert also runs Bron Animation, which is in development on its first project, Sole Mates. “A lot of the animation business in Canada is as service provider. Sony is here, Pixar is here, but for the most part they are servicing their US parent.
“The reason we have been able to attract such talented senior people is because they are part of a company that’s producing original IP. Everything Bron Animation produces is something we own or co-own.”
Bron Animation and all its corporate siblings will be housed within a new 20,000 sq ft venue outside Vancouver. “We are just getting started,” says Gilbert.
- Born in Ontario, Canada, Gilbert has worked in animation, business affairs, finance and sales in Los Angeles, Vancouver and southeast Asia.
- He began his career in music and led management teams in the US, Canada and the UK.
- He has worked for Mainframe Entertainment, Rainmaker Entertainment, Global Media Invest and Pittard Sullivan.
- His producer credits include A Single Shot, Trust Me and Akuma, and he took executive producer roles on I Melt With You, Janie Jones and Decoding Annie Parker.