New York-based Cactus Three has become a key player in the growing market for documentaries. Wendy Mitchell meets its founders.
Having worked together at the now-defunct US indie distributor Wellspring, Julie Goldman, Caroline Stevens and Krysanne Katsoolis established their New York-based non-fiction mini-studio Cactus Three in 2003. It proved fortuitous timing, just before theatrical documentaries began to make their mark.
Since then, Cactus Three has become a leader in the documentary field as executive and creative producer, film packager and a distribution/marketing consultancy. Through their strong relationships with a number of partners, the three are able to pull together international projects from early-stage development through to theatrical distribution.
'We know the marketplace so well at both ends,' says Katsoolis. 'Most people are at one end or the other and can't look at the treatment and see what the distribution strategy would be. And we know how to put international finance together.'
They have worked with international producers including Oscar-winner John Battsek at UK-based Passion Pictures, Peter Gilbert of Hoop Dreams fame, and broadcasters including BBC, Channel 4 and Arte.
'In the ideal situation we'll work from the very beginning and work creatively with the production team and at the same time look at the whole picture and look at the best life for the film,' Goldman adds.
'If we want to go for strong theatrical, we look for as much private funding as possible and save those rights and TV rights for when you launch the film. Sometimes the model is to raise 75% of the money through co-productions and pre-sales.'
'Narrative features have become so weak in the last few years, people are looking for different stories,' says Stevens. Katsoolis adds that the money is following. 'Funding is growing because everyone's jumping on the idea they need their own documentary strand. There are more sources of documentary funding than feature financing.'
Recent Cactus Three projects include Sketches Of Frank Gehry, Once In A Lifetime, Cat Dancers, Doubletime, Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother, Office Tigers, What Remains and Black Sun.
The company works on 10-12 projects per year, and attracts remake rights enquiries for about half of those - Plan B is planning a remake of one key title.
'Remake rights are very important for us,' Goldman says, adding that if Cactus Three expands into fictional films, remakes will be the logical starting point.
Forthcoming projects include Matt Tyrnauer's Valentino documentary; Goth Cruise (with Tigerlily and IFC Films); gay rock and roll project Tutti Frutti; the film version of Sharon Waxman's book Rebels On The Backlot; Susan Kaplan's nuclear power study Oyster Creek; and Peter Gilbert's Arctic story Cape Farewell.