Michael Ohoven, scionof the family behind Germany's long-established Cinerenta productionfund, is striking out on his own as a Los Angeles-based producer. His InfinityInternational Entertainment will now start entertaining production ties withother European film funds while at the same time retaining its umbilical links to Cinerenta.
Ohoven (pictured here) says he isrelocating Infinity's headquarters from Germany to California in order tobe able to keep closer tabs on his extensive slate of US filmmaking investmentsand also to expand his operation into a standalone entertainment companyspanning all aspects of project development, financial packaging and actualproduction.
With a branch officealready in Vancouver - as well as back in Germany - Ohoven says too thathe has been contemplating the creation of a brand new Canadian distributionoperation in the belief that the marketplace there has tended to undervalue theworth of independent theatrical features.
Infinity will continueits non-exclusive deal with Cinerenta, helping to channel and supervise moneyraised from private German investors to produce films such as John Boorman'smodern day fantasy $35m Knight's Castle that goes before the cameras this summer with First Look Media handlingworldwide distribution. Since 1997, some DM 770m ($350m) has poured intoCinerenta's production coffers via four separate funding drives that havedoubled in size at each turn.
At the same time, Infinitywill produce films outside the Cinerenta arrangement, among them Charlie MartinSmith's The Snow Walker,which will shooting on location in Canada later this year with Barry Pepper inthe lead role. In fact, of the twelve pictures to be developed each yearthrough Infinity, three will then be produced in-house and the remaining ninemade through Cinerenta.
Ohoven is the first to admitthat German film funds have had their problems, particularly those others thathave tied themselves to companies listed on the troubled Neuer Markt.Cinerenta, however, has raised its money independently of the German stockmarket.
"I have been verycritical of the way that German film funds operate and it is true that a lot ofmistakes have been made. But I also think the press coverage has beenexaggerated in painting such a negative picture of the marketplace," Ohoven told ScreenDaily.
"Although it may never be a $4bn marketagain, I still think that the outlook for German film funds is still extremelystrong. Investors will be able to evaluate the performances of the various filmfunds in the last few years and see that Hollywood studio productionsdidn't necessarily offer the best return on their money. I anticipatethat there will 10 to 15 larger, more experienced funds left standing, withmany of the smaller funds that have emerged in the last 12 to 18 monthsdisappearing." Ohoven says he also does not anticipate any adverse taxchanges from German legislators.
The Cinerenta name firstcame into prominence in the mid-1970s when the company started producing andfinancing features with Columbia Pictures, among them Kramer Vs. Kramer, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Blue Lagoon, The Deep, All That Jazz, Gloria and Absence Of Malice, before then becoming inactive in 1989.
The Cinerenta name was thenresurrected in 1996 by Michael's father Mario Ohoven, a financier whoowns one of Germany's most successful banking companies in the InvestorTruehand Group and is also the best-selling author of the modern marketinghandbook The Magic Of Power-Selling.
Working with EberhardKayser, who was managing director of Cinerenta in its previous incarnation,Ohoven has since helped produce and finance some thirty feature films includingA Map Of The World, Diamonds, Forever Lulu, Nobody's Baby, How to KillYour Neighbor's Dog, The Contender, Deuces Wild, Prozac Nation, Frailty, Jeepers Creepers and Bruce Beresford's upcoming Evelyn.
Michael Ohoven first cameinto the picture as the asset manager for the investment bank behind Cinerenta.His Infinity International Entertainment has since come out ofCinerenta's paternal shadow, evolving as both a production force in itsown right and a skilled practitioner in the financing arena, deploying allmanner of soft money mechanisms such as sale-leaseback deals in the UK, Irishtax shelters and Canadian co-production agreements in order to supplement anaimed-for 20% of the production budgets.
As CEO of Infinity,Ohoven spearheads a production and development staff of 16. They include:William D. Vince, an experience Canadian film financier who is president ofInfinity International Entertainment; Infinity's chief financial officerAndrew Mann, formerly CFO of Sentinel Hill Entertainment Corp, previously oneof the largest entertainment tax shelter financing companies in Canada; KerryRock as head of development and acquisitions; and Michael Potkins as head ofproduction.
Ohoven's statedgame plan is to finance and supervise the production of features of all genresin the $5m-$40m budget range. Infinity has built strong ties with severalforeign sales agents, including Overseas FilmGroup, Lakeshore Entertainment,Lions Gate International and TF1 International. It also enjoys a relationshipwith the MGM, the distributor of Jeepers Creepers, whose $38m domestic box office gross has alreadybeen exceeded by its video/DVD revenues in North America.