Montreal-based Mediabiz — now reorganised into production arm Mediamax and financial products division Mediabiz Capital — is making an aggressive play in the international film business. Mike Goodridge spoke to group CEO Karine Martin
When producer Ed Pressman sat down at Cannes 2009 with Karine Martin, the CEO of Montreal-based Mediabiz International, he was in the process of raising finance for Canadian director Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries. If the film did not go into production three months later in August, the project would lose its actors and shortly afterwards the underlying rights to the material. Martin took on the challenge giving it, she says, “a shot of adrenalin”.
“We structured it as a Canada-Ireland co-production and made a substantial investment ourselves,” she explains. “Between Telefilm Canada, the Harold Greenberg Fund, the Irish Film Board and Ireland’s Section 481 tax relief, post-production house Windmill Lane and a private US investor, we put together the $11m budget.”
The film, which played in Venice and Toronto this year, marks a new departure for Mediabiz, a 12-year-old company which is looking to make a splash on the international film and TV scene.
To the ’max
Mediabiz was set up in 2000 by Jean-Francois Doray as a financial consultant for investors in film productions and slates in Los Angeles; Martin joined Doray as a partner in 2002 and the two relocated the operation back to their home town, Montreal. There they continued to advise investors and film funds mainly from Europe on how to navigate the muddy waters of Hollywood, and later moved onto bigger projects, advising the government of Belgium, for example, on how to structure the country’s film tax shelter deal. Corporate clients included Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, Royal Bank Of Scotland and ABN Amro.
“Eventually we decided that this kind of advising was not the best option for Mediabiz,” says Martin. “Either the deal happened and we got a fee or it didn’t happen and we had no revenue. So we put Mediabiz on pause and focused on raising enough capital for a production company.”
‘Once we take a project on, we have the resources to make it happen’
Karine Martin, Mediabiz
The resulting outfit, Mediamax, is co-owned by Mediabiz and pension fund Fondaction, and has its own development fund. Meanwhile a new financing entity, Mediabiz Capital, was established under Doray with backing from private investors and debt financing. It is designed to provide a range of services such as financing gap, bridge, pre-sales and tax credits and subsidies. Mediabiz Capital’s services are focused on bringing project business to Mediamax.
“Mediamax can act as a production company which originates a project or act as a service producer, co-producer or executive producer,” says Martin. “Once we take on a project, we have the resources to make it happen. We have a development team and about 50 projects in development but we realise we also need to jump onto third-party projects.”
In addition to The Moth Diaries, the company has boarded a JK Rowling biopic for Lifetime Television in the US and Maina, a $9m native-language Canadian epic which received a large part of its financing from Innu and Inuit native communities. Through a production partnership with Singapore’s Toonz Entertainment, for which it raised financing in the past, the company is also developing animated feature Lazy Jack which is being set up as a co-production between Canada and a European country to be determined.
While Mediabiz Capital can finance tax credits from any country and has strong relationships with private investors around the world, Mediamax is designed to act as the perfect Canadian partner.
“We want to be as hands-on as possible in production,” says Martin. “We don’t want to be passive investors. In fact our investors feel that production is one of our strengths and that is what we sold them on. For any project looking to shoot in Canada or with Canadian elements, we’re a one-stop shop with our development, production and financing solutions.”
- Martin started her career as an attorney for two large law firms in Canada.
- She joined Mediabiz in 2002, and has been involved in raising equity, fund management and financial engineering for media groups, international banks, funds and producers throughout Asia, North America and Europe. Mediabiz also lent her services to Lagardere Group as COO of one of its financing entities.
- She has acted as executive producer or financier on more than 30 film and TV projects.