Entertainment finance and business development team Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher have launched DF Indie Studios, a talent-friendly enterprise with guaranteed US distribution.
The partners said the New York-based venture combined “the best features of major studios with the cost efficiencies of independent film” and would plan to finance and distribute ten to 12 multi-genre releases budgeted up to $10m a year.
Dickinson and Fisher said the company has no structural debt and is supported by equity investors, who will share in its overall revenues.
The company has $150m in distribution guarantees, including guaranteed US distribution through its nascent releasing division led by Ira Deutchman, the independent distribution and marketing pioneer.
Foreign and domestic output deals are in place, but have yet to be announced, and Glen Basner’s FilmNation will handle international sales.
The partners have also secured a revolving credit facility for P&A. The absence of this has undone many distributors in recent years and is currently causing grave problems for Marco Weber’s Senator Entertainment.
Deutchman and the co-founders are preparing what they called a “sample slate” of eight titles – including a romantic comedy, horror, drama, family film and stoner comedy – with the goal of putting four or five into production by autumn once each has been cash-flowed.
The company will not develop projects but will collaborate with established and upcoming producers on completed scripts. The four initial producing partners will be Ted Hope and Anne Carey’s This Is That Productions, Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free, Samara Koffler’s Redbone Films, and Jennifer Fox, whose producer credits include Michael Clayton, Duplicity and Syriana.
When DF Indie Studios receives a script from an untested writer, it will take it to one of its producing partners for possible development.
It will continue to work with studio finance executive John Hadity on film financing, tax incentives and production planning. Hadity, currently the chairman of the Producers Guild Of America East, served 12 years as executive vice-president of production for Miramax and currently heads Hadity & Associates. He will work closely with DFIS executive vice-president of production Amy Slotnick, who recently left Miramax, where she was senior vice-president of production.
In addition, former New Line Home Entertainment executive vice-president of finance and accounting Rita Chiappetta-Thibault has joined as CFO.
The DFIS advisory board includes NBC Universal co-chair Ben Silverman, GE Asset Management president of investment strategies and chief investment officer David Wiederecht, Duff and Phelps Technology and Entertainment Practices global head David Spieler, and Tilda Swinton.
“To launch a completely unlevered company in the current climate is the right way to go for our investors, partners and producers,” CEO Dickinson said. “Our investors appreciate that they will share in all the revenue streams of the studio. They love that we will be also be generating 10,000 to 15,000 film jobs over the next five years, and pumping millions of dollars into local economies with DFIS.”
Dickinson has 20 years of experience in building businesses, investment and restructuring in entertainment and sports. She restructured and ran the leading extreme sports film production company Teton Gravity Research, and produced two NBC primetime pilots with Silverman’s production company Reveille.She also consulted on the development and financing of RedBone Films and negotiated content and representation deals with ABC’s The View, BT, and William Morris.
Meanwhile, Fisher has worked in business development and restructuring in the entertainment, sports and internet arenas for 16 years. Most recently, she restructured and managed a portfolio company for GE Asset Management and helped RedBone Films to develop its business.