Veteran producer Edward R Pressman and John Schmidt, a former partner in October Films, have teamed up to form a new company called ContentFilm which plans to finance, produce and arrange distribution on an initial slate of 12 to 15 features to be shot mainly on digital video with budgets of $2m and under.
Pressman will be chairman and CEO of the company and Schmidt will serve as president and COO. The company will be based in New York, with plans for offices in London and Los Angeles.
Financing for the new outfit comes from a group of equity investors, principally lead investor Syntek Capital, a new European fund based in Munich, Milan and London. Syntek's investment in ContentFilm was spearheaded by Letizia Moratti, formerly chairman of Syntek's supervisory board and now Minister Of Education in Silvio Berlusconi's Italian government; Christoph Schoeller and Sam Humphreys, co-CEOs of Syntek; Franz Prinz Von Auersperg, Syntek's supervisory board chairman; Corrado Sciolla, head of Syntek's media and content practice and Lars Luck, Syntek's investment director for this investment.
Pressman and Schmidt were brought together by Frank Biondi, a mutual friend whose company WaterView Advisors is also an investor in ContentFilm, as are the two principals. Biondi will sit on the board of directors along with Pressm an, Schmidt and representatives of Syntek.
"The idea was to take our backgrounds and sensibilities in the independent film movement and apply it to the digital film movement," explained Schmidt at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday. "We thought we were a good combination, so we put together a business plan and went out to raise money in a very difficult market."
The two were introduced to Syntek by Leo Hoesch of Germany's Broadview TV. "Syntek is a very media- and content-savvy venture capital fund," says Schmidt. "Letizia Moratti of course has a background in News Corp and RAI, and Franz Prinz von Auersperg was at Bertelsmann and EM.TV at its height. The fund focuses on the intersection of content, technology and media and we found them very enthusiastic about our proposals."
Schmidt says that, in collaboration with Syntek and von Auersperg in particular, ContentFilm plans to find distribution partners around the world as well as in the US. "We will emphasise the traditional platforms of TV, video, cable and satellite and will be aggressive about theatrical when appropriate. We want to establish a strong relationship domestically with a theatrical distributor for that theatrical window. But we are also looking at broadband online delivery which will come on stream in the next two years."
Films will be made in the English language from directors around the world and Schmidt says that they are close to deals in the US, UK and other European countries. "Down the line, we will look to Australia and Asia as well."
Pressman, whose ground-breaking credits include Badlands, Bad Lieutenant, The Crow, Reversal Of Fortune, Wall Street and Two Girls And A Guy, also has a partnership with Terrence Malick called Sunflower Productions as well as an alliance with Berlin and Paris-based production outfit Simply Committed.
As the equity partnership for ContentFilm was assembled, Pressman and Schmidt were represented by attorney Jim Janowitz of Pryor, Cashman, Sherman and Flynn. The European investment advisor was Johanes Von Bismarck of the Munich-based Communication Equity Associates (CEA). The domestic investment advisor was Stephen Prough of Salem Partners.