The name Cold Fusion Media Group suggests that in the tricky business of film finance the seemingly impossible may sometimes be possible. The company's business plan, meanwhile, focuses on the practicalities of financing and facilitating lower-budget independent production.
Launched last autumn by CEO Michael Roban, the two-man Los Angeles-based operation reflects Roban's experience as a partner in his own boutique entertainment law firm and then as a business affairs executive with the likes of ContentFilm, Participant Productions and, most recently, Stone Village Pictures.
Working in the demanding independent production sector, says Roban, "I realised that where I was most useful and where I had been most successful was in integrating production and finance." So, with backing from wealthy individuals including real-estate investor Todd Early and internet entrepreneur Paul Fiore, Roban formed Cold Fusion to provide a range of financing and consulting services. He partnered in the venture with Damon Martin, president and founder of Hollywood post-production audio services facility Departure Studios.
Able to commit around $10m in collateral-based loans at any one time, Cold Fusion offers pre-sale and gap financing, post-production or finishing financing, and tax credit and bridge financing. What it does not do, says Roban, is make speculative equity investments.
The company's first deals were to provide finishing funds for Amy Redford's $2.6m drama The Guitar and Robert Iscove's $5m-$6m swing dance story Love N' Dancing. The former premiered at Sundance and is being handled by Cinetic for the US and Maximum Films International for the rest of the world. The latter is now in post and being handled internationally by Voltage Pictures.
As a consultant, Roban is working with production companies including Los Angeles' Artfire Films and - on Raymond De Felitta's family drama City Island - New York's Lucky Monkey Pictures.
The next area into which Cold Fusion is likely to move is tax-credit financing. Currently closing a deal to finance the tax-rebate portion of a project tapping into UK and South African credits, Roban (who executive produced the Stone Village projects Penelope and Love In The Time Of Cholera in the UK) hopes the UK, especially, will become an important market for his company. To that end, he has signed up John Graydon and Nigel Clay, both directors of the Media Group at leading UK accountancy firm Tenon, as advisers to Cold Fusion.
Back in the US, the film-finance business is waiting to see how it will be affected by the sub-prime lending crisis and the disappointing results achieved by some hedge fund-backed film slates.
Roban, however, is confident his new operation will find its place. In fact, he argues, "both those situations create more of an opportunity for what we're doing here at Cold Fusion. It comes back to doing nuts and bolts financing, being conservative and hoping that we're right a hell of a lot more than we're wrong."