Jere Hausfater launched his Los Angeles-based development, production, worldwide sales and distribution company less than 18 months ago with the backing of chairman and sole investor Jim Kohlberg, the Palo Alto businessman, and the hiring of president John Fremes.
Hausfater, a veteran if ever there was one, who was former executive vice-president of Miramax International, head of worldwide sales and acquisitions at Intermedia and longtime senior officer at Buena Vista International, immediately built a slate of films to sell from producers such as Senator Entertainment (Fireflies In The Garden) and Samuel Hadida (Killing Suki Flood, Solomon Kane).
But Essential has moved swiftly since then. At the company's second Cannes, Hausfater will introduce the true-life saga Queen Of The South starring Eva Mendes as a drug baroness, and an Indonesia-set sequel to the heist thriller Point Break called Point Break Indo that Jan de Bont is lining up to direct.
The Essential CEO is expecting good things from a buyers' screening of Defiance, Ed Zwick's wartime saga starring Daniel Craig, while Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Informers and Solomon Kane are in post. Shooting is scheduled to begin in Baltimore on May 23 on Richard Loncraine's 1950s comedy My One And Only, starring Renee Zellweger, and Hausfater expects to conclude further sales on the horror comedy Stan Helsing and show footage from Clive Barker's Book Of Blood.
How has the company grown so fast' "A lot of it is timing," Hausfater says. "Summit has been taking a different direction and with the Lionsgate-Mandate merger we saw a hole open up in the triple-A sales and distribution sector. Having John as president of international is a great thing and we have fantastic executives like Randy Hermann, our CFO and COO, and our head of business development Neil Caplan, who's very involved in business affairs, producer relationships and active in development."
Essential has typically acted as a pure sales agent, taking an executive producer role on certain projects. Lately Hausfater has been building the company's participation in script development. "Development is historically an area where it's hard to get money, but in order to be involved with pictures you believe in, there's no choice but to get on board as developers."
The recently announced Tom Wolfe adaptation I Am Charlotte Simmons is the first example of this.
"The main thing is about taking control of our own destiny and that's the natural next step for a company of our size," adds Fremes. "Buyers are very comfortable coming into our office knowing the product is of a high standard."
But Hausfater sounds a note of caution on buyers. "It's as if they're looking for reasons not to buy these days. They're not being profligate. We have to be adaptable and while we tend to focus on an upper level space, we're also looking for niche movies. We can go shopping at Neiman Marcus but we're not above browsing the shelves at Wal-Mart."