Fate brought US producer Scott Einbinder and German producer and investment banker Ingo Vollkammer together, but everything since then has followed a clear design.
The founders of Los Angeles-based Leomax Entertainment and its genre label Indigomotion, both of which are backed through Zurich-based parent company Leomax AG, met through mutual acquaintance Philip Fier, the former CFO of Fox International who is now the third partner at Leomax and its CFO.
"When I came to the US about five years ago, there was still some silly German money floating around and it was quite straightforward to find money to finance films in Hollywood, but it tended to be on a case-by-case basis," Vollkammer says.
"I was looking for a good distributor deal. If you're involved in co-finance with a studio you won't get into distribution and you don't see a dime until the studio has recouped its p&a and distribution commitment. I wanted to convince my European investors we could set up a company that produces movies and takes part in distribution."
Vollkammer and Einbinder, a longtime producer who had worked with Screen Gems on The Covenant among many others and who craved independence, signed a multi-picture co-financing and distribution deal with Starz Home Entertainment for the production and acquisition of films.
Starz gets first look on all Leomax films and may channel the release through Overture Films if there is theatrical potential. Starz may appoint distributors for hire on other titles and, if it passes, Leomax can hire a distributor itself and put up the p&a.
"Our goal with Indigomotion is to make commercial genre films that will ideally work in theatres but if not, they will enjoy strong runs in the ancillary markets," Einbinder says. "We want to work with US and international film-makers and create a brand that is as recognisable as Dimension. We're thrilled to be in business with Starz and believe that with their financial backing we have a good chance of becoming the next Lionsgate. They're very supportive of us."
Generally Leomax, which set up Leomax France last year and plans to launch a similar co-production hub in Spain this year, will make films in the $3m-$6m range and will venture into the $10m-$25m range if the partners can attract the right cast. The first titles are both acquisitions: Roar Uthaug's Norwegian horror film Cold Prey, and the $8m French-Canadian production Walled In starring Mischa Barton and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Starz division Anchor Bay holds US rights to Walled In and is eyeing an autumn release, while QED International is handling foreign sales. The supernatural thriller was financed through soft money, something the partners are keen to do because they say it strengthens ties with local film-makers. Leomax cash-flowed the production in euros to avoid the weak US dollar, which during the Regina, Canada, shoot was at an all-time low against the Canadian dollar.
Leomax says that because of its equity backing they do not need pre-sales to greenlight a film. Nevertheless, pre-sales never hurt and to this end Nicolas Chartier at Voltage Pictures is generally the company's go-to international sales agent.
Leomax has five films in development and the partners are aiming to get two or three wrapped before mid-June in case the actors' strike kicks in.