For indie film insiders on the party circuit in Los Angeles over the next few days, the newly announced partnership between THINKFilm and Killer Films is certainly a deal worth buzzing about. Saying the union will replicate “the structure of a specialty division,” insiders at both companies are touting big upsides from the deal which quickly puts THINKFilm into the ballgame as a film producer and at the same time opens up international opportunities for Killer Films. The arrangement shifts THINK’s strategy of relying on finished films from the festival circuit to fill its slate. “We decided that the next best thing to having our own production division was to closely align with a top notch production company,” noted THINK EVP Randy Manis. Killer partner Christine Vachon noted today that the union will boost her company’s production output and allow “access to worldwide distribution at a level that we have never had before.”
The terms of the deal, according to insiders, calls for at least a pair of new films over the next two years, but both sides have high hopes for the pact. “We really see this as a longterm relationship,” Vachon told indieWIRE today. Under the new pact, Killer will develop and produce films to be financed and distributed worldwide by THINKFilm, effective immediately. The first look pact gives THINK the right to finance any or all of Killer’s productions and, where it is not so involved, the company’s sales unit will set up the films overseas. While there isn’t a set budget range for new films, according to insiders, movies will likely be budgeted at under $10 – 15 million.
Twelve-year old Killer Films, which is partially funded through an overhead deal with JWP, is now in the 7th year of that pact and John Wells serves as an executive producer on each Killer film. The move gives the company a new first-look pact and will boost its output. “We produced four movies and this deal should make us even more productive,” Vachon noted.
THINKFilm was recently acquired by film financier and producer David Bergstein, who is now the company’s Chairman and this week the company is toasting its Oscar nomination for Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” and that film’s multiple nods at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards. “Our committment to making films, or helping them get made, is recent, but it is a major part of the ‘new THINKFilm’ profile,” THINK’s theatrical distribution head Mark Urman told indieWIRE last night, adding, “We have worked very hard to establish ourselves as a superior distributor with lots of taste, style, and flair, and we wanted to be known as a desirable home for the best films and filmmakers.”
Principles from both companies first got together more than a year ago. “Our first meeting was incredibly exciting because the fit felt so right,” Vachon said today, “Killer was looking for a partner that we could grow with and whose tastes matched our own.” The deal was instigated by CAA‘s Micah Green, according to insiders, with Manis (EVP of acquisitions and business affairs) brokering the ultimate pact with CAA and John Sloss & Dan Steinman from Sloss Law Office. In comments to indieWIRE, Manis added, “We met with the team at Killer and just had a great chat about movies and realized that this could be a very symbiotic relationship. Then we just had to figure out a structure that made sense.”
As for the idea that the pact sets up a specialty division relationship, THINKFilm’s Randy Manis comments, “Specialty divisions have a number of inherent advantages over the real indies. We can’t address all of them — cash, clout, multinational conglomerates. But the fact that a studio has the infrastructure and manpower to have a development department, a production division, [and] talent relationships at the filmmaking stage — these are all things that a specialty division has the resources of and the benefit from, and this deal replicates that structure, and provides benefits to each of THINKFilm and Killer.”
“When two companies as resolutely independent as ours team up, it communicates a spirit of strength and vitality in our entire community,” concluded THINKFilm’s Mark Urman. “It also illustrates that one of the smartest ways for companies like ours to remain independent is to depend upon one another.”