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DF INDIE STUDIOS LAUNCHES A PRODUCER-CENTRIC VENTURE WITH GUARANTEED U.S. THEATRICAL DISTRIBUTION FOR FILMS BUDGETED UP TO $10 MILLION
Led by Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher, and Guided by an A-List Management Team, Consultants and Advisory Board; the New York-Based Venture is Working to Greenlight a Starting Slate of Commercially Viable Films with Producing Partners This is that Productions and RedBone Films
New York, JUNE 15, 2009 - Offering a new, producer-centric studio model for the independent film industry, entertainment finance and business development experts Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher have announced the launch of DF Indie Studios (DFIS). The New York-based venture, guided by seasoned industry consultants and an experienced advisory board, embraces a transparent and unlevered business model that combines the best features of major studios with the cost efficiencies of independent film.
DFIS, www.dfindiestudios.com, aims to finance and distribute between 10 to12 multi-genre, commercially viable films per year, budgeted up to $10 million and backed by a guaranteed U.S. theatrical release, $150 million in distribution guarantees, foreign sales, promotion and advertising (P&A) revolver, as well as distribution across all platforms. This new film financing model contains a core value that is very appealing to investors, and unique to the industry in that investor return will be based on all the revenue streams of the company, including distribution fees and exit value.
DFIS' mandate is to serve as a home for a carefully selected group of producers, providing the tools to give their commercially viable films in this price bracket the best chance for national and international success. DFIS has scripts in the green light process from a team of established producers with successful box office track records including: This is that Productions - Ted Hope and Anne Carey (Adventureland, In the Bedroom, 21 Grams, The Ice Storm, The Savages); and RedBone Films whose co-founder, Samara Koffler, ran Harrison Ford's production company for eight years.
Dickinson and Fisher are joined by Rita Chiappetta-Thibault, chief financial officer of DFIS. As executive vice president of finance and accounting for New Line Home Entertainment, Chiappetta-Thibault helped grow revenues from $150 million to more than $1 billion.
The DFIS distribution strategy was developed in conjunction with consultant Ira Deutchman, a three-decade distribution and marketing expert who has worked on over 150 films and launched Fine Line Features, Cinecom Entertainment Group and Emerging Pictures. Foreign sales and output deals are managed by industry veteran Glen Basner, chief executive officer of FilmNation.
For the last two years, the DFIS founders have engaged respected studio finance executive John Hadity, to guide them through the intricate world of film financing, tax incentives and production planning. Hadity, currently the chairman of the Producers Guild of America East, served 12 years as executive vice president (EVP) of production for Miramax and currently heads Hadity & Associates. He will work closely with DFIS EVP of Production Amy Slotnick, a studio production executive and independent film producer who recently concluded her tenure with Miramax as senior vice president of production.
The DFIS advisory board includes Ben Silverman, co-chair of NBC Universal; David Wiederecht, president of Investment Strategies and chief investment officer for GE Asset Management; David Spieler, global head of Duff and Phelps Technology and Entertainment Practices; and Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton.
- "DF Indie Studios is set to become an invaluable saving grace of a currently endangered species: the intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent film - maybe even of intelligent, ambitious and commercially viable independent filmmakers themselves," stated Tilda Swinton. "It is my honour and my personal pleasure to be working alongside Mary and Charlene in shaping this inspired and inspiring company."
- "To launch a completely unlevered company in the current climate is the right way to go for our investors, partners and producers," said Mary Dickinson, who serves as chief executive officer of DF Indie Studios. "Our investors appreciate that they will share in all the revenue streams of the studio. They love that we will be also be generating 10,000 to 15,000 film jobs over the next five years, and pumping millions of dollars into local economies with DFIS."
- "We couldn't be launching the company at a more perfect time. There is a huge opportunity in the independent film world and we believe we have found a singular place in the market," said Charlene Fisher, president and chief operating officer of DF Indie Studios. "There is a growing demand for commercial features, and a lack of quality products at the right price. At DFIS we will work with our production partners and provide end to end financing, a rigorous greenlight process and guaranteed U.S. distribution to meet this increasing demand. No one else is solely supporting films produced for up to $10 million in this way."
Mary Dickinson has 20 years of experience in building businesses, investment and restructuring in the entertainment and sports sectors. She restructured and ran micro-cap media companies including Teton Gravity Research (TGR). With extreme sports film production company TGR, she restructured debt with: banks, talent, and industry suppliers; secured representation with leading talent agency CAA; cut a mass market distribution DVD deal, developed multi-platform revenue streams; produced two NBC Primetime pilots with Ben Silverman’s television production company Reveille (producers of Biggest Loser, The Office, Ugly Betty); hired Aura 360 to secure and structure TGR's deal Jeep World of Adventure Sports TV series on NBC.
President and Chief Operating Officer Charlene A. Fisher has 16 years of experience in business development and restructuring in the entertainment, sports and internet arenas. Most recently, she restructured and managed a portfolio company for GE Asset Management and then worked with RedBone Films to develop a dynamic new independent film production business model. She has also worked with clients that include ABC, NBC, HBO, ESPN, The Golf Channel, NBA, NHL, MLB, and PGA and LPGA Tours, among others.
Quotes from DFIS' production partners, advisory board and consultants:
- "I have known Charlene and Mary for almost ten years and cannot think of two more creative, honest and determined people to run DF Indie Studios," stated David Wiederecht, president of Investment Strategies and chief investment officer for GE Asset Management. "I have seen both of them pull off what others thought was impossible, and they always keep the interests of their financial partners first and foremost in importance."
- "We have been working with the DF Indie Studios team for over a year now to make sure their model is designed to help the producer create great films," said Ted Hope of This is that Productions. "Having guaranteed distribution through Ira and his team, working with other key DF Indie Studios team members like John Hadity on production finance and Amy Slotnick on slate development, as well as significant P&A to support their films is something we emphasized and they are delivering."
- "I am so excited about your plans. Just back from Cannes where it is clear that your timing is perfect. The current environment really pleads for this sort of new venture! You've got an amazing team - all people I have known, respected and worked with for years," stated Pat Kaufman, executive director, New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture & Television Development.
- "DFIS offers its equity investors an unprecedented opportunity by providing an unlevered business model with 105% downside risk protection and guaranteed North American distribution for all greenlit films," explains advisory board member and investor David Spieler. "And best of all, equity investors will share in all revenue streams of the studio including distribution fees and any exit."
- Says John Hadity, "I recognized immediately that DFIS was going to shift the asset class back to the producer, where it belongs. It has been tremendously exciting to participate in the process of bringing this new model to life."
- "The reason I have spent the last year helping to develop the unique and effective DF Indie Studios distribution plan is that the co-founders, Mary and Charlene, have created an industry-changing studio model for indie film with an exceptionally talented executive team, a passion for film and impressive partnerships," says Ira Deutchman.
- "International distributors will respond very positively to a new U.S. distribution company that can supply films with a guaranteed theatrical release and at budget levels that make sense in today's economic climate," stated Glen Basner, chief executive officer of FilmNation.
- "DF Indie Studios fills a missing niche, providing a unique way for investors to participate with independent filmmakers making films that will be distributed," says Christopher Dixon, managing director of media investments at GGCP, Inc.
- "I wanted an opportunity to get involved in independent film with a partner that treats its investors as exactly that - partners. The DF Indie Studios business model has been designed as an old-fashioned, unlevered model that ensures investors share in all revenue streams of the studio including distribution fees and any exits. Additionally, their veteran management team and producing partners are exactly the people who can deliver on the DF Indie Studios promise," says investor Sue Callaway, former general manager of Jaguar Cars North America, and a current contributing editor at Fortune and CNNMoney.com.
- "Mary Dickinson came to Teton Gravity Research (TGR) right after 9/11. Needless to say it was a tough time to get investor's attention. She joined the team, got investors involved and worked with the bank and other creditors to give us room to breathe. Structuring a deal with Reveille on a pair NBC pilots added a new dimension to TGR, and helped get the company's foothold in TV. Coming from NYC to Jackson Hole to work with a tight crew of action sport filmmakers could not have been easy and took integrity and heart. I'd work with her again anytime." -Dirk Collins, Teton Gravity Research Co-Founder
Chris Libby (B|W|R Public Relations)
Siobhan Aalders (Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide)
Gina Lang (B|W|R Public Relations)
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