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New production company won't break the bank

It raises $200 million and plans to spend up to $35 million per movie.

June 28, 2007|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

The money keeps flowing into Hollywood.

Independent film executives Mark Gill and Neil Sacker said Wednesday that they raised $200 million to form the Film Department, a production company for modestly budgeted movies.

"There's a perfect storm of favorable conditions for our new business," said Gill, former president of Warner Independent Pictures and Miramax Film.

Global demand is strong for high-quality, independent films, and Hollywood stars are eager to work outside the studio system, he said. At the same time, major studios have scaled back on the number of movies they make to focus on their most important franchises and original projects.

Well-heeled investors from Wall Street, real estate, technology and other industries have poured billions of dollars into financing films in recent years, often pairing with studios to share costs. In April, former Paramount Pictures executive Robert Friedman secured $1 billion in financing to launch Summit Entertainment.

The Film Department, based in West Hollywood, plans to hire 38 employees. It will operate independently, shopping its projects to various distributors. It plans to produce six projects a year at $10 million to $35 million each.

Gill will be chief executive and Sacker will be president and chief operating officer. Between them, they have shepherded such projects as "Crash," "March of the Penguins," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Illusionist."

"We believe that the principals of the Film Department are unusually qualified to execute their plan with high creative standards," said Scott Webster, managing director of General Electric Co.'s media business, one of the venture's backers.

Other investors include Sheik Waleed Ibrahim of Saudi Arabia and Zeid Masri, managing partner of Silverhaze Partners.

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josh.friedman@latimes.com

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