EXCLUSIVE: Black Bear Pictures, the financier-producer of the Oscar-contending drama The Imitation Game, has made a major move to expand. President-CEO Teddy Schwarzman today set as president and COO Dan Steinman, the seven-year veteran of the CAA Film Finance Group. Steinman will be based in New York, as Gotham-based Schwarzman moves to Los Angeles to start an outpost there. They’ve also upped Black Bear’s Ben Stillman from veep to senior vice president.
Steinman has long been a fixture in the indie film game, serving as a partner at Sloss Law Office before moving to CAA (before launching Black Bear, Schwarzman, also an attorney, worked for John Sloss’ sister company, Cinetic, and before that was a Citigroup analyst). At CAA, Steinman worked with Black Bear Pictures on a number of projects, and most notably helped in brokering the record-setting U.S. distribution deal for The Imitation Game with The Weinstein Company at Berlin. Black Bear jumped on Graham Moore’s Black List-topping script after Warner Bros kicked it to the curb. He advised Schwarzman in the strategy to expand Black Bear’s platform beyond single-picture production. That led to the creation of Elevation Pictures, which quickly established itself as Canada’s second-largest independent distributor with The Imitation Game, A Most Violent Year, and Nightcrawler on its current slate.
Schwarzman said he and Steinman developed a strong rapport and he felt his skills matched expansion goals that are still coming into focus in a fast-shaping business where there is more access to A-list projects for indie financiers than ever before. He wouldn’t say long term if Black Bear would move into domestic distribution or limit that to north of the border. “At this point, we’re not focusing on U.S. distribution, for us, it’s going to be a process of continuing to be material- and filmmaker-driven from a content-acquisition standpoint,” Schwarzman told Deadline. “We will always be trying to get in at an early stage on material we can invest ourselves in. We’re an opportunistic company, and as deals arise, and libraries come available, as growth opportunities come up, we will evaluate them with an eye toward long-term growth as opposed to short-term announcements.”
Black Bear’s slate so far has included the JC Chandor-directed Robert Redford-starrer All Is Lost, the Sundance pic A.C.O.D., and the Mark Wahlberg-Russell Crowe drama Broken City. The company has all kinds of momentum from packaging, producing and fully financing The Imitation Game, which comes into Golden Globes weekend with five nominations. Its next film in production will be Gold, the Stephen Gaghan-directed drama that will star Matthew McConaughey. Production begins this summer.
“Having collaborated many times over the past four years, I have the utmost respect for Dan’s intelligence, taste, and ethics, and I am excited for him to hit the ground running as Black Bear continues its evolution into a multifaceted entertainment company,” Schwarzman said.
Said Steinman: “At CAA, I have had the great pleasure of working extensively with Teddy and his team and getting to experience firsthand their dynamism, creativity, and, most important, unwavering commitment to bringing filmmakers’ visions to life. I look forward to helping the company to continue its growth while staying true to its core principles.”