Brad Weston has launched Makeready, a funded production company backed by eOne and bolstered by a five-year agreement with Universal Pictures to handle worldwide distribution and marketing on two feature films per year. The first of those Weston expects will be ready for release in late 2018, with two to follow in 2019. Weston left his position as New Regency president and CEO to form the new venture, and he has named former Regency production president Pam Abdy to head his executive team. They will be staffing up in film, TV and digital.
Entertainment One is the company’s lead backer, and it will handle theatrical distribution in Canada, the UK, Australia/New Zealand, Benelux and Spain, as well as handle international distribution of TV content, which will be a major component of the new company.
The company is named for the media term that signifies the process of getting ready to go to press. It took Weston less than 12 months to get to this place, with several twists and turns along the way. The venture has a production facility from JPMorgan Chase. That, and the eOne and Universal relationships that will allow Makeready to buy and develop what it wants and supply deficit financing for its projects.
Weston said earlier stops in his career, especially production president at Paramount Pictures under recently deceased former chairman Brad Grey, and president/CEO of New Regency under Arnon Milchan, positioned him to construct a company that has been his dream and might be the envy of plenty of his peers because of the autonomy he has. Especially helpful were the years that Weston spent at Regency: tasked with restoring Milchan’s company as the filmmaker-driven maker of important pictures as it was when Regency made such films as JFK, Heat and L.A. Confidential, Weston oversaw a three-year run that included two Best Picture winners in 12 Years A Slave and Birdman, and very nearly winning a third with The Revenant. Other films there included Gone Girl, and The Big Short. There were a total of 34 Oscar nominations and 12 wins. Weston leaned in heavily on filmmaker relationships including David Fincher and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, something he hopes to do with the new venture that will be headquartered in Culver City.
“Piecing together the company has been more challenging than I imagined, but the things I learned from Arnon prepared me for this and the successes really paid off in my conversations with Donna Langley in establishing Universal as our bedrock relationship along with eOne,” Weston said. “It clearly defined who we are and the kind of things we will make as a point of entry. The content creation game is changing dramatically, and we want to make a mark in the branded content space and the new ecosystem that exists in TV and film. The bandwidth is endless right now and the lines between film and TV are blurring. We are going to do what we’ve done before, working with great filmmakers and showrunners to make distinctive, bold TV and film that cuts through and stands out in the marketplace. Then we’ll decide where the content should go. We will be asking them to join a new venture, but Pam and I have done this a long time and we hope the people we’ve made films with before will take a chance with us now.”
Weston also cited Grey as an important figure in taking an entrepreneurial leap here. “Brad was a transformative figure in my life and career, and my love and prayers are with Cassandra and the kids,” Weston said. “He impacted a lot of our lives in a great way and every one of his friends are devastated by his death.”
Weston said Makeready has several movies in nascent stages. On the TV side, there are several projects including Saigon, a TV series from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson’s Appian Way and writer David James Kelly. Kelly worked with Appian on Robin Hood and Weston renews the Appian Way relationship from The Revenant. Abdy acquired the bestselling novel They Can’t Kill Us All, about the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, which will be developed as a limited series. Makeready also has Arash Amel attached to write a series adaptation of the BOOM! graphic novel Old City Blues, with Chloe Grace Moretz exec producing.
Before Regency, Abdy was president of Scott Stuber’s Bluegrass banner where she produced Identity Thief and Endless Love and before that she was exec veep at Paramount and produced Garden State. She and Weston have worked 13 years together.
“Brad’s filmmaker-driven approach and proven track record for delivering both prestigious and commercial films make him a perfect fit for the studio, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship,” Universal’s Langley said in a statement.
Said eOne CEO Darren Throop: “We are thrilled to support Brad on the launch of his new company. We have always been impressed by his incredible track record of delivering compelling content that is as commercially successful as it is award-worthy, and we are excited to be able to deliver that content to audiences around the world.”
The merchant bank Evolution Media orchestrated the deal and Weston was repped by Latham & Watkins, eOne by Mayer Brown and in-house counsel.