Attention, indie film biz: the check may actually be in the mail. That’s because I’ve learned that Merrill Lynch’s Global Asset Based Finance Group and Rizvi Traverse Management have formed New Bridge Film Capital, a Los Angeles-based film financing company to provide gap capital to independent producers. (We hate it, too, when there’s a yawning chasm between the final portion of a picture’s production costs and foreign sales. That’s when producers start tap-dancing for tips on NYC subway platforms or Beverly Hills intersections). These are the same two companies that poured $100 million into ICM to finance an expansion of the talent agency’s business. ICM won’t be an investor in this “supergap fund” though chairman/CEO Jeff Berg has strategically guided Rizvi in the past. I hear both Rizvi’s money management company and Merrill Lynch each ponied up $20 mil. “The fund is currently in its initial phase,” a source told me. “It will be joined by a number of other investors to increase the fund’s size.” New Bridge will be run by two showbiz veterans: the executive director will be Diane Stidham, formerly exec director of the global investment bank ABN Amro, and the director will be Danny Mandel, formerly of local Union Bank. He’s got 10 years of gap-financing experience, from pictures like The Aviator. (That wasn’t a gap. That was more like the Grand Canyon.) She’s got 15 years of highly specialized experience in entertainment finance and has worked with every major Hollywood studio. “In this day and age, with so many film revenue streams, there’s much better clarity on anticipated returns from indie films,” an insider explained. “As a consequence, New Bridge will be aimed at the independent market and its most promising films where recent performance is very high.” OK, all you indie beggers, the line for $$$ forms here.
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