Demarest Films ByzantiumLambert Media Group’s Michael Lambert and Sam Englebardt have formally partnered with William D. Johnson to form specialty financing and production company Demarest Films. Demarest will provide senior and gap loans and preferred equity to film and TV productions. The trio has been stealthily collaborating on investments for nearly a year and started its film financing operations in November 2011. Investments already completed include Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, with Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller and Sam Riley; the currently filming A Single Shot from David Rosenthal and starring Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo and Jeffrey Wright; and Penthouse North, a psychological thriller by Joseph Ruben with Michelle Monaghan and Michael Keaton. The Weinstein Co is releasing the latter. A full press release follows:

April 25, 2012 — After quietly collaborating on several investments over the past nine months, Lambert Media Group’s Michael Lambert and Sam Englebardt have formally partnered with William D. Johnson (a private investor and the son of Franklin Templeton Investments’ founder Charles B. Johnson) to form DEMAREST FILMS. The Company commenced its film financing operations in November 2011 after making an array of public and private media and technology investments (e.g. Cinedigm, Moviepass, Titan Gaming, xFire, Seismic Games, and nTro) under its previous name, Activation Media Partners. Launched as a “specialty financing and production company” and funded with private capital, DEMAREST provides senior and gap loans and preferred equity to film and television productions.

The company has already completed several investments, including: Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, which is currently in post-production and stars Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller and Sam Riley; David Rosenthal’s A SINGLE SHOT, currently filming, starring Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo, and Jeffrey Wright; and PENTHOUSE NORTH, a psychological thriller directed by Joseph Ruben which stars Michelle Monaghan and Michael Keaton and will be released by The Weinstein Company.

The venture’s broad investment mandate allows it to move more quickly and aggressively than commercial banks and other specialty lenders, investing across the film capital structure, assuming more risk, and ultimately helping producers secure a larger portion of their budget from one reliable source. Further, as the principals are seasoned producers themselves, they plan to provide the most informed and collaborative environment possible to their filmmaker partners.

Says Sam Englebardt: “We intend for Demarest to be faster, more economical and less risk-averse than other specialty financiers, which often makes all the difference. Producers need a partner who can stretch a bit further against the foreign sales estimates, close the financing faster, and maybe put up a modest amount of equity to get the project into production. We have the flexibility and experience to do all these things, while still adhering to a smart and conservative business model.”

Adds Johnson: “I’ve always believed that allocation to alternative asset classes is essential to any asset management strategy. The entertainment business is cyclical, and recent developments, as well as the state of the global economy, have made investments in film and television – when structured properly – a very attractive proposition both in terms of absolute return and the creation of a diversified portfolio.”

Adds Lambert: “This is a unique moment in time because the film studios are largely focused on big budget tent pole movies and, since 2008, many banks have exited the financing of independent films. At the same time, the appetite for pay tv, VOD, free tv and video is growing in an expanding and emerging global marketplace. That, coupled with the opportunity to apply some of the proven film financing structures to scripted television and other formats, makes this an especially interesting time to be in the production finance business.”

Lambert Media Group is an investment and management company focused on value and strategic growth opportunities in entertainment, media and technology. Founded in 1992, the company has a track record of creating significant value for investors through acquisition, development and divestiture of properties that have benefited from the company’s management strength and relationships. Their current portfolio includes Rave Cinemas, Village Roadshow Pictures, and Concord Music Group.