EXCLUSIVE: As his Showtime series Ray Donovan moves to New York for its sixth season, Liev Schreiber has joined up with Matthew Stillman to launch Illuminated Content, a Gotham-based venture to develop, produce and finance TV and movie projects. Former Maven Pictures producer Hardy Justice will head up development and production at the company’s offices in New York. The aim is to generate three to four projects per year across various platforms, with Illuminated Content producing and co-financing.
The company will allow Schreiber and Stillman to accelerate the entrepreneurial ambitions they have built on separate tracks. Operating around his Ray Donovan schedule — where he is producer and has directed several pivotal episodes — Schreiber has methodically been broadening his canvas. Schreiber made his feature directorial debut on an adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer bestseller Everything is Illuminated and most recently starred, co-wrote, and produced Chuck, the indie drama about the life of Chuck Wepner, the heavyweight known as the Bayonne Bleeder who knocked Muhammad Ali to the canvas and inspired Rocky. His onscreen film turns range from Salt to The Butler, Pawn Sacrifice and Defiance, and he won a Tony onstage for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and got Tony noms for Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge.
He separately co-founded Van’s General Store, an advertising firm that specializes in branded entertainment and experiential marketing for brands that include Cadillac and Target. VGS recently merged with several other boutique firms to create Plan A, a new advertising holding company which collectively has nearly $70 billion in billings. Schreiber’s an MFA grad from the Yale School of Drama and serves on its Board of Advisors.
Stillman is founder/CEO of 2020 Content, which has 20 daughter companies in 16 countries, and is one of the largest private companies involved in the production of TV and digital advertising, feature films and television series. Group companies have won many of the top advertising awards including global company of the year and Cannes Lions grand prix with their productions for clients including Nike, Adidas, Google, Facebook, Apple, Honda, and Stella Artois. Music videos include Beyonce, Kanye West, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Linkin Park and Madonna. Its film/TV production arm Stillking Films has over 100 credits that include Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace, Red Sparrow, Mission Impossible 4, Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, and The Bourne Identity. Upcoming are The King (Netflix), The Witcher (Netflix), Crawl (Paramount), Spiderman: Far From Home (Sony), Radioactive (Working Title), Carnival Row (Amazon), The Romanoffs (Amazon), Genius: Picasso (Natgeo), Knightfall (History), Whiskey Cavalier (ABC), Das Boot (Hulu), and Treadstone (USA Network).
Justice is a longtime Gotham-based film exec who worked for Tribeca Productions and Scott Rudin Productions before joining Maven.
Illuminated Content gets up and running with several projects percolating in development:
Convoy is a multinational television series about the civilian contractors that serve in war zones, based on a script originally written by Josh Marston.
The Countess and the Duke is a feature project about the unlikely real-life love story between an African American woman and a former professional wrestler and one-time neo-Nazi.
The Conversation Project is an unscripted series that is a comic exploration into the deeper purpose and generally neurotic nature of human conversation — particularly as it applies to it’s two hosts: novelist Jonathan Safran Foer and Schreiber.
Moscow Theater Project is a film following the events surrounding the siege of the Dubrovka Theatre in Moscow by Chechen terrorists in 2002. Seen through the eyes and lives of 5 different participants from a varied cultural and social perspective. The siege lasted three days and ended with the deaths of 170 of the 850 hostages.
Finally, there is The Golem series. Created in the 16th century from earth, water and fire, the Golem has ever since been deployed by a secret society to defend the good and oppressed in a battle against evil which unfolds quicker than human cognition and underpins many of the quirks and mysteries of history.
Said Schreiber: “I believe that narrative will always be the bedrock of everything we do in this industry. Whether it’s acting, directing, writing, producing, even the marketing work we do at VGS. Figuring out what the story is, why we’re telling it, and putting together the perfect team to deliver on its promise. These are the key elements that drive the success of any project and starting with a great story makes each of those elements infinitely easier to accomplish. Matthew and I have been friends and collaborators for more than 20 years. Adding Hardy Justice to our team has taken our company and our slate of projects to the next level. We’re ready. I honestly don’t believe there’s been a better time than now to be in the story business.”
Said Stillman: “It’s a pretty fascinating time for producing content and we see an opportunity to try to make a distinct contribution. I’m very happy to be doing this with Liev and Hardy. The combination of our extensive talent and production relationships across TV, film and commercials together with the ground shift in distribution and financing will hopefully allow us to create something original with Illuminated Content and its projects.”