EXCLUSIVE: Cassian Elwes, who two years ago transitioned from WMA independent film head to producer and packager of indies, has made a partnership deal with Evolution Entertainment. Elwes and Evolution principal Mark Burg will team for Evolution Independent. While Evolution is best known for genre fare like the Saw franchise and for Two And A Half Men, Burg and Evolution president Mike Menchel will rely on Elwes to find highbrow independent film projects to invest in.
Elwes left WMA when that agency merged with Endeavor and Endeavor partner Graham Taylor took the reins of the department. He is still a fixture at film festivals, as a sales agent brokering distribution deals and also on behalf of a high number of films he has been producing. Having ready access to funding strengthens those efforts. Elwes said he continues relationships with financier/producers like Michael Benaroya.
“I thought after WMA I might never work again, and that has turned out not to be the case,” Elwes told me. “It has been two years, I just started the 15th movie I’ve produced, and I’ve sold eight others. Mike and Mark were willing to put their company resources to fund a certain number of films each year. We will do four or five this year, and beyond that, my guess is it will be even more than that. This is a fresh infusion of cash into a business that can use it, and it is a great endorsement for the current health of independent cinema.”
Menchel said that he and Burg expect to make money from their indie film investment–they wouldn’t say how much, but it is multiple millions–and they expect it to be an asset to their management company and its clients. “We want to be different from other management companies, and there will be opportunities that clients can access,” Menchel said. “Cassian has a large independent production and packaging sales agenting business, and his wealth of financial relationships is enormous. Cassian told us, I find all this money, when people come asking for finishing funds, gap money or debt financing. Imagine what i could do if I had the money and didn’t have to find it. Now he has it.”
Menchel said that this is another move to branch out Evolution’s reach, to go along with the output deal that Evolution made with Wild Bunch for its genre arm Twisted Pictures, and the TV relationship Evolution has with Lionsgate Television, where it is producing the series version of Anger Management which stars Evolution Management client Charlie Sheen.
Among the films Elwes has been involved with as producer are Blue Valentine, Margin Call, Sarah Palin–You Betcha!, Wettest County, The Words (which CBS Films acquired at Sundance), the upcoming JC Chandor-directed All Is Lost with Robert Redford, and the Lee Daniels-directed The Paperboy.