Grantee/Partner News

Compton Invests in New Fund

September 27, 2013

Grantee News From: Gamechanger Films:

“Gamechanger Films” Launches to Exclusively Finance Women-Directed Feature Films

Mynette Louie, left, Mary Jane Skalski, second from left, Julie Parker Benello, third from left, and Dan Cogan, right, have created a new financial fund for women directors. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / September 20, 2013)

September 27, 2013, New York, NY – Gamechanger Films, a new company founded by Julie Parker Benello (Afternoon Delight, Pariah, Brooklyn Castle), Dan Cogan (Hell and Back Again, How to Survive a Plague, The Queen of Versailles), Geralyn Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels, The Invisible War, The Square) and Wendy Ettinger (Semper Fi: Always Faithful, The War Room, Eye of God), and led by producer Mynette Louie (Cold Comes the Night, California Solo, Children of Invention), who recently won the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award, launches today as the first for-profit film fund dedicated exclusively to financing narrative features directed by women. Producer Mary Jane Skalski (Very Good Girls, Win Win, The Visitor) will serve as the company’s senior advisor.

Gamechanger aims to shift the gender disparity in the film marketplace by tapping into the enormous existing talent pool of women filmmakers and providing the necessary financing to bring their work to movie-going audiences worldwide.

Women directors have been responsible for some of the most acclaimed and successful films of recent years, from Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty to Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, and yet it remains difficult for women directors to access capital and secure equity financing for production.

Louie says, “An equal number of women and men graduate from the top film schools, but in the last four years, only 7% of the 250 top-grossing Hollywood films were directed by women — that’s a lower percentage of women than that found among Fortune 500 company boards, philosophy professors or aerospace engineers. Female-helmed projects are mistakenly perceived to lack commercial viability, and narrative film projects rely on a funding structure that is primarily operated by men. Gamechanger aims to increase the number of films by women in the marketplace by offering a dedicated financing option for them.”

Gamechanger will provide production financing and will serve as executive producer on a slate of narrative features. Films eligible for financing may be of any genre, but must be directed or co-directed by a woman. Preference will be given to projects with accomplished producers attached.

The company was founded by industry veterans Julie Parker Benello (Afternoon Delight, Pariah, Brooklyn Castle), Dan Cogan (Hell and Back Again, How to Survive a Plague, The Queen of Versailles), Geralyn Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels, The Invisible War, The Square), and Wendy Ettinger (Semper Fi: Always Faithful, The War Room, Eye of God). Each of the founding members has an extensive background in film finance and production, social advocacy and investor education. Parker Benello and Ettinger are the co- founders of Chicken and Egg Pictures, and Dreyfous and Cogan are the co- founders of Impact Partners.

Producer Mary Jane Skalski (Very Good Girls, Win Win, The Visitor) will serve as the company’s senior advisor. Other members of the company’s advisory board include Ellen Barkin, Susan Bodine, Lisa Cortés, Geena Davis, Madeline Di Nonno, Abigail Disney, Barbara Dobkin, Aleen Keshishian, Marian Koltai-Levine, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, John Lyons, Charlotte Mickie, Pat Mitchell, Julia Ormond, John Penotti, Eve Schoukroun, Regina K. Scully, Bart Walker and Jacki Zehner.

Collectively, the group has produced and financed a rich array of films that have won Oscars® and Spirit Awards, and that have enjoyed worldwide distribution along with premieres at festivals including Sundance, Cannes, Berlin and Toronto.

Gamechanger is funded by a group of socially conscious and commercially- minded impact investors. The company aims to cultivate a new community of sophisticated and empowered film financiers, many of them women, by making investor education a component of the investor experience. Gamechanger investors will be invited to an annual conference with fellow investors, meet with Gamechanger filmmakers and industry executives, and take part in regular calls with company executives addressing the progress of films and the landscape of independent film. Gamechanger’s goal is to create a new corps of investors, schooled in the film business, who can form a support structure for a new generation of women filmmakers.

Parker Benello states, “There is a real movement afoot to change the status quo. Gamechanger intends to be part of this movement by helping to fill the financing gap. With Gamechanger, we’re instigating a crucial intervention into the marketplace. Women directors are an undervalued asset, and for us, that represents both a business opportunity and a chance to effectuate equality and social change.”

According to a recent USC-Annenberg study, commissioned by The Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles, entitled Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers, gender bias in financing is cited as the foremost obstacle to a woman’s career development in film. The study also found that when a woman is in the director’s chair, there is likely to be a higher proportion of women in all other departments.

Gamechanger’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the reduction of gender bias in

both independent and mainstream media by providing women directors with access to financial capital.

Cogan adds, “The best way to get more women in the director’s chair is to demonstrate to the industry that women directors can be just as financially successful as men. With Gamechanger, we will be providing capital to gifted women directors, enabling them to be successful and to demonstrate their ability to make a return for investors. At the same time, we will be educating and developing a new group of independent film investors who are supportive of this mission. With great filmmakers and sophisticated investors aligned towards the same goal, we have a chance to make a big difference in the status of women in the world of film.”

Media Contact: Julia Pacetti, JMP Verdant, julia@jmpverdant.com

Here is the exclusive L.A. Times article announcing the company full story.

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