In The News

< back to In The News list

Producers desire to hire the leading Producers Reps in Beverly Hills - Flaunt Magazine

Written by Timothy Ford

The phone rings — it rings a lot at Ostrow & Co. It’s the director of a human rights film festival in Geneva, calling about Juvies, a Mark Wahlberg-narrated documentary about teenagers in adult prisons.

“Juvies had been on the festival circuit for two years without landing a deal. HBO turned it down—twice,” Page Ostrow explains. Ostrow is a producer’s representative, a film executive who locates financing and distribution for independent films.

“A month after coming on board, we closed a mid-six-figure deal for a world premiere with Sheila Nevins at HBO. More importantly, there was a kid in the film whose sentence was reduced by years as a result.”

Producers’ reps do essentially the same job as agents, but with more hands-on consultatory involvement for filmmakers who are too unknown or inexperienced to have agents. Another big difference is that producers’ reps charge a retainer upfront, like attorneys. And they get a percentage, like agents.

Ostrow is a stylish brunette whose dealings with directors, producers, and moneymen feature candor and a Canadian accent. The publisher of Variety likened her to a “softer-shouldered version of John Sloss,” who, with his company, Cinetic Media, is probably the most prominent of producer’s reps. Other peers among the small but growing number of reps include Jeff Dowd, John Pierson, Robert Hawk, and the law firm of Lichter, grossman, Nichols & Adler. William Morris, Endeavor, and United Talent also have indie financing divisions.

Ostrow spent most of the nineties selling for distributors throughout the world. “i came to understand what they were looking for—the buzz words, how to talk with them. I made friendships in the trenches with executives who’ve moved up. One of my first contracts was with graham King at initial,” she says. King just won the Oscar for best picture for The Departed. “So when i switched to repping in 2000, i had a keen understanding of the market and good relationships with key people.”

The phone keeps ringing at Ostrow & Co. This time it’s a British producer calling from his office in Rio, with a package of two to three films; he wants representation. The phone rings. Showtime is looking for a film to fill a slot that fell open. For her services, Ostrow charges $10,00 to $15,000 up front. in special situations she offers payment terms. Other firms start at $5,000 and go to $25,000 and up.

“We don’t make a penny from our upfront fees,” says Ostrow. “There is so much work involved. We only make money when the picture sells. So it’s just as important for us to make a good deal as it is for the filmmaker.”

Ostrow just made a deal for The Bros with Lionsgate. It’s a comedy about two white-guy wannabe rappers, starring Ludacris. She’s negotiating domestic distribution for Dating Games People Play and The Surfer King, which are already in distribution internationally with six-figure deals. “it’s all about being selective. Some months we get 500 submissions. it averages above 200,” Ostrow says. “We reject poorly made films, gratuitous sex and violence, and unreasonable expectations. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s crazy and who’s not.”

The phone rings again. It’s Warner Bros. calling about The Art of Survival, about a man who survived the Holocaust through his art. “i’m really proud of this film,” says Ostrow, whose business has lately seen an increase in documentaries. Right now she is working on Stolen Childhoods, a documentary narrated by Meryl Streep about forced child labor worldwide; Behind Forgotten Eyes, a documentary about Koreans who served as “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers in World War ii; and The Drugging of Our Children, by gary Null with Michael Moore. “We recently sold El Inmigrante, about the Mexican border situation,” she reports, “and Sony is about to release Make It Funky, a music documentary we sold them about New Orleans. “We want to be involved with films that make a difference, that inspire change for the better.”

There remains an unsavory side to doing business in this town and it’s Ostrow’s job to try to smooth it over. “When an offer appears with dollar signs and the prospect of fame, character defects suddenly blossom—believe me,” Ostrow says. “If a distributor starts to sniff out rancor, they will almost always take a pass. The producer’s rep has to sort all that out.... All the buyer sees is pleasantness and professionalism—not the wild-eyed grasping that filmmakers tend to exhibit once somebody wants their film.”

The phone rings; the whole office gives high fives: one of Ostrow’s clients has been selected as a contestant for Steven Spielberg’s TV show On the Lot. “The winner gets a development deal with Spielberg,” Ostrow exec Tim Morell explains. The phone rings again: a young filmmaker looking for distribution. The phone rings: it’s a distributor wanting her new project list before they appear on her Web site. Ostrow looks at her watch and puts on her coat. “He wants first crack at them,” she says. “They’re buying, we’re selling.” Now she has to meet a Sony executive in the Library Room of the Four Seasons. On her way out the door, the concierge points to the front desk, and a pile of submissions addressed to Ostrow & Co.