Anyone with more than $1 to save knows the first rule of investing is to diversify. And, at its most stripped down, isn’t making a movie just that—an investment? So shouldn’t the same rule apply to the business of making movies?
That’s the theory that Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson, co-CEOs of The Halcyon Company, are banking on as they prepare to release their first major feature—Terminator Salvation—into theaters.
Founded in 2006, The Halcyon Company is a privately-financed development, production and financing company that doesn’t plan to limit its interests to just feature moviemaking, but television, gaming and theatrical productions as well.
Though Kubicek and Anderson came to the company from different backgrounds (Anderson founded the marketing/advertising firms In The Mix and Epiphany; Kubicek was a former American Stock Exchange trader, the youngest to ever hold a seat), their goals for the company’s future are the same. “We founded the company with the goal of developing, managing and creating world-class intellectual properties across multiple platforms,” says Kubicek.
Their first order of business, acquiring the rights to the Terminator franchise, is a perfect example of this, according to Kubicek: “There’s the new film trilogy starring Christian Bale, ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ TV show on Fox and our much anticipated Terminator Salvation video game.”
Jennifer M. Wood (MM): You guys made a name for yourselves when you acquired the rights to the Terminator franchise shortly after opening your doors. What is it about this franchise that appeals to you?
Derek Anderson (DA): We are both big Terminator fans, but we felt that there was so much more of the Terminator story to tell. In particular, the story of John Connor: A normal man in extraordinary circumstances in a post-apocalyptic world, fighting for the survival of humanity.
This story reflects the current state of the world—and the everyday human struggles we all face. It’s an allegory for our time. It also represents one of the few independently-owned franchises.
MM: You’ve also acquired the first-look rights to all of Philip K. Dick’s previously unadapted works. What’s your attraction to the sci-fi genre in particular—as moviemakers, moviegoers and businessmen?
Victor Kubicek (VK): As sci-fi fans, there is no better place to look for inspiring stories than Philip K. Dick, and it is a privilege to have the kind of access we have to his library. As moviemakers, we are proud to have produced Terminator Salvation and are very excited about our upcoming project by Philip K. Dick, but our interests are not limited to action-adventure and science-fiction.
Halcyon is about to begin the English remake of After the Wedding, a Danish film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. We are setting it in New York City and Connecticut and Michael Caton-Jones will direct.
As businessmen, we have a true appreciation for cinema and a belief that movies based on significant intellectual property have the potential to do good business.
MM: Derek, with a background in advertising and marketing, you certainly understand the importance of predicting consumer tastes. Yet, unlike advertising, moviemaking can be a painstaking process—with two years or more between development and exhibition. So what’s the secret to anticipating what audiences will be interested in that far out?
DA: Any creative endeavor requires the ability to connect with your audience, to create something that is resonant, engaging and stimulating. I believe it is really impossible to quantify how one does that successfully. It is truly an innate ability, much like a great athlete who has a natural talent. But, of course, it can be nurtured and developed further. The best way to develop this talent is just to really throw yourself into it, surround yourself with good people and, of course, start with a great story.
If there was a formula to follow then every movie would be great and no one in this business would have sleepless nights waiting for the opening weekend box office numbers.
MM: People often forget the “business” side of “show business,” but that seems to be your main area of expertise—financing, marketing, etc. So where does the artistry come from?
DA: We are both artists who are smart enough to know that it’s important to also know the art of business… This is not only true of the film industry but also of contemporary art, fashion and many other creative arenas.
VK: People often assume that one of us is the creative and the other the business person; I think we have become very adept at both. Making a feature film the size and scope of Terminator Salvation is like running a company with 600 employees while keeping the vision of the picture intact. Add our responsibilities at Halcyon into the mix and we end up wearing a lot of hats. I think we wear them well.
MM: Why does diversifying your interests make sense in the world of entertainment? As different mediums continue to intersect and/or find common ground, do you see this becoming a more common practice?
DA: As far as we know, we are one of the few independents that are playing significantly in all three of these arenas. While we believe this is a smart business decision, as some of these new areas continue to grow, this diversification is also a creative choice. By not being limited to one medium, we have so many different ways to approach telling stories and entertaining people.
MM: Victor, considering your past as a trader, this philosophy makes even more sense. How does one go from being a trader to a moviemaker? What are some of the essential skills that each of these occupations share?
VK: I was 22 when I worked on the live trading floor of the AMEX, and it was a whirlwind of drama and excitement. The bell would ring at 9:30 a.m. and the in next second the entire building was alive. When I wasn’t working, I was writing, and it was this passion for storytelling that caused me to get up and go one afternoon…
What I did not leave behind is my sense of adventure, my keen eye for detail and my love of story. These things I took with me to Hollywood and, with hard work and a tremendous amount of hands-on learning, I ended up here.
MM: Though you’re working with well-known brands and franchises, you guys are a pretty small company. Do you consider yourselves independent moviemakers? How do you define the sometimes nebulous term of “independent moviemaker?”
VK: We do consider ourselves hands-on, independent producers. “Independent” to us means controlling our own destinies, doing our own projects and working with the people we want to work with.
MM: Do you see the landscape of American moviemaking shifting toward more of an “independent” state?
DA: While we are an independent company, we still work with the major studios. For example, Terminator Salvation is being distributed by Warner Bros. domestically and Sony internationally. Filmmaking has always been—and will continue to be—a collaborative process. No matter how the industry changes, it will likely remain collaborative. There will always be studios, producers and distributors in one form or another.
MM: Last question, which is particularly appropriate for a company with a strong marketing base… The recent surge in Terminator Salvation talk after the release of that infamous audio tape of Christian Bale’s on-set confrontation with your cinematographer: Good for business?
VK: Sometimes the good old Hollywood saying rings true: There is no such thing as bad publicity. And in this instance we hope that this is true! MM