Infinity backs niche winners

Category: Shattered News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 16, 2006 | Publication: Variety | Author: TAMSEN TILLSON
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TORONTO "Capote" is a breakout film for more than director Bennett Miller and writer Dan Futterman. A small Canadian company that took a chance on what at that time was a risky project is seeing its own star rise as a result.

Vancouver-based Infinity Features received the "Capote" script in mid-2004 with a request from producer Caroline Baron of A-Line Features to put together funding for the project. Miller, Futterman and star Philip Seymour Hoffman were already attached.

Hindsight is 20/20, but its niche tale and unknown writer and director made it an unlikely upfront pick. "We had no clue the film would do what it did," says Infinity topper William Vince. "The script was strong and I knew Philip would do a good job, but how Bennett would do as a director, we didn't know."

The project's creative strength and the enthusiasm of the principals convinced Vince to take it on. "We're not risk-averse; if there's no risk, there's no upside," he says of his company. "I go on the premise that passion rules over financial models, especially with this type of movie."

Infinity got a commitment from MGM/UA (pic ended up at Sony Picture Classics after MGM's sale) to buy world rights for $5 million, and then put up the remaining $2.5 million itself in return for proportionate ownership. "Capote" was shot in Winnipeg on the strength of Manitoba's tax credits; producers also liked the vintage look of the jail there.

Vince is an alumnus of Keystone Entertainment, which he founded with siblings Robert and Lyn, and producer of the "Air Bud" movies. Since setting out on his own nine years ago, Infinity, which has about 20 employees and an office in L.A. headed by partner Michael Ohoven, has focused on niche projects often with well-known names attached. Other pictures Infinity co-produced include "Saved," starring Macaulay Culkin and produced with Single Cell and Red Bull, and "Just Friends," starring Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart.

"Infinity has always been a director-based company, and a passion-based company," said Vince. "Everyone can make comedies and horror
films; not to be disrespectful, but our niche is to find projects like 'Capote,' 'Saved' and 'Snow Walker' --- thought-provoking, stimulating projects, as opposed to popcorn movies."

The success of "Capote" will allow Infinity the luxury of more development funding, more international co-prods and some bigger-budget fare. "Studios are coming to us now, they see the quality that we can do for the price, and they also see the financing," Vince says. "Studios cannot ignore the profitability of 'Saved' and 'Capote.'"

Infinity's policy of taking an equity position also serves all parties, he notes, since it eases cash flow for the studio up front and increases the incentive to make it profitable at the back end.

The company currently is casting novel adaptation "Edgar Mint," which it's producing with Single Cell, and in development is "Butterfly on a Wheel," a Canada/U.K. co-prod starring Pierce Brosnan and distributed by Mel Gibson's Icon Pictures.