A Film Dynasty in the Making
Monday, February 5, 2007
"It isn't often that your kids make money for you instead of the other way around," said Norman Dreyfuss, executive vice president of Rosslyn-based IDI Group Cos. "So this is a pleasant experience."
The experience is Dreyfuss's profitable role in his son Brian's latest film project -- "La Misma Luna" ("The Same Moon"), a Spanish-language film about a Mexican boy trying to reach his mother in Los Angeles. With a cast that includes America Ferrera, who recently won a Golden Globe for her starring role in ABC-TV's "Ugly Betty," the movie premiered Jan. 21 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Brian Dreyfuss, 37, is a Hollywood agent, and "La Misma Luna" was directed by one of his clients, Patricia Riggen. Norman Dreyfuss, 63, who directed development of Leisure World adult communities in Maryland and Virginia, said he put up more than half the film's cost, in the "seven-figure range."
Dreyfuss, who went to Sundance for the premiere, said he had a clue that his investment might be worthwhile when a movie producer and sales representative approached him in the theater and predicted that he would do well. Several companies expressed interest in buying the movie's distribution rights, he said: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Lions Gate Films, the Weinstein Co., Sony Pictures Classics.
About 10:30 the night after the screening, as Brian Dreyfuss described it, the movie's backers were at a house one of his associates rented near the festival site in Park City, Utah. There was a knock on the door, and in came Miramax co-founder and major player Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein and his entourage went to the basement. Bidders from the other distributors went to other rooms, and a night of bargaining ensued. By 8 the next morning, Fox Searchlight Films had bought the rights to distribute "La Misma Luna" in the United States and South America. Weinstein had the rights for the rest of the world.
The total price: $5 million, satisfying for a movie that cost just a few million to make. Norman Dreyfuss, who is listed as an executive producer, said he will earn "a tidy profit, well in excess of my investment."
It's the second time that father and son have made movies and money together. Brian Dreyfuss, who runs Featured Artists Agency, called his father a few years ago to ask for financial help in finishing a murder mystery called "Brick," with Richard Roundtree. That film was also shown at Sundance, and its distribution rights were sold to Focus Features for $2.25 million.
"I put up $50,000, which was about 10 percent of the cost of the movie," Norman Dreyfuss said. "I more than doubled my investment in 30 months."
Both men are well aware that the high-risk world of independent films is littered with stories of investors plowing millions into projects and losing it all. "If you invest with the right people, your odds of success go up dramatically," said Brian Dreyfuss. But Norman, who has already committed to his son's next project -- a drama with Scottish-born actor Brian Cox -- said profits and losses aren't the main thing on his mind.
"I make plenty of money in the real estate business," he said. "It's not about the money. It's about working with my son."