Business

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Lights, camera and project financing

Garrett Kelleher was bitten by the Hollywood bug after his success with Mel Gibson, writes Nick Webb

Nick Webb

MAKING MOVIES: On the red carpet at the 'Rampart' premiere were, from left, Ken Kao, Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Lawrence Inglee, Oren Moverman, Garrett Kelleher



'IT'S not something that I've just got involved in," said Garrett Kelleher, describing his role in producing the new star-laden crime thriller Rampart, which features the likes of Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi. "I first got involved in the film business in 2003."

Even so, the movie business marks a star-studded new direction in Mr Kelleher's career given that the property market has stalled. In the past he's also been involved with Dolmen stockbrokers and St Patrick's Athletic FC.

Mr Kelleher got the Hollywood bug when helping fund a specialist form of finance for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The $30m movie went on to gross a staggering $612m in box offices around the world.

Lightstream Pictures, which he chairs, is "primarily involved in development. we're not financiers".

After getting hold of the story by James Elroy, who was behind LA Confidential, Mr Kelleher and his team found a director and signed Woody Harrelson to the project before looking for finance. "The movie was funded by the family who own Garmin [the sat nav maker]. We put the whole thing together." Mr Kelleher said that his role is more a non-executive position and that he's not involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

'These days, box office is less than 20 per cent...'

Financing movies is a tricky business. "There are less funds out there," said Mr Kelleher. "There used to be hedge funds and now there are other sources from the Middle East, Asian, Korean or Chinese funds. There may also be a story that appeals to certain high net worth individuals. You are constantly trying to find ways to put these things together."

Rampart opened in the US before Europe and after two weeks' limited release had netted $375,000, according to figures from boxofficemojo.com.

"These days, box office is less than 20 per cent," Mr Kelleher said of how movies make money. Attracting talent is a key part of the business but it's something where Mr Kelleher has form. He was able to bring A-lister Liam Neeson -- a former Bohemians midfielder -- and his late wife Natasha Richardson to the Irish launch of the Chicago Spire in 2008.

The project stalled when the credit crunch erupted in the USA.

Mr Kelleher has a number of other production projects on the go. Lightstream has signed Social Network star Armie Hammer for its $14m chiller 2.22, which is likely to hit cinemas in 2014. "We don't have equity in it," he said. "There'll be some fees and we may get something off the back end."

His movie company was also involved with Kirsten Sheridan's Dollhouse, the Irish horror movie about a party that goes wrong.

"I was EP [executive producer] on that," he said. "The Film Board was very generous and it did very well in Berlin Film Festival," he added.

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