Pro­ducer Aims to Make a Dif­fer­ence

Scott Bud­nick’s One Com­mu­nity fea­tures women of color at the fore­front

Variety - - Top Billing - By MATT DON­NELLY @mattdon­nelly

DO­ING GOOD FOR hu­mankind while mak­ing bank at the box of­fice can be tricky busi­ness, but pro­ducer Scott Bud­nick’s ac­tivist con­tent com­pany One Com­mu­nity has re­ceived mil­lions of dol­lars in fresh fi­nanc­ing and kicked off de­vel­op­ment on an ac­tion thriller with Mar­got Robbie.

Bud­nick, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on hit com­edy fran­chise “The Hang­over,” set up shop this Jan­uary with a lead­ing $20 mil­lion in­vest­ment from En­deavor Con­tent. Orig­i­nally named Good Films, the op­er­a­tion now has $50 mil­lion in slate fi­nanc­ing thanks to a few new key play­ers.

Live Na­tion En­ter­tain­ment and its CEO, Michael Rapino (through his epony­mous fam­ily foun­da­tion), join Kim­berly Stew­ard’s K Pe­riod Me­dia as in­vestors, along­side PMC stake­holder Dan Loeb, for­mer hedge fund man­ager and bit­coin bil­lion­aire Mike Novo­gratz and Star­wood Cap­i­tal CEO Barry Stern­licht, among oth­ers.

Bud­nick has also made key hires in con­tent and strat­egy, which ful­fill what the ex­ec­u­tive called “an enor­mous ini­tia­tive for us on the first page of our busi­ness plan — to in­crease di­ver­sity in Hol­ly­wood.” Four women of color sit atop One Com­mu­nity: chief con­tent of­fi­cer Zola Mashariki, a vet­eran pro­ducer with stints as pro­gram­ming chief at BET Net­works and pro­duc­tion VP at Fox Search­light; chief im­pact of­fi­cer Sonya Lock­ett, also from Vi­a­com; cre­ative vice pres­i­dent Adri­ana Am­briz from Fox; and cre­ative ex­ec­u­tive Misha Sch­warz from WME.

When the ma­jor studios or so­cially con­scious peer com­pa­nies like Par­tic­i­pant Me­dia work on “im­pact” films, they tend to spend heav­ily on high­light­ing causes and ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic in the weeks lead­ing up to re­lease. The dif­fer­ence at One Com­mu­nity, Bud­nick said, is that the com­pany is work­ing to ef­fect change on key is­sues no mat­ter the stage of film pro­duc­tion.

Take “Fire­fight­ers,” a project that has Academy Award nom­i­nee Robbie at­tached to pro­duce, and that One Com­mu­nity op­tioned for her from the 2017 New York Times piece “The In­car­cer­ated Women Who Fight Cal­i­for­nia’s Wild­fires.”

It’s a har­row­ing story about con­victs who bat­tle dev­as­tat­ing dis­as­ters for $1 an hour,

Va­ri­ety and Rolling Stone are host­ing the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Re­form Sum­mit on Nov. 14 at the Jeremy Ho­tel: West Hol­ly­wood.

only to be blocked from pur­su­ing the same ca­reers on the out­side due to their felony records.

“I was able to go to Gov. Jerry Brown with this ar­ti­cle and tell him we’re go­ing to turn it into a film,” Bud­nick said. “He pledged that be­fore he was out of of­fice he would make a path­way for folks who were for­merly in­car­cer­ated into fire­fight­ing ca­reers.”

Brown walked his walk, and in May he set aside $26 mil­lion in the Cal­i­for­nia state bud­get to build a train­ing fa­cil­ity for up to 80 for­merly in­car­cer­ated peo­ple at a time to pre­pare for fire­fight­ing ca­reers af­ter pa­role. The early aware­ness sets the ta­ble for an ef­fec­tive is­sues cam­paign ahead of the film, Bud­nick said, while his cre­ative team works on de­liv­er­ing a di­verse and ac­tion-packed en­sem­ble thriller from “Mad Men” and “West­world” writer Carly Wray.

Bud­nick’s team is also work­ing to ef­fect change on a mi­cro level. One Com­mu­nity is a co-fi­nancer on the up­com­ing Warner Bros. re­lease “Just Mercy,” which sees Michael B. Jor­dan play­ing ac­tivist and at­tor­ney Bryan Steven­son, who worked to free an in­no­cent man from death row. Dur­ing pro­duc­tion, Bud­nick met with Warner Bros. En­ter­tain­ment CEO Kevin Tsu­ji­hara and lob­bied him to hire three for­merly in­car­cer­ated peo­ple as in­terns at the stu­dio. He then con­vinced Uni­ver­sal Filmed En­ter­tain­ment Group chair­man Jeff Shell to do the same at his Com­cast- owned stu­dio, and re­cently re­ceived a pledge from Bob Iger to make the hires at the in­tern level at Dis­ney.

Mashariki, who worked on the “Best Ex­otic Marigold Ho­tel” se­ries, told Va­ri­ety that at Search­light she cham­pi­oned films that were both com­mer­cial and had strong mes­sages, and aims to do the same at One Com­mu­nity. “The films don’t have to beat you over the head,” she said. “We want to do tent­poles, ac­tion ad­ven­tures, ro­man­tic come­dies, ev­ery­thing imag­in­able.

“Our goal is to make an im­pact,” she added. “What’s the im­pact if no­body sees the movies?”

Gov. Jerry Brown pledged that be­fore he was out of of­fice he would make a path­way for folks who were for­merly in­car­cer­ated into fire­fight­ing ca­reers.” Scott Bud­nick on a pri­mary ambition of the One Com­mu­nity film “Fire­fight­ers”

Di­ver­sity Rules Scott Bud­nick’s One Com­mu­nity aims to de­velop ac­tivist con­tent.

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