Tag Archives: Film Producers

Changing with the Times: Film Producer Angel Cassani

Film Producer Angel Cassani

A film’s creative power exists in the possibility it offers us to get lost in another world, and perhaps experience life from a new perspective, but at the end of the day, making films is still a business. 

Just as changes and advances in technology have affected nearly every other existing business model, the film industry continues to experience massive changes in its own right. 

From the way we watch films to the way films are produced there’s no doubt about it, everything is changing. To be successful as a producer in the modern film world means looking to the future and anticipating where the industry is going, something that renowned producer and finance guru Angel Cassani knows all about. 

“The industry has changed a lot, starting with the platforms with their new rules, ways of buying and demanding content. In recent times the industry has grown a lot, and there have been a lot of bad productions,” explains Cassani. “Because of this, it is necessary to take a lot of aspects into consideration when choosing a project, in order to have the smaller chance of loss and to give the investor major security, this is why we present a project accompanied by a business plan to the investors. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘Hollywood is Wall Street’.” 

It’s been over a decade since the Latin American finance expert burst onto the international film scene with his brilliant idea of adapting the colossal world of the UFC to the big screen.

Launching a career that marries his financial expertise with his passion for film and the UFC, Cassani quickly found himself climbing the ranks in Hollywood. In 2008 the reputable film studio Lionsgate offered him a six picture deal along with his partner, Argentinian film and television star and the former Kickboxing Champion of the World, Hector Echavarria.

The successful duo joined forces after Angel shared his impressive idea with Echavarria. 

Cassani recalls, “[Echavarria] had a spectacular film and television career in Argentina, where we had met a few years before. I had talked to him about my love of filmmaking, and I suggested I could help him with financing and production.” 

Merging Cassani’s success in finance with Echavarria’s on-screen talent, the pair teamed up for what would be the start of a very successful film collaboration.

Cassani recalls, “He [Echavarria] instantly agreed, and we produced the movie [Never Surrender] for Lionsgate studio in Hollywood.” 

Cassani effortlessly stepped into the producer role on the 2008 film “Never Surrender,” a fight-for-your-life thriller that exposes the brutal world of underground fighting, directed by and starring Echavarria.

The film also stars real life UFC fighters B.J Penn and Georges St-Pierre, who both played  fictionalised versions of themselves, as well as Patrick Kilpatrick who starred alongside Tom Cruise in “Minority Report” and James Russo of Tarrentino’s “Django Unchained.”

The film was the stepping stone to success that helped the duo capitalize on the popularity of the UFC, seeing the pair join forces on a total of eight films over a 10 year period. 

“Never Surrender” Movie Poster

Their collaborative success continued with the edgy 2015 film “No Way Out,” which was executively produced by both Echavarria and Cassani and starred Danny Trejo (“Machete,” “From Dusk till Dawn”).

Prior to following his dreams into his now successful career in filmmaking, Cassani was an established financial investor throughout South America. His advisory work earned fortunes for international corporations and clients such as BellSouth, Motorola, Avon and more.

His portfolio of financial success aided a smooth transition from finance to film, and his work since has proven him as a visionary producer who can predict trends. 

As the world continues to adapt to the towering urges of high speed internet and streaming services, industry figures are constantly being faced with the high demands of consumers who want to access films with the click of a button.

The increasing popularity of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are changing the way films are being made on every level, from the production and turnaround time to the budget and contract terms.

The phrase “Netflix & Chill” has literally become the latest form of dating, leaving behind the days of subtle arm-around-shoulder moves at the local movie theatre. 

Cassani reflects, “The platforms offer you to watch what content from the comfort of your home, this is why people stopped going to the cinema.” 

The demand for streaming services saw the once booming box office numbers begin to rapidly decline, forcing producers and industry figures to find a new direction to achieve success in  filmmaking. 

Using his extensive knowledge as a financial expert, Cassani took to the industry changes quickly. 

“The main challenge the studios are facing is how to adapt the new budgets to their productions,” he explains. “Investors are becoming stricter and are looking for more financially secure projects, for this reason it has become a prerequisite to have a good business plan in mind.” 

Boasting over 130 million viewers today, in 2018 Netflix spent an estimated US$13 billion on original content; and at the tail end of 2019, multinational mass media and entertainment providers Disney and Apple recently unveiled their streaming services

With these companies securing deals with some of the industry’s biggest stars for their original series, it’s becoming more apparent that the future of Hollywood is now swiftly moving towards online streaming.

Just when the industry grew accustomed to these changes, Hollywood found itself on a standstill recently when it was faced with it’s biggest challenge yet. 

The unsettling Coronavirus dilemma has had a significant impact on the film and television industry, just as it has on the rest of the world. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 people will have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

Cassani adds, “Nowadays we have to pay the most attention to enter into negotiations with the platformas, due to the Coronavirus crisis we don’t have cinemas open and we don’t know when they are going to open.” 

While COVID-19 is causing multiple cancellations, postponements and changes to film industry schedules, platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are comfortably reaping the quarantine benefits. 

With strict lockdown laws in place forcing millions to stay inside, and many without work and waiting patiently for the world to reopen, indulging in daily episode binges and movie marathons seems like the most comforting way to spend the time. 

While it’s easy to focus on the negative impact of COVID-19, not all hope has been lost in Hollywood. Streaming platforms are seeing an incredibly high demand in sourcing new content, with industry profilers finding a new burst of creation whilst in lockdown. 

Angel has kept his creativity flowing through his work alongside producer and award-winning filmmaker Joel M. Gonzales. In 2019 the pair founded Matte Pictures and have three upcoming films in pre-production; the action packed “The Sister Assassins” which again stars Danny Trejo, as well as “Power and Glory” and “Can You Hear Me.” 

When speaking on the exciting partnership between him and Gonzales, Cassani says, “We have a relationship based on respect and creative freedom, I have always felt that Joel gave me my space to exhibit my ideas.”

Cassani is also busy working on the upcoming series “DNA,” a short form series of 20 minute episodes that focus on the sudden shifts in perspective that people experience in their ordinary life. 

Illustrating a different story through each chapter, the series will bring to life subjects that could potentially have an impact on society, another impressive way in which Cassani stays relevant to change. 

“The industry is currently experiencing a lot of changes, with one of those being the platform,” Angel states. “Youth are used to watching what, when and where they want… the duration of the content is increasingly shorter.”

With online streaming services and worldwide pandemics keeping Hollywood on it’s toes, having the creative ability to adapt to change is the key to success. 

An industrialist in his own form providing expertise on all levels, Angel Cassani not only remains at the head of the game, he predicts trends that are fundamental to filmmaking today.

From Narratives to Documentaries, Producer Assya Dimova Brings Powerful Stories to the Screen

Producer Assya Dimova

Film is a remarkable medium. It can make us laugh, cry, scream, think, and occasionally all of the above. It offers weary audiences an escape from the tedium of the real world, and it gives them a glimpse of places they may never see otherwise. That’s exactly how producer Assya Dimova first fell in love with film, and ultimately with filmmaking.

As a producer, Dimova is essentially a project’s chief architect. It’s her responsibility to guide the entire process, from finding talent to organizing the countless moving parts that make up every production. But having spent nearly her entire life producing films, plays and events, Dimova is a master of putting on a show.

Born in Tokyo, Japan and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, Dimova has worked in nearby Italy and Germany for much of her professional career. The rich culture and artistic traditions of Europe have greatly influenced her work. Her upcoming film “Our Blood Is Wine” is a tribute to one of the continent’s most under appreciated contributions.

“It focuses on Georgia’s fascinating history of winemaking, past and present,” Dimova explained. “Director Emily Railsback and award-winning sommelier Jeremy Quinn provide intimate access to rural family life in the Republic of Georgia as they explore the rebirth of 8,000-year-old winemaking traditions almost lost during the period of Soviet rule.”

Dimova served as a line producer on the film, which is slated for release in 2018. In her position she was responsible for overseeing the planning of the film and ensuring the day-to-day production went according to plan and stayed within the budget. It’s a difficult job in any production, but the challenges are even more pronounced on a feature-length documentary like “Our Blood Is Wine.”

Traditional filmmaking is an indescribably intense process, and there are certainly benefits and drawbacks from working with tightly-controlled sets, schedules, and scripted dialogue. Documentaries, by their very definition, offer filmmakers none of that control. It was up to Dimova to plan for and provide everything director Emily Railsback needed to tell the story, with no telling what that story would ultimately be.

Because of her, “Our Blood Is Wine” grew into a beautiful story about an ancient art form in an ancient place, and about the families that still live on the same land and in the same pastoral way as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. When the film is released in 2018, audiences will be able to see for themselves how the prehistoric craft of winemaking in Georgia is still thriving there today.

Prior to her work on the documentary, Dimova was the producer of the 2015 drama “Stygian.” The film is the tragic tale of a dying man who spends his last hours of life haunted by his mistakes.

“‘Stygian’ is a Western following the trek of an old gunman across a barren desert. Injured by a fall from his horse and suffering from dehydration and illness from an infection, his time is running out,” Dimova said, painting an image of hopeless desperation that the film captures brilliantly. “The central themes of sin, guilt and atonement make for a powerful and thought-provoking story.”

“Stygian” immediately won audiences over with its distinct blend of minimalist qualities and emphasis on visual storytelling. It was showered with critical acclaim and was named an Official Selection at five film festivals, including the 2015 Santa Fe International Film Festival and the 2016 Wild Bunch Film Festival.

Film has always been a major influence for Dimova, but her work as a producer isn’t limited to the screen. Some of her most impressive work has been as a curator of events, including the prestigious Leiden International Film Festival and the Hollywood Film Festival. As a curator, Dimova watches the films submitted by potential festival entrants and works to decide which ones the festival will screen. Her experience as a producer is invaluable to her curatorial work, which demands a fastidious and analytical approach that she’s honed through producing her own films.

“As a producer, one must have a wide range of taste and ability to spot up-and-coming talent. With my international experience and background I’m able to critique submissions for both their production and creative value,” Dimova said. “As in my personal producing career, I always go for story first and how captivating, original and authentic it is. I always look for something fresh that surprises me.”

Assya Dimova has built her career around her ability to examine every project not just from the perspective of a producer, but through the eyes of the audience. Her love of film inspired her to seek out and empower filmmakers with new stories to tell; and by giving them the platform and means to create and share their work, Dimova herself has continued the work of inspiring future filmmakers in audiences around the world.