A top Hollywood producer with a new movie company backed by General Electric has killed a script about agents trying to stop a terrorist attack — allegedly due to political pressure from two of his board members.
This blog doesn’t normally cover Mideast politics, and its influence on Hollywood. But the producer company concerned, Film Department, is one we’ve covered (link; scroll down), and the writer of the script, Jason Ressler, has told us more.
Of course, scripts in Hollywood get killed everyday for office politics of one sort or another. But Ressler wrote an international secret-agent action/love story called “Dove Hunting,” set in the Middle East. He says it included examples of ways that Saudis “influence Western governments by putting their money in the right places and playing both sides of the fence.” Bizarrely, he says, his screenplay came true in this case.
Ressler told us the screenplay was based on his background in the Marine Corps reserves, adding that he “helped a lot with issues in New York and Washington after 9/11,” but he wouldn’t elaborate.
The company planning to produce it, Film Department, was itself unveiled two weeks ago by producer Mark Gill. The company wants to offer films aimed at international audiences — not just the US domestic market.
Ressler tells us that he and Gill had been close to finalizing the script when the new funders came on board. Ressler says Gill began getting cold feet several weeks before Film Department received funding. Ressler, who wouldn’t disclose his ethnic background but is nonreligious, says that Gill acknowledged to him by email that he couldn’t make the screenplay because of his investors.
Deutsche Bank had been planning for months to invest $182 million in the company. That deal fell through for unknown reasons around two months ago. New funders were found, including both General Electric — which is a top contractor for the Defense Department — and two board members with close ties to Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
One of the board members, Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim, is an investor in Al-Aribya, a Middle East news channel that was banned by the US-backed Iraqi government following its broadcast of Saddam Hussein’s botched execution.
The other, Zeid Masri, runs a private equity investing firm for wealthy individuals, called Silver Haze.
The decision could also have just been based on economics, not geo-politics: it may be that the two board members thought the movie would fall flat with Middle East audiences.
We tried reaching GE for comment, but haven’t heard back. Gill also has not responded to request for comment.
Masri was awkwardly called out in 2004 for funding a Jewish-community bowling alley in New York using money that originated with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
As wealthy individuals and companies from around the world invest in American companies through private equity — especially in Hollywood — this incident highlights how information being produced is prone to influence in ways we often don’t realize.
Update: Sequoia Capital’s Michael Goguen is also an investor, although not on the board.