The Finance Conference – Session I
The Future of Independent Film
In an ever-changing and challenging global marketplace, independents are constantly evolving to push past barriers and get diverse stories made and out to worldwide audiences. Leading executives, financiers and producers talk about the state of the industry now, developing new business models, strategies and partnerships, and how they and their companies are working to shape the future of independent film.
Jill Goldsmith, Co-Business Editor, Deadline
Laura Lewis, CEO & Founder, Rebelle Media
Milan Popelka, COO, FilmNation
Joe Simpson, Managing Partner, Ashland Hill Media Finance
Tim White, Co-CEO / Founder, Star Thrower Entertainment
Jill GoldsmithCo-Business Editor, Deadline
Jill joined Deadline in 2019 after working as a New York-based contributor. She follows corporate finance, deals and publicly traded companies in media and entertainment, film financing, and New York film and TV production.
Joe SimpsonFounder & Managing Partner, Ashland Hill Media Finance
Joe Simpson is Founder and Managing Partner at Ashland Hill Media Finance, the UK and US-based entertainment financing company he runs alongside fellow film financiers and producers, Simon Williams and Jonathan Bross. Since its 2022 launch, Ashland Hill Media Finance has invested more than $140M across 22 deals, including Rupert Sanders’ The Crow, starring Bill Skarskård and FKA twigs, Philip Noyce’s action-thriller Fast Charlie, starring Pierce Brosnan and James Caan, and Jesse V. Johnson’s action pic Chief of Station starring Aaron Eckhart. Simpson is also Co-Founder and Partner of Palisades Park Pictures, a global entertainment company led by CEO Tamara Birkemoe.
Prior to Ashland Hill Media Finance, he founded and managed the U.K. based film investment firm, J Cubed Film Finance, which executed 30+ film deals with total production budgets exceeding $300M. As COO of production and finance company Miscellaneous Entertainment, he executive produced the action-thrillers, Terminal starring Margot Robbie, and Killing Gunther featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. Previously, he worked at Columbia Tri-Star (now Sony Pictures) and MGM Home Entertainment Europe.
Simpson also previously served as Vice Chairman of film industry-sponsored UK charity “Film Education” which involved the promotion of film as a support tool for learning across the national educational community and within the UK government.
Laura LewisCEO & Founder, Rebelle Media
Laura is the CEO and Founder of Rebelle Media. Laura has over twenty years of experience in film and television development, production, strategy, sales and financing. She produced Mr. Malcolm’s List for Bleecker Street Media and Universal Pictures and is an Executive Producer on Hulu’s hit television series Tell Me Lies, which is about to start production on its second season. Previous credits include Producer on Sony Pictures’ Long Weekend, Executive Producer on An Acceptable Loss starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tika Sumpter, Co-Executive Producer on All About Nina, written and directed by Eva Vives, and Little Woods, written and directed by Nia DaCosta.
Prior to launching Rebelle, as a film finance and sales agent at Creative Artists Agency, Laura packaged and sold films such as On the Basis of Sex, The Wife, Jackie, Dallas Buyers Club, The Imitation Game, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Maggie’s Plan, Begin Again, Mud, Bachelorette, Sleeping with other People, and Still Alice, amongst many others. Her focus has always been on finding ways to push against the “no” and getting stories, across all genres, about women and other marginalized voices made and seen.
Prior to CAA, she consulted with financiers on slate and individual picture film financing and worked as a development and production executive at Twentieth Century Fox and Edward Saxon Productions on films ranging from Away We Go to What Happens in Vegas.
Laura has a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. She is a proud member of the Executive Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, BAFTA, the Television Academy, the Producers Union and the Producers Guild of America. She also mentors and volunteers for Sundance and Women in Film. Laura runs marathons, loves Duke basketball, musical theater, exploring the world, can occasionally be found lost in her imagination at Disneyland, and is the loving mother of Gus, her willful Yorkie.
Milan PopelkaCOO, FilmNation
Milan Popelka is the Chief Operating Officer at leading independent entertainment company FilmNation Entertainment. Popelka’s responsibilities include overseeing all day-to-day operations, strategic planning/business development, and finance for the company, and extending across film, television, theater, and podcasting. FilmNation’s films have grossed over $3.4B worldwide at the box office, while garnering a highly prized ‘EGOT’ across its various businesses: an Emmy win for its first TV series, 2 Grammys for its first Broadway musical, 50 Oscar nominations (including 5 for Best Picture) and 9 wins, and 17 Tony Award nominations and 10 wins.
Popelka served as Executive Producer on Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction epic Arrival, Emerald Fennell’s Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman, and WWII epic Greyhound starring Tom Hanks, among many others, as well as on the award winning podcast SNAFU with Ed Helms. He is a member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Tim WhiteCo-CEO / Founder, Star Thrower Entertainment
Tim White, alongside his brother Trevor, is an academy award nominated producer and a founder and co-CEO of Star Thrower Entertainment.
Star Thrower most recently produced Brian Duffield’s anticipated sci-fi thriller No One Will Save You starring Kaitlyn Dever for 20th Century Studios, Hulu and Disney+, and Chloe Domont’s Fair Play starring Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich with MRC and T-Street. Fair Play made its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired by Netflix.
Prior Star Thrower films include King Richard for Warner Bros.’ for which Will Smith won an Oscar® for Best Actor. The film received five other Oscar® nominations including Best Picture.
Star Thrower has also produced Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award® nominated The Post with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep; Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West with Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen; Michael Dowse’s 8 BIT Christmas and Villains with Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe.