Welcome to Deadline’s International Disruptors, a feature where we shine a spotlight on key executives and companies outside of the U.S. shaking up the offshore marketplace. Today we’re talking to UK film veterans Richard Kondal and Patrick Fischer, founders of post-production house Creativity Media and film finance company Creativity Capital. The duo, which sold Creativity Media to Fulwell 73 in 2019, talk us through the jump from post-production to financing to the launch of their new London-based co-production outfit Big Safari, international sales strand Architect and investment in VFX house Koala FX.
Staying alive in the UK independent film world is no easy feat these days but Richard Kondal and Patrick Fischer are two execs who have been quietly thriving in the space for a number of years. The two veterans, who first founded post-production outfit Creativity Media in 2010 before selling it to UK production house Fulwell 73 in 2019, are the co-founders of London-based financier Creativity Capital, which has invested in titles such as BAFTA winner Under the Shadow, Alexander McQueen documentary McQueen and horror 47 Meters Down.
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Additionally, they have entered the international sales arena with UK outfit Architect, which they launched before Berlin last year and, more recently, the VFX sector after taking a minority investment in UK company Koala FX in 2023. They recently announced their entry into the UK co-production space with the launch of its newest outfit Big Safari.
“We’re all about long-term relationships and trying to find the right scenario for each film that comes to us so that film can be the best it can be,” says Kondal. “What we feel we have built now is an ecosystem that can offer a variety of solutions to the independent producer, which we have worked really carefully to create.”
Kondal and Fischer first met in 2007 on the production 3000 Miles, which Fischer, who was fresh out of film school, was producing. Kondal, who had previously worked in the music business before transitioning to a freelance sound editor and mixer, and Fischer immediately hit it off and, seeing a gap in the marketplace, decided to set up their own post-production company. Kondal had been freelancing for a number of years and seen how other post facilities at the time had worked in London and came to the realization that “it wasn’t equipment that made great post-production, it’s the people.”
“We wanted to bring in and hire great people,” he says. “That was a big driving force for both of us. The machinery and technology that was available at the time was a lot more in people’s hands and while it was not quite how it is now where you can do it in your bedroom, it was something that we could bring some money into and do it much cheaper by this new technology.”
“We had identified the market was changing and we could start a post company that had less overhead,” says Fischer, pointing to Molinare and Technicolor who he says at the time had spent “millions on these film scanners and lasers.”
And so Creativity Media was born in 2010. Working in between London’s now shuttered members club The Hospital Club (which had post-production facilities for music) and Twickenham Studios, the company built up a solid reputation in the post-production business where it grew from working on projects in the $2M-$4M range to the $4M-$30M range. The company set up camp in East London (just north of the river Thames), avoiding Soho’s sky-high rental rates.
As business grew, they started to explore post-equity deals, which some post-production facilities were offering at the time but Kondal felt that these deals “devalued, in essence, the service you give because producers don’t know what they are paying for and they don’t know what they are getting. So, Patrick and I came up with the idea of lending producers actual money.”
In 2013, venture capital company Schneider Investment Associates bought shares in Creativity Media, which they used to build the facility, and also became shareholders in Creativity Capital, a financing company that they launched in 2014.
“We saw that people needed cash flowing and productions needed money and we saw that that could be a business,” says Fischer. “So, we started lending some of our clients money either for pre-sales or pay outs for tax credits and so we got into gap financing that way.”
The business continued to grow, and Creativity Capital began to expand its horizons beyond clients who just did post-production with them and began raising money from private investors to establish itself as a lender across TV, film and computer games. “We cash flow, we put in gap financing, and we can also fully finance on occasion as well as partly finance – it really depends on the setup,” says Fischer, who notes that the company can deploy up to $20M for a project and looks at investments on a project-by-project basis.
“It was interesting because we were really at the beginning of setting up this ecosystem where, in film especially, we had these companies that were interconnected and we could offer multiple services to a project if they needed it.”
Kondal adds, “We found that most people if they were financing with us were quite happy to use our post production services, because ultimately post production is the last input. We saw that by being really transparent and clear to our partners and producers that ultimately led to an explosion of our business. It was one lesson we really took on board: being a partner in everything you do and making sure you always do what is best for the project.”
The business plan, says Fischer, is to be a “long term partner” with the right production companies and the exec points to 47 Meters Down and Cockneys Vs. Zombies producer Tea Shop Productions as a perfect example of that kind of relationship. Creativity Media did post-production on Tea Shop co-founder James Harris’ 2011 title Screwed and is now fully financing thriller The Bayou as well as selling it through Architect and co-producing through Big Safari.
“It’s quite simple for us in that it’s all about meaningful business,” says Fischer. “It’s not just transactional for us. Of course, the numbers have to make sense but we’re making movies here and we want to tell stories with the right people.”
Fischer and Kondal pride themselves and taking calculated risks for their investors. “We’ve made 34 investments and we’ve only lost money on one,” notes Fischer before adding: “It’s not to say that we didn’t have some of the same issues that other financiers or other producers have seen in their investments – we were just able to deal with them in a more efficient manner.”
Between them, Kondal and Fischer have worked on more than 100 movies and this, they say, has allowed them to “come up with interesting ways of restructuring finance” as well as finding “creative solutions” to problems.
Fulwell 73, which was established by Ben Winston, Leo Pearlman, Ben Turner and Gabe Turner in 2005 before actor and presenter James Corden joined as a fifth partner in 2017, was one of Creativity Media’s biggest clients. In 2019, Fulwell acquired Creativity Media in a bid to expand its post operations (the company already had an in-house post facility that primarily worked across television).
Fischer and Kondal stayed on for three years to oversee the transition of the business. “We knew the team would be in really good hands,” says Kondal, adding that staying on and working with Fulwell allowed them to “learn a lot about the factual and entertainment side of television.”
Throughout this integration process, Kondal and Fischer would discuss next steps and, while they didn’t want to set up a competing post-production house, they were intrigued by the co-production game. Director Simon West approached them to post a limited Spanish TV series from producer Miguel Menéndez de Zubillaga through Creativity Media. The series, dubbed Boundless, was an epic adventure tale of the first circumnavigation of the world 500 years ago. The duo co-produced the project and structured it as a Spanish-UK co-production, which then went on to become Amazon Prime’s biggest Spanish-language TV series when it bowed on the streamer in 2021 in the U.S., UK, Spain and Latin America.
Kondal and Fischer steered the editing, post-production and VFX working on the latter with London-based outfit Koala FX. “What they managed to achieve on that show was amazing,” says Kondal of the VFX house. “They were the guys that picked up the VFX shots and turned them around in two weeks and it was a great learning experience working with them.”
The Boundless experience ultimately cemented what would become next steps for the company: adding an international sales strand (Architect), a UK-based co-production outfit (Big Safari) and an investment in a VFX business (Koala FX).
Before the integration process at Creativity Media ended in 2022 and they handed the keys to the new managing director (and former intern) Jennifer Eriksson. At the same former Embankment sales execs Calum Gray and Max Pirkis approached the duo to help establish a new UK sales outfit. Gray and Pirkis had worked together on Oscar winner The Father, Oscar nominee The Wife, Netflix’s Purple Hearts and with Kondal and Fischer on McQueen (the latter of which was fully financed by Creativity Capital).
“We had such a good experience with them when they sold McQueen,” says Fischer. “So, when they came to us and wanted investment to set up their own shop we looked at it in detail and it became quickly apparent that this is something that we wanted to do.”
Architect was launched in Berlin last year with an eye to become a key player in the independent film arena and this year it’s heading to EFM with Grace Van Dien survival thriller The Swallow, directed by Pet Sematary duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
Last year, Fischer and Kondal became minority shareholders in Dasha Sherman and Menelaos Pampoukdis’ Koala FX. “They’re a great, young and growing special effects company that can really compete at a higher level and add a great element to our ecosystem,” says Fischer.
More recently, the company has launched its co-production outfit Big Safari, which already has three projects out of the gate: Nick Frost and Aisling Bea thriller Svalta; Rosalind Halstead and Poppy Delevingne psychic thriller Stargazer; and survival thriller The Bayou. The strategy for Big Safari is to set up co-productions that help close finance for international producers, whether through accessing soft money in European co-productions as they did for Svalta or finding a cost-effective co-producer further afield like they did with UK-Philippines co-production The Bayou. It will also look to help European films access UK talent and locations.
“It’s all about the merit for each individual company,” says Kondal. “Each company are explorers in their own boat and we’re in the boat with each of them, trying to do the best possible but they own that boat, and we really want the best for every single person. But they ultimately have to drive in their own direction.
“They are always going to see the benefit of having all of these other sister relationships but it has to be fair, it has to work for everyone and for the producer and the companies and that’s why we find, ultimately, the balance works well. If you basically prioritize what is best for the project, you’re probably prioritizing what works best for each structure.”