Former head of 20th Century Fox Film Distribution Marc Wooldridge has launched his own integrated distribution and production development company, Maslow Entertainment.
Wooldridge worked for Fox for some 27 years, including 10 as MD, before departing amidst the Disney takeover last June.
In the past year, he has bolstered connections with the creative side of the industry, ultimately envisioning a new company that brings the production and distribution sectors closer together, and contributes to a “varied and vibrant” Australian film culture.
While the distribution landscape remains in unprecedented flux due to the pandemic, the veteran sees opportunity for businesses that are “entrepreneurially-oriented”.
“Obviously there have been some massive changes across the industry, accelerated by recent events,” Wooldridge tells IF.
“I think there’s going to be more consolidation. I think corporate priorities are going to shift – even more so – amongst the major studios. There’s a risk that certain genres of movies for specific audiences will be under catered for. It is a good time to be new and nimble.
“I’ve got some good relationships, a good understanding of the market and audiences, and I feel very positive that there’s going to be opportunities and gaps to capitalise on.“
Maslow’s point of difference in the indie ANZ market, Wooldridge offers, will be that it can provide ‘the experience of a studio and the mindset of a start-up’.
He will draw on his considerable experience in marketing not only blockbuster fare, but also projects under the Fox Searchlight banner – including recent titles The Grand Budapest Hotel, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Favourite.
“We prided ourselves on finding a way of getting crossover audience beyond just arthouse. That experience of assessing a film on an individual basis remains with me today.”
When it comes to the slate, Maslow is currently in the process of securing both international and local content for distribution across all channels, with a focus on theatrical and VOD. The play is for projects with marketability and clear pathway to audience.
With regards to its production development arm, Maslow aims to become the “preferred business partner” of Australian filmmakers.
Wooldridge’s hope is to encourage earlier in-depth interaction between the commercial and creative sides of the industry, with an eye to viability, audience alignment and release strategies.
“When I was at Fox, and even now, I’d receive scripts and the first question was: Who’s it for, and how is this project going to connect with audiences in a meaningful way?
“What’d I like to do is start the process of engaging with filmmakers much earlier – concept and treatment stage.”
And while for some projects Maslow would become the distribution partner, Wooldridge says it will also provide ‘off the shelf’ advice for creatives. This will include pitch and script feedback, financial analysis and guidance on optimal market.
Maslow will also provide consultancy to investors and screen agencies with regards to commercial insight.
The venture is named after psychologist Abraham Maslow, who conceived of the theory of self-actualisation, or people reaching their full potential through different need states.
“I like the idea of Maslow playing a role in supporting content makers and local filmmakers to achieve their creative and commercial goals,” Wooldridge says.
More broadly, Wooldridge is confident in a theatrical revival, stating: “You can’t underestimate how loved and missed it is by so many people. It was a $1.2 billion business in 2019. It feels very difficult for me to accept that it just disappears so quickly.”
In particular, he believes local production could be an important pillar in cinemas’ recovery.
“Exhibition would warmly receive a few more sizeable Australian box office releases each year. One thing that the pandemic has demonstrated is heavy reliance on US content.”