VARIETY – The Groundbreakers: Agent

VARIETY – The Groundbreakers: Agent


Emanuel Nunez 

The Groundbreakers: Agent 


Posted: Tue., Oct. 28, 2008, 3:10pm PT

As Hollywood agents brace for light bonus checks after a strike-plagued year, CAA agent Emanuel Nunez is sitting pretty.

Nunez guided Reliance Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna’s groundbreaking deal to finance Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks and also to co-finance projects generated by the companies of CAA clients Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Nicolas Cage, Brett Ratner, Jay Roach and Chris Columbus.

This followed Nunez’s role in guiding India-based UTV chief Ronnie Screwvala’s investments that included developing films with Overbrook partners Will Smith and James Lassiter, and co-financing M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening.”

The Cuban-born Nunez was brought to CAA in 1991 by Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer to find offshore coin for films. Though he also co-reps Cage, Carrey, Columbus, Tom Cruise, Michael Mann, Ratner, Shyamalan, Smith and others, Nunez spends the majority of his time finding money for CAA client projects. After watching hedge funds flood Hollywood and spread risk across film slates, Nunez had an idea: Would emerging markets place long-term bets on blue-chip CAA-repped talent? The benefit to CAA clients was obvious, he felt, and studios would welcome new partners to co-finance their films and use their distribution platforms.

Initially eyeing Brazil, Russia, India and China, Nunez targeted India because of its thriving economy, youthful English-speaking, tech-hungry population and a democratic government that encourages foreign business ownership.

“The biggest reason was Bollywood, a thriving industry that meant people who understand the process of filmmaking and dealmaking, which in itself is another language, one that hedge fund managers had to learn,” Nunez says.

The CAA agent made his first trip to India in early 2006, meeting ad agency, telcom and media company bigwigs. He found kindred spirits in UTV’s Screwvala and Reliance’s Khanna.

“UTV is like a strong independent studio with a forward-thinking owner in Ronnie, who saw the benefit of a Hollywood alignment and the value of globalizing his business,” Nunez says. “Reliance is a company with a $100 billion market cap, with an established film production and distribution platform and the second largest telcom network in India. They candidly said they wanted to be the virtual studio of the 21st century, a dominant player in every platform.”

The pieces fit together quickly. UTV will extend its relationship with Shyamalan. After betting on the eight CAA clients, Khanna made one of the biggest talent bets in movie history when Reliance committed $550 million to fund Spielberg’s DreamWorks.

Nunez, interviewed between meetings in Dubai, feels the Bollywood connection is just the beginning of overseas infiltration.

“There’s no bigger statement of the potential than the one made by Reliance, which showed with the DreamWorks deal that a company could come into the industry literally at the highest possible level, working with Spielberg and Stacey Snider,” Nunez says. “This hasn’t been lost on other territories and regions.”

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