Bruce Berman, a senior executive who was previously chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based Village Roadshow Pictures, has come out of retirement to board the recently-founded film studio Through the Lens Entertainment.
The company, founded by producer Aditya Chand, is headquartered in Singapore with operations in the U.S. and Japan. It aims to combine the opportunities of the East and the power and experience of the studio systems in the West, “to offer a new studio ecosystem out of Asia, that is built for the digital age.”
Two film projects are already underway and a third with “Slumdog Millionaire” star Frieda Pinto is in development.
Berman is taking the title of president and co-chairman and will join the board of the company that was incorporated in 2021. Another VRP alumnus, Robert Corbin is joining the company as its chief financial officer. Corbin was previously VRP’s executive director of finance and operations and before that was at Lionsgate. Fred Wang, a veteran Hong Kong-based facilities guru and head of Salon Films, is also a board member.
Through the Lens will focus on developing and producing a diverse slate of film and TV projects, concentrating on international talent and East-West stories. It will also be involved in providing financing, production support and distribution services to filmmakers from emerging territories and operate as a platform for new talent.
Chand told Variety that the company would typically be involved in projects that range in budget from $1.5 million to $25 or $30 million and that the slate will include local-language and English-projects, and feature films and limited TV series.
“We are starting with a mix of supporting East-West independent films and new studio-level IP,” said Chand. “The momentum is very much in Asia these days, but it remains difficult for emerging filmmakers to break through, succeed and integrate. We look to the example of Run Run Shaw and how he built Hong Kong [as a powerhouse in global cinema between the 1970s and 1980s] as something of a role model.”
Berman said that productions will be a mix of in-house developed projects, which may be wholly owned and those brought to the company by streamers and studios. Their origins, in turn, will determine whether properties are brought to market via the independent sales route or in tandem with a larger corporation. “We are open to both routes,” said Berman. “Both [Chand] and I are cinephiles. So, the important thing for us is that [projects] are memorable.”
Upcoming projects that the company is involved in currently includes “The Incident Report,” directed by Naomi Jaye (“The Pin”), which shot in the fall of 2022 and began post-production earlier this year. The literary adaptation stars Britt Lower (“Severance”) and is executive produced by Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” “Anomalisa”).
Another slate component is “Left-Handed Girl,” a Taiwanese feature film written directed by Shih Ching Shou (“Tangerine”) and produced by Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”). It is also in post.
“SkySong,” is a south-Asian fairytale that is being co-produced with Pinto and her company Freebird Films. The feature is in early stages of pre-production and a comic book is in development. Animatics will follow.
Through the Lens said that its production and financing infrastructure is already active in Singapore, Japan, Thailand and New Zealand and is “fully-embracing the benefits of new digital blockchain technologies that are undoubtedly shaping the future.”
Berman was previously president of worldwide production at Warner Bros. Pictures and followed that with nearly a quarter of a century at Village Roadshow Pictures, a production and finance company that long operated as a Warner partner. His credits include executive production of “Joker,” “Ocean’s Eight” Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi adventure “Ready Player One,” Clint Eastwood’s “Sully,” George Miller’s “Mad Max” and “Sherlock Holmes.” He was an executive producer on “The Matrix” franchise.
“Asia has huge untapped potential and opportunities as a creative hub and ecosystem for the global film and TV industry. I am thrilled to be partnering with Aditya to create a high-tech studio for the East that will showcase the best of what Asia has to offer for today’s ever evolving worldwide market. We are building a well-rounded and innovative company that is ready to blend the best of creative storytelling with state-of-the-art technology,” said Berman in a prepared statement.
Chand, who was born in Japan, lived in Singapore and was educated in New York, claims filmmaking, production and finance roles. He said, “Our studio is a place where creativity and innovation can thrive, and where film and TV makers can focus on quality and originality.”