Ben Affleck says his newly minted studio Artists Equity, in partnership with Matt Damon, is going for films that are commercial but smart, that acknowledge popular tastes, but that “people remember 20 years later.”
He thinks/hopes his latest project due out next year fits the bill. Affleck directs, Damon stars in the true story behind the creation of the iconic Air Jordan brand slated for release in 2023 in partnership with Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports and Mandalay Pictures. Artists Equity anticipates releasing three projects next year, with plans to scale up to a minimum of five per year in the future.
“I see no difference between commercial and quality,” Affleck said during a wide ranging Q&A at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit in NYC alongside Artists Equity’s investor partner Gerry Cardinale of Redbird Capital.
Quality takes time. “If you ask Reed Hastings … I’m sure there’s some risk in that, and I’m sure they had a great strategy, but I would have said, ‘How are we going to make 50 great movies?! How is that possible? There’s no committee big enough. There aren’t enough — you just can’t do it. It’s a thing that requires attention and dedication and work and resists the assembly line process. Scott Stuber is a really talented, smart guy who I really like… but it’s an impossible job,” Affleck said, referring to the giant streamer’s founder and co-CEO and to its head of original films.
“There’s bigger audience for action movies than there is for small dramas – I get that. Certain genres play more broadly and you can’t not be mindful of that. But let’s do a good one, let’s surprise the audience, let’s make them care about it,” he added.
“The first wave of streaming was about volume,” said Cardinale. “The second wave is about quality.”
The pair joined an eclectic roster at the daylong event set to feature execs from Hastings and Amazon CEO Andy Jassy along with video Q&As with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of collapsed crypto exchange FTX.
Affleck, Damon and Cardinale, Redbird’s founder and managing partner, formally announced the launch of their artist-led studio earlier this month, planning to partner with filmmakers to empower creative vision and broaden access to profit participation through “entrepreneurial partnerships” with filmmakers.
Michael Joe, former COO of STX Films and former EVP at Universal Pictures is chief operating officer.
Its founders called Artists Equity an intellectual property monetization platform anchored by three core principles: broadening access to profit participation; fueling IP monetization through creator partnerships; and leveraging a data-driven approach to distribution.