Google moguls put dough into indie film

Film industry news

December 30, 2005|By VERNE KOPYTOFF | VERNE KOPYTOFF,SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

SAN FRANCISCO -- After becoming Internet moguls, Google Inc. co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are dipping their toes into Hollywood.

The pair are executive producers of a low-budget, independent film to be released next year, Broken Arrows, written and directed by a friend of theirs, Reid Gershbein.

Google's founders tapped into their vast personal fortunes, estimated at $16 billion each, to fund about half the film's budget. Production cost just under $1 million, according to Gershbein.

A spokeswoman for Google confirmed the role of her company's founders in the film but declined to discuss details.

The investment, though, may give insight into how the Google founders plan to use their deep pockets, a topic they have never discussed publicly.

The friendship between Google's founders and Gershbein dates to the late 1990s, when they were doctoral students in computer science at Stanford University. They've kept in close touch since then, even as they pursued wildly different careers.

For Gershbein, the film is his first live-action feature. His day job is in computer graphics at DreamWorks Animation, after a stint at Pixar Animation Studios. Of course, Brin and Page lead the most popular online search engine.

Gershbein said he had approached Brin about the idea for the film about a year ago to ask if they knew anyone who could help with funding. Brin quickly offered some of his own money. A few months later, at a fundraising party for the film, Page also offered to invest, he said.

"I can't say how lucky I am," Gershbein said. "They were extremely generous."

The movie follows the journey of Reese, who loses his pregnant wife in a terrorist explosion. From then on, the story enters a more magical realm.

To hear Gershbein describe it, the movie is about love, faith and destiny. A short trailer, at brokenarrowsthemovie.com, suggests a moody art film with scenes of a couple embracing on a beach, a woman lying on the ground threatening someone with a pistol, and a priest offering advice.

Shooting took place this year in various San Francisco locations. Just recently, Gershbein finished a rough cut and showed it to some of his cast and crew.

Though Google's founders routinely hobnob with Hollywood stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Robin Williams, none appears in the film. Instead, the cast is made up of lesser-known actors Peter Quartaroli and Lori Petty in the lead roles.

Verne Kopytoff writes for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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