Profiles: Bill Lischak

Bill Lischak

William Lischak

MS 88

Principal at Whiteboard Consulting

MOVIE MAKER


BUSINESS & FILM

Bill is living out his Hollywood dream as an executive producer for top independent films. One of the biggest, Ender's Game, opened at number one, grossing $28 million that weekend. The $110 million movie starring Harrison Ford was one of the largest independent films ever produced. Lischak, one of the executive producers, put together the complex multi-party deal that made it happen. Others films have included The Spirit, starring Samuel L. Jackson; Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman; Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and two films in partnership with Lionsgate: Draft Day and Mortdecai starring Johnny Depp.

Lischak came on board as the production company's COO in 2007 and has since become Co-President. As one of two presidents at OddLot Entertainment in Culver City, one aspect of Bill's job is structuring complex financing partnerships and strategies. With an MS in Taxation from GGU and a business degree from NYU, where he also studied in their world-class film school, he has a unique perspective as tax accountant coupled with the sensitivity of a filmmaker.

He'd just finished his first year at film school and was back in the Adirondacks looking for his summer job when he noticed the local theater was out of business. He looked up the owner and proposed renting the theater. The theater owner ultimately agreed to let Bill and a fraternity brother bring the old theater back to life.

Reflecting upon the fact that all his fraternity brothers were in business, pre-law, or pre-med, Bill decided to switch majors. In a way he was pioneering what would eventually become a cross-disciplinary program that combines film and business. In the last five years he's reconnected with NYU; guest lecturing and mentoring students. NYU has even created a dual-degree master's program in business and film.

Even though his academic concentration was accounting, Bill didn't follow the usual track to become a CPA when he graduated in 1979. Bill found a job in a small local firm and mainly focused on studying for the CPA exam. Two years quickly passed. It was 1981 when Bill and his wife packed up the van and headed across the country to Los Angeles. The pair camped four days in Malibu before finding an apartment and looking for jobs.

Bill's objective: to work for an accounting firm that handled entertainment. In 1982 Laventhol and Horwath was in the top ten of big accounting firms in the country and Bill found a place in their small-business group. Unfortunately, none of the entertainment industry accounts he'd hoped to be working on materialized, and he found himself primarily doing tax work. He'd been at the firm a few years when a colleague suggested that Bill should consider going to graduate school, especially since the firm would pay for it. He pursued a master's degree in Taxation at the GGU campus in downtown LA. Years later Bill would also draw upon his days in Golden Gate classrooms when he developed a course on accounting, taxation and finance in the motion-picture industry for the UCLA Extension. He taught the class for several years, alternating semesters with the CFO of Paramount.

CHANGING ROLES

By 1987 Bill found himself in his late twenties and restless in his career. After an offer as an internal auditor at ABC, the partner at Lavethol and Howath who was running the small-business group pleaded with Bill to reconsider. Bill was now in charge of building an entertainment practice within the small business group. His practice became entertainment-related and primarily focused on smaller businesses. The firm itself was the auditor of Lorimar Television and also did work for Morgan Creek and had acquired a business management firm as well as a royalty auditing firm. A year later, Bill received a life-altering opportunity. He was offered the CFO position by client Robbie Little with the Overseas Filmgroup.

At his going-away party, colleagues at Laventhol and Horwath presented Bill with a faux Academy Award. It was prescient. A few years later, Bill was on board when the company won the 1996 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Antonia's Line.

From 1988 to 2006 Bill was COO and CFO of First Look, which grew from a $3 million foreign-sales entity into a $100 million multi-faceted US theatrical and video distribution, foreign-sale, production and financing company. He secured and structured many production financing deals with worldwide financiers, arranging multiple rounds of private-equity investments and securing significant lines of credit with bank groups. In 2003 Lischak was named president of First Look, assuming all responsibilities for the key operating units of the company.

By 2007 Lischak was looking for other opportunities. Bill believed that with his background and education he would likely land on his feet. Gigi Pritzker, initially a producer of documentaries, commercials and music videos, mostly in New York, changed her focus to feature films and created OddLot, moving to California. From his Culver City office, Bill orchestrates the strategic, complex, behind-the-camera action all in a day's work.