For the past year, Gary Nelson has been thinking less about staffing and more about movie musicals.
“I have very little talent in the arts,” said Nelson, founder of Nelson Staffing. “But I have a real passion for musicals and I think I have come up with a way to create inspiring musical productions with a double purpose … to entertain and generate funding for nonprofits.”
The founder of the Sonoma-based Nelson Family of Companies and his wife, Marcia, have long been known in town for their philanthropy, but they are now making a name for themselves as Hollywood-style movie producers.
The couple’s new endeavor, For You From Me Creations, LLC, will produce full-length film and stage musical events in the hope of generating funding to support education, healthcare and performing arts nonprofit organizations. Nelson explained that after expenses, 50 percent of any profits of a film or stage show will be shared by its creative production team and 50 percent by one or more nonprofits.
“Unlike so many film projects, our production teams will have an equity stake in the project, assuming it is a success,” he said, explaining that the profit sharing would “waterfall down” to all levels of the production from the director to the singers and dancers.
“I have been looking for an opportunity to help creative people develop an engine from which they can benefit, while also raising money for nonprofits,” he said. He clarified that some beneficiaries will be Sonoma Valley nonprofits but not all.
Nelson expects each production to have a budget of $500,000 to $5 million, with $1 to $3 million his self-described “sweet spot.”
While the Nelsons will be active in Sonoma, most of the operations of the production company will be run out of Los Angeles.
Nelson is eager to get as many productions underway as possible, and he expects his team will get started on three in 2018.
“It’s a gas,” he said. “I like starting things. I’m really motivated to make this work as I don’t think it has ever been executed anywhere else.”
Nelson plans on developing literary properties and scripts based on history-changing people and events. The projects will not be documentaries, but Nelson likes the idea of concurrently producing behind the scenes “making of” films as well.
He said that Marcia has been involved since the onset, screening which projects to pursue.
Nelson’s film producing adventure began in 2014, when he caught a screening of “The Young Kieslowski” at the Sonoma International Film Festival, where the offbeat romantic comedy won the award for Best American Independent Feature Film. After the screening, Nelson introduced himself to Seth Caplan, who produced the film.
Nelson met with up Caplan again in 2015, and stepped forward to help produce Caplan’s latest-project, a love triangle called “First Girl I Loved,” which went on to win the Audience Award for “Best of NEXT” at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Both films, “The Young Kieslowski” and “First Girl I Loved,” were written and directed by Kerem Sanga.
Caplan, who is partnering with the Nelsons in launching the new production company, has produced more than a dozen feature films, animated movies and documentary programs. He has produced films that have gone on to win awards including the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award for “In Search of a Midnight Kiss.”