The 2015 New Establishment: Bron Studios

From Playback magazine: Our annual list of red-hot mid-career executives, entrepreneurs and behind-the-camera talents kicks off with Vancouver's Bron Media Corp. (CEO Aaron Gilbert pictured.)

Playback‘s New Establishment is an annual feature highlighting Canadian companies or individuals achieving great success mid-career. Inspired our 5 to Watch nominations, these individuals are already “watched” and are making waves in the Canadian entertainment industry. We kick off our profiles of our 2015 New Establishment with a look at the team behind Vancouver’s Bron Studios.

Bron Studios
On Canada’s West Coast, film producers and financiers Aaron and Brenda Gilbert have been quietly building one of Canada’s busiest entertainment companies. And they’ve done it all in five short years.

Aaron Gilbert

Aaron Gilbert

Bron Media Corp. is a multi-division company based in Burnaby, B.C., with film production, finance, releasing and animation arms all under its newly reorganized umbrella (“Bron” is a combination of their names). Bron Studios has produced over 15 films since 2010, executive-produced or financed over 20 others and aims to produce six to eight films every year going forward.

The company just launched The Realm, a new genre-focused division that Gilbert sees producing three to five features annually. And Bron Animation is in the midst of its first theatrical animated feature, Henchmen, work on which will take place in the company’s new animation studio in Duncan, B.C., launched this summer.

In addition to all of that is the film financing division that started it all: Bron Capital Partners/Bron Creative Corp (formerly Media House Capital), which aims to be involved in eight to 12 films per year.

The business was born of Aaron’s accidental start producing feature films, having rescued a film he was involved in financially that had fallen off the rails. He was working mainly in content licensing at the time, but found that he liked the deal-making side of production and was particularly adept at putting money together. He and Brenda started the business as a lending company but quickly diversified into production and animation. And it’s just the beginning, Aaron emphasizes.

Brenda Gilbert

Brenda Gilbert

“In the next several years we’ll continue to focus on making incredible live-action and animated motion pictures, and we’ll be moving heavily into long-form TV and kids animated series,” he says, adding that Bron retains full or partial ownership of all projects it works on. “We’ve made some strategic investments into other media-related companies, an initiative that will continue, as will our growth and activities in the licensing and distribution/sales worlds.”

Bron’s first Telefilm-funded film debuted at TIFF this year, the Patricia Rozema-directed Into the Forest, coproduced with Rhombus Media and starring Ellen Page (who is also a producer), along with I Saw The Light, produced with Brett Ratner/RatPac Entertainment and starring Avengers actor Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams. Aaron is also an executive producer on Hyena Road, set for a TIFF gala premiere. In 2016, the studio debuts a handful more, including Special Correspondents, a Ricky Gervais project financed and produced by Bron and sold to Netflix.

“This past year Bron produced well over $100 million in production – quite an increase from year-one’s less than $3 million total,” he notes with pride.

And just prior to TIFF, Gilbert revealed the latest brick in the Bron wall: the hire of a new president and COO for the new Bron Media Corp corporate entity. Daniel D. McClure, formerly the CEO of CQI Capital Management, will lead the venture from an operations perspective while Gilbert remains CEO. The announcement also saw Gilbert reinforce Bron’s relationship with Jason Cloth’s CW Media Finance company, which has backed more than $125 million in Bron productions in the past 18 months.

“We have reached a critical point in the growth of our various production entities where it was important to bring on an executive like Dan with deep experience in financial management and corporate organization,” said Gilbert in a statement accompanying the announcement on Sept. 2. “This is an excellent time to be a producer of film and television content given the growth in market demand from new digital distribution platforms and the emerging middle class in developing markets.”

“I have known Aaron for some time and have been impressed with him as a visionary and proven entrepreneur,” added McClure. “Now is the time for Bron to keep expanding and take advantage of its current opportunities and the momentum the company has reached in such a short period.”

This story originally appeared in Playback’s Fall 2015 issue and has been updated with new information released after publication 

CORRECTION: The print version of this article incorrectly lists “821 Entertainment” as Bron’s producing partner on I Saw The Light; in fact it is RatPac Entertainment.