From sales to Shakespeare

Avison Young commercial broker works on “Lear”
December 01, 2014
By Mark Maurer

The fate of a project yet again rests in the hands of Avison Young’s Jason Meister. This time, however, it’s not a Downtown office building, but a film from veteran actor Paul Sorvino.

The vice president of the commercial brokerage’s capital markets group is moonlighting as an executive producer for “Lear,” a planned feature-length version of William Shakespeare’s tragic masterpiece, “King Lear.”

Sorvino — best known for his role as Paulie in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 “Goodfellas” and a recurring role on “Law & Order” — has written the screenplay and is slated to direct as well as star in the title role.

The film, a period piece, is expected to cost about $24 million, Meister said.

“My focus is always on my real estate clients, but this was an interesting opportunity that came to me,” Meister, 32, said. “My role is to tap into some of my unique relationships, particularly with overseas capital, to consult on a very exciting project.”

Meister, Sorvino and others have been meeting largely with Chinese investors, many of them based in the city. After agreeing to the consulting stint, Meister partnered with lawyer Elaine Rogers, who specializes in media and entertainment at the firm Meister Seelig & Fein (where Meister’s father, Stephen, is a partner). Rogers’ clients include several investors in the film industry.

Sorvino, along with James Earl Jones, performed “King Lear” at Shakespeare in the Park in 1973. Back then, he played the Earl of Gloucester.

“This will be a very different Lear,” Sorvino said in materials sent to potential investors. “The language will not be British but rather general American. … The adaptations I have made to the text are the result of copious research and lengthy cogitation.”

Sorvino’s daughter, Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino, is attached to costar as Cordelia. At least two other A-list actors are also in talks to join the cast.

If the “Lear” budget is fully funded, Meister (who said that he met Sorvino behind-the-scenes on the TV news circuit) and Rogers would each receive an executive producer credit.

Sorvino is aiming to begin production in the spring, and will seek film distribution in Europe as well as in the U.S., Meister said.

The film and real estate industries are known to occasionally overlap, especially in New York City. Charles Cohen, CEO of Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, owns several movie theaters, including the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village, and recently produced the Kevin Kline dramedy “My Old Lady.” Meanwhile, developer and Steiner Studios chair Doug Steiner plans to expand his 26-acre facility early next year.

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