With a focus on not just producing and financing high-quality feature films and television projects for a broad appeal, but also creating diverse content to engage a diverse audience, former Indian American Brillstein Entertainment manager Jai Khanna has joined forces with “New York, I Love You” producer Marina Grasic to form Oakhurst Entertainment.
Elaborating on their association, Khanna, who spent two decades at the premier entertainment company as a talent manager and producer, told India-West that their past work has prepped them for this joint venture.
“Having represented a number of talent over the years and working within a large management company, we are surrounded by a lot of content and intellectual property to develop with clients that include writers, directors and actors,” he told India-West. “My previous firm has an amazing track record of box office and Oscar-winning work, so we hope to piggy back on that success.”
Commenting on his dynamic partnership with Grasic, a well-known entertainment attorney who founded Sydney Kimmel Entertainment, Khanna said, “I have known Marina for years…Sydney Kimmel Entertainment is known for their quality work, multiple awards…including the recent hit, ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ In addition, she won an Oscar for ‘Crash.’ She has great taste, very entrepreneurial and is very savvy in helping structure the business end, with our pool of investors. We have a synergistic balance of creative and business sensibilities.”
The indie media company, which is off to a great start, has 12 projects in development, with three shooting this spring. They vary in genres, he told India-West, such as a comedy from the director of the Adam Sandler films to big action thrillers with the team from “GI Joe.”
“They are all mainstream, commercial films, with A list talent intimately involved,” Khanna explained. “Genres vary, but there is always a responsible business plan in place, for example, with one pre-selling to Netflix, the other to Warner Bros and the third to HBO. As cast is attached, we will make announcement in the industry trade publications. Currently, we are casting and location scouting.”
According to Deadline, Oakhurst has set its inaugural projects with “Hotel Tehran,” written by Emmy winner Ron Hutchinson (“Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story,” “Traffic”), which is inspired by real-life CIA undercover operative Bazzel Baz; as well as “Bot,” a sci-fi thriller trilogy from screenwriter Tedi Sarafian (“Tank Girl”).
Khanna stressed that the team takes a “genre-agnostic” approach. If there is a compelling story to tell, they will help share it.
“Having been a talent manager, and represented a wide diversity of talent, I am familiar with the established names as well as the up-and-comers. We want to make projects that resonate with a global audience,” he told India-West. “We want to partner with talented artists, and with our collective background, we can execute at the highest level.”
Khanna shared that Oakhurst Entertainment, which has set a target of 4-5 films a year, with an aim to increase that number each year, swiftly built an extensive slate. But they want to tread carefully, he said.
“Currently we are selective…and want to be careful of our bandwidth,” said Khanna.
As in his previous position, Khanna said, he will continue to pave a way for more diversity in Hollywood.
“Diverse representation is always important, and I have been supportive by representing a number of Indian talent over the years as well as helping produce various Indian-themed projects,” Khanna told India-West. “I do think a lot of progress has been made. Having been in this business for over 20 years, this is a great time and there is a lot of representation specifically of Indian talent. Almost on a daily basis, headlines include an amazingly talented Indian writer, director or actor. Its impressive to see a number of well-trained artists working at a high level.”
The young executive said while he understands the importance of onscreen diversity, he strongly believes that it should also be reflected behind the scenes.
“I think the public only looks at actors, but there is a deep bench of Indian TV and film writers and directors, generating and producing high level content,” Khanna said. “Kudos to them all, and they’re an inspiration to the next generation I would imagine.”