Neil Russell is the founder and CEO of Hollywood Artists Pictures Corporation (HAPCORP), which creates, acquires and licenses intellectual properties for exploitation across all entertainment media. HAPCORP also produces motion pictures, television and music and has begun publishing books through its Rothington House imprint. Neil acquired his first intellectual property when he was in college, and over the course of his career has acquired the rights to hundreds of books, movies, plays, screenplays, short stories, formats, titles, magazine articles, life stories, songs, pitches and trademarks.
Third generation of a theatre-owning family that began in nickelodeons, Neil started his career on the exhibition side of the business. Following college he was hired by Frank Yablans at Paramount Pictures—and later joined Columbia—in theatrical distribution where he was privileged to handle some of the highest grossing and most critically-acclaimed motion pictures of the time, including THE GODFATHER I and II, CHINATOWN, SERPICO, DEATH WISH, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, THE LONGEST YARD, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and THE WAY WE WERE.
Recruited by MGM just prior to their acquisition of United Artists and relocating to New York, he was charged with merging then heading the combined companies’ television distribution units. During his tenure at MGM/UA, he oversaw the sales, advertising partnerships and extended rights exploitation of the largest film library in the world—more than 4000 titles—including the 700 Warner Brothers Pre-1948 pictures: CASABLANCA, THE AFRICAN QUEEN; the 717 Pre-1948 RKO pictures: CITIZEN KANE, KING KONG, IT’S WONDERFUL LIFE; the MGM library: GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, BEN-HUR, THE DIRTY DOZEN, DR. ZHIVAGO; the United Artists library: the JAMES BOND, ROCKY and PINK PANTHER franchises, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE GREAT ESCAPE and more than 100 television series. He also worked closely with MGM/UA’s bankers to maintain and extend the company’s lines of credit.
Following his unsuccessful attempt with two Wall Street investment banks to acquire a portion of MGM/UA’s film library and other underutilized assets, Neil joined the Taffner Company, producer and distributor of the hit ABC sitcoms, THREE'S COMPANY and TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, and distributor of the export product of UK’s Thames Television. At Taffner, Neil helped oversee all of the company’s business and shepherded one of television’s first advertising barter networks to keep TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT on the air following its cancellation by ABC, thereby generating an additional $50 million in revenue.
Backed by private investors, Neil left Taffner to form Horizon Entertainment where he acquired the rights to forty game show formats from Nicholson-Muir Productions, creators of THE NEWLYWED GAME. He then merged Horizon with Orbis Communications, a financing and distribution company whose primary client was Procter & Gamble, and returned to Los Angeles to head Orbis’ West Coast operations.
Neil helped effect Orbis’ subsequent acquisition by Carolco Pictures, producers of FIRST BLOOD and RAMBO II, and joined Carolco as Executive Vice President. In the ensuing years, Carolco became one of the era’s most successful global entertainment companies, producing dozens of major motion pictures, including TOTAL RECALL, TERMINATOR 2, RAMBO III, RED HEAT and BASIC INSTINCT. Neil was involved in all aspects of the company’s business and acquired more than 100 motion pictures and their extended rights packages, including PLATOON, THE TERMINATOR, and THE LAST EMPEROR. He also helped acquire more than a dozen companies for Carolco, including the DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, the Vista Organization and the Wilmington Studios in North Carolina.
In addition, Neil founded and became President of Carolco Television Productions which produced large-budget television movies that could be exploited as feature films internationally. CTP eventually grew to seven production companies, producing more than thirty motion pictures for NBC, ABC, CBS, TNT, HBO and global outlets with stars such as Charles Bronson, Raquel Welch, Jon Voight and Jason Robards. CTP also produced the first American motion picture shot in the then-Soviet Union, FINAL WARNING, the true story of Chernobyl.
In 1992, Neil helped engineer the sale of CTP to Multimedia, a diversified media company. CTP was renamed Multimedia Motion Pictures, and Neil remained as president. In 1995, he purchased MMP himself and refocused it on acquiring unexploited rights packages in all media. His first acquisition was the rights to the title, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE. Partnering with Jerry Bruckheimer (TOP GUN, BLACKHAWK DOWN, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), they produced the action television series, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, INC., which aired in 190 domestic markets and 12 foreign countries. Separately, Neil licensed the SOLDIER OF FORTUNE name to numerous ancillary outlets, including Activision, which published an electronic game of the same name that sold more than 1,000,000 copies. A sequel, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE II: DOUBLE HELIX was released in 2002, becoming one of the top grossing games of the year.
Neil also entered into a publishing agreement with Simon & Schuster to create books based on rights owned by him. Their first book, THE DAY AFTER ROSWELL, authored by Col. Philip J. Corso and William Birnes became a 16-week New York Times Bestseller and reached an eighth hardcover printing. It was later released in paperback as Pocket Books’ lead title.
He then acquired the rights to CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) along with the rights to Newman-Haas Racing, owned by actor Paul Newman and Carl Haas and formed a partnership with directors Tony Scott (TOP GUN, CRIMSON TIDE) and Ridley Scott (ALIEN, GLADIATOR, BLACKHAWK DOWN) to produce a television series based on racing. Simultaneously, Warner Brothers was assembling a motion picture racing project, and they combined their rights packages.
In 2010, Neil entered into an agreement with HarperCollins to publish a series of international action/thrillers based on an original character he created. The first Rail Black novel, CITY OF WAR, was released in March of that year, and its sequel, WILDCASE, in 2011. The third in the series, BEVERLY HILLS IS BURNING, was released in 2014. Five more will follow.
With Mace Neufeld, producer of the TOM CLANCY pictures, Neil is developing an action motion picture entitled, NINETY DEGREES, based on the true story of the NYPD’s pursuit and capture of a high-end gang of professional burglars. With Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney, he is developing an action motion picture entitled CRUSH, based on rights acquired by Neil. CRUSH is the true story of two edgy San Francisco undercover detectives.
For MGM Television, Neil wrote the pilot for a television series, UNDERCOVER BLUES, based on the MGM motion picture, starring Dennis Quaid, Kathleen Turner and Stanley Tucci. He is also producing a six-part comic book miniseries entitled BOBBYRAY PANAMA. Drawing BobbyRay is Mark Pennington who has also drawn X-MEN, BATMAN, SPIDERMAN, and SHADE.
With screenwriter Dennis Hackin (BRONCO BILLY, HEARTBREAK RIDGE), Neil wrote the action motion picture screenplay, JACKHAMMER, based on the true escape story of two United States Navy fighter pilots shot down over Vietnam. JACKHAMMER sold at auction to MGM and received approval by the Department of Defense and the Navy for production cooperation. Neil and Dennis also co-wrote THE GLASS TUXEDO for a major actress.
HAPCORP has multiple motion pictures, television series currently in development and is actively acquiring literary properties for its Rothington House imprint.
A two-time cancer survivor, Neil wrote the book, CAN I STILL KISS YOU?: ANSWERING YOUR CHILDREN’S QUESTIONS ABOUT CANCER. The book was published by HCI, publisher of the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL series, and is used around the world by doctors, hospitals and cancer centers, including Sloan-Kettering and St. Jude, in their counseling of families with cancer.
Neil works with the major Hollywood agencies, managers, law firms and investment banks. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, Author’s Guild, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, BMI, International Crime Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and many additional entertainment industry and writer organizations.
He has been engaged as an expert witness in intellectual property rights disputes and entertainment asset valuations and has guest-lectured at the American Film Institute, the film schools at UCLA and USC and the MBA program at the University of California Irvine. He has also spoken before Congress on entertainment industry issues and consulted with the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy regarding media presence in combat zones.
A graduate of Parsons College, Neil is a member of the Naval War College Foundation at Newport, RI and a former member of the board of directors of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. He is active in several charities and is especially proud to have been made an honorary member of the Hmong community of Laos for his fundraising efforts to provide Hmong children with prostheses for limbs lost to mines.
In addition to operating his entertainment business, Neil was invited to join the board of KPMG’s Digital Business Incubator which was subsequently spun off as DMI. In his three years of participation, DMI shepherded 40 startups, several of which went on to become successful companies.
A partial list of licenses, permissions or partnerships entered into:
STUDIOS, NETWORKS AND PRODUCTION COMPANIES
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
ABC Television/Touchstone Television
Scott Free Productions
Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment
MGM Motion Pictures
United Artists Pictures
Walt Disney Productions
Twentieth Century Fox
Mace Neufeld Productions
Stephanie Austin Productions
Crawfords Entertainment, Australia
Hyde Park Entertainment
Wendy Finerman Productions
Mace Neufeld Productions
David Permut Productions
Lou Pitt Productions
Sharon Stone/Chuck Binder Productions
Simon & Schuster
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS
United States Department of Defense
United States Navy
Unites States Air Force
Central Intelligence Agency
International Foundation for Art Research
United States Army Office of the Chief of Staff
Office of General Secretary of the Soviet Union and the KGB
Superior Court of California
LAPD Force Investigation Division
Hebrew History Federation
Chicago Police Department
New Orleans Police Department
National Alliance of Families of POW/MIA’s
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department
California Department of Corrections
Center for Disease Control
United States Coast Guard
Port of Los Angeles
NYPD Bureau of Detectives
San Francisco Police Department
Newman-Haas Racing/CART Racing Teams
NOTE: Hollywood Artists Pictures does not accept unsolicited material