Jason Cloth manages risk in his film-financing business just like he did as an investment banker, scrutinizing deals with one big question in mind: “How do I not get screwed?”

That means staying focused on business and not getting bedazzled by the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.

“People play on the vanity of it,” Cloth, 53, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office. “But if you strip away the vanity, bright lights and you run it as an asset-backed lending play, then you just dig into the value and understand it.”

The approach appears to be working. The founder and chief executive officer of Toronto-based Creative Wealth Media has poured more than $750 million into backing films over a decade. That’s made him one of the biggest private financiers in the industry and generated returns of 8% to 11% for investors of the firm’s debt fund, according to Cloth.

Critical Acclaim

What may be Creative Wealth’s biggest money maker is about to be released: “Joker” (starring Joaquin Phoenix) which is being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday after premiering to critical acclaim in Venice, where it won the top prize Saturday.

The movie could draw as much as $263 million in the U.S. and Canada after its opening in theaters Oct. 4, according to an estimate from Exhibitor Relations Co. With a budget well below typical superhero films, “Joker” could turn a tidy profit for Creative Wealth, which helped provide $25 million of the film’s $55 million in production costs.

Two other big projects are lined up right behind. “Bombshell,” about the Roger Ailes Fox News scandal, stars Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron, and Apple TV’s “The Morning Show,” with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.

Backing a winner is no easy feat in a field that famously devours money and relies on often-capricious audiences. “The Birth of a Nation,” which Creative Wealth backed, generated a lot of Oscar buzz in 2016 but flopped at the box office. Recent bombs include “Dark Phoenix,” a superhero film that prompted a huge write-off at Walt Disney Co., and “The Kitchen,” a Melissa McCarthy action movie that Cloth also backed, but took in just $14.7 million worldwide.

Alternative Debt

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