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Premise Media Gambles on Right-of-Center Film

A. Logan Craft drills for revenue with a controversial new film.
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photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Premise Media Corp. honcho A. Logan Craft seems to have had an ideal background to help make one of the most successful political documentaries ever.

Craft, the Dallas-based company’s 47-year-old chairman and an executive producer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed—about the clash between academic Darwinists and religious-oriented proponents of intelligent design, or “ID”—boasts roots in the worlds of both business and theology.

One of Craft’s grandfathers was a Texas entrepreneur; another was an executive vice president of the Southern Pacific railroad here. Craft’s father was a “steel industrialist” in Dallas and Houston, and his in-laws are also successful businesspeople. Craft himself worked in marketing for big companies like FINA, the oil outfit, before his career took a U-turn when he was in his late 30s.

That’s when Craft, a longtime student of religion and a self-described “evangelical,” decided to become an Episcopal priest; then he became a Presbyterian minister. Later he hosted a New Mexico cable-TV interview program called Church & State With Logan Craft, whose guests ranged from representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union to Gary Johnson, the libertarian New Mexico governor.

All of which made Craft a perfect candidate to help Premise CEO Walt Ruloff and COO John Sullivan put together Expelled, a controversial defense of ID that stars Ben Stein, the conservative commentator and deadpan movie actor (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

To finance the documentary—it had a production budget alone of $4 million—Craft marshaled the forces of three private-equity groups: Dallas-based Progress Equity Partners Ltd.; Houston-based Pin Oak Partners; and an affiliate of CIBC Bank in Vancouver, Canada. He also buttonholed a variety of individual accredited investors, raising a total of $6 million for the project in all.

After opening on more than 1,000 screens in April—the biggest opening of a documentary in U.S. history—Expelled had earned more than $7 million by mid-May.

As a former FINA exec, Craft sees parallels between the energy business and making “provocative, right-of-center documentaries” like Expelled, since the most successful documentaries have had a liberal bent. “We’re like independent wildcatters, and this is a new field we’re trying to develop,” he says. “The seismic data looks good, though, and the market looks strong.

“For us, it’s premature” to predict how well Expelled will fare, Craft says. “We will have revenue, but how much it will produce—in foreign and DVD sales, say—is the big question.”

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