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Matthew Velkes, SIS/BA ’84

Alum Matthew Velkes

Matthew Velkes, chief financial officer for Village Roadshow Pictures Entertainment, sees the “venture” in an adventure, viewing film, especially the production side, as an investment — full of risks and rewards.

Velkes runs the day-to-day operations of the company, which has coproduced such films as the Matrix trilogies, Oceans 11, 12, and 13, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Sex and the City 2.

Village Roadshow favors films that lend themselves to sequels, with upcoming projects including follow-ups to the Oscar Award–winning film Happy Feet (November 2011) and Sherlock Holmes (December 2011). “It’s about both mitigating risk and taking risk,” Velkes says. “We look for blockbusters and ‘franchiseable’ films.” Success is in the numbers: the company’s films have grossed more than $10 billion in worldwide box offices.

Velkes’s move to the West Coast to get into the film industry was itself an adventure. His wife, Liza Chasin, a film graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, was drawn to Hollywood and wanted to move. So they made a bet: whoever got a job first would dictate whether they stayed on the East Coast or headed west. After five days of job hunting Chasin called home from Los Angeles with a job offer from CBS.

In L.A., Velkes first worked at a boutique investment firm, but felt the draw of the town’s core trade. “I decided if I was going to live in Los Angeles, I wanted to be part of this main industry,” he says. He met the right person by chance at a backyard barbecue, which led to a job at Twentieth Century Fox where he later became senior vice president for motion pictures finance and business development.

So what might be his sequel to Village Roadshow?

“To come full circle, working in the international nonprofit world,” where he had hoped to land after his AU graduation. In 1984 however, as a South African citizen, he had no green card. He found it difficult, because of the sanctions against South Africa, to get work at an NGO. “Instead, I went where they don’t care where you come from — Wall Street,” he says with a chuckle.