“Our philosophy is, if we’re going to fail, fail boldly,” Palmer West explains, sitting in the glass-walled conference room of Sibling Entertainment. Three years ago, Palmer, 27, and his sister Paige, 32, did what a lot of children with tons of cash and a liberal-arts education do: They started their own company. Paige wanted to educate the public about a new generation of artists, and Palmer wanted to finance the kind of cutting-edge films that major studios would never touch. Sounds overly optimistic, and under normal circumstances, failure should have been inevitable. But here they are just a few years later, with offices in the trendy Starett Lehigh building in Chelsea and several impressive-looking projects in progress. Paige has just launched the e-commerce portion of her Website, www.MixedGreens.com, an online art gallery for emerging artists, and next week Palmer’s production company, Thousand Words, is releasing Requiem for a Dream, directed by Darren Aronofsky (of ¼ fame).
The secret of their success? No-strings-attached financing, for one thing, thanks in part to their father, Al West, who’s the multimillionaire behind SEI Investments, a high-tech investment-service company based in Oaks, Pennsylvania. Requiem cost $4.5 million, and Palmer, along with his business partner, Jonah Smith, didn’t have to look for outside investors. “We’re able to take risks because we bring the financing all the way through to prints and advertising,” Palmer explains.
“It’s rare to find a company that’s able to put all their resources behind their beliefs,” says Aronofsky. Director Richard Linklater, whose new film, Waking Life, is the next Thousand Words project, agrees. “So much of Hollywood is about protecting your own ass,” he says. “Palmer runs his own ship and goes with his gut.”
For Paige, the financial freedom means she can start an e-commerce venture at a time when many other online outfits are folding their tents. Mixedgreens.com works on the assumption that budding art buyers get into collecting, in part, to self-educate, not just to put work on their walls. Each of the 28 emerging artists represented by the site is the subject of a short online documentary and can be directly e-mailed questions about his or her work.
The artworks range in price from $75 to $7,500, but at Sibling Entertainment, it’s not really about making a profit. The beauty of the Wests’ business plan is that, basically, there is no business plan. “What we’re doing isn’t revenue-generating,” Paige explains. “It’s idea-, passion-, and information-generating, and all that good stuff.”