Originally published at Deadline | March 7, 2022
The Ballantyne Strong, Inc. subsidiary’s first original feature film adapts Norman Miller’s book, The Great Salad Oil Swindle. It’s a true-life crime drama that watches as ex-butcher turned salad oil exporter Anthony “Tino” DeAngelis and his Bayonne, New Jersey blue collar crew nearly destroy American Express and eventually crash Wall Street in their bid to corner the market on salad oil futures in the early 1960s.
Award-winning business journalist, CNBC contributor, author and former hedge fund manager Ron Insana, who heads up Insana Entertainment Group as CEO, brought the idea for The Tank Job to Ballantyne Chairman Kyle Cerminara in January of last year, and they have been collaborating on it ever since. Cerminara and Insana are former colleagues, having worked together in the hedge fund industry under Steve Cohen of Point72. Both had aspirations of building feature films and documentaries that tell the stories of many of the recent great financial dramas that have occurred in the capital markets industry. This, then, was the impetus for Ballantyne to create Strong Studios, and hire David Ozer to lead the business unit as President.
Sam Sokolow (National Geographic’s Genius) and Nicholas Levis (Darkon) will produce The Tank Job alongside Insana, with Cerminara, Ozer and Ballantyne CEO Mark Roberson serving as exec producers. Strong Studios is now entering discussions with potential distributors for the project.
“I told Ron Insana that I would be delighted to see the story of the salad oil scandal made into a movie,” said Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett, “and I am pleased that Ron and Strong Studios are now bringing this story to the big screen.”
“The enormous fraud perpetrated by Allied Crude Vegetable Oil Refining Company and conman Anthony “Tino” De Angelis in 1963 is legendary,” said Ozer, “and I am excited to work with an all-star creative team to bring this riveting story of how the great salad oil scandal nearly crashed the market, swindled millions of dollars from investors, and almost decimated American Express.”
“You couldn’t make Tino DeAngelis up,” added Insana. “Everybody on the street knew the guy was shady. But, everybody was making money until, you know, they weren’t. This is a crazy comedy of errors and avarice and greed and lies and deceptions. You know, Wall Street. ‘The Tank Job’ will be like a love child of “The Big Short” and “My Cousin Vinny!””
Sokolow is a writer, director and producer who earned an Oscar nomination and an Annie Award in 1996 for his writing on Pixar’s iconic film Toy Story. He has also written or co-written films including Money Talk, Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, and received story credit on titles including Evan Almighty and Daddy Day Camp. Sokolow’s first film as a director, Monster Mash: The Movie—which he helmed with Joel Cohen—was released by Turner Home Entertainment in 1995.
Headquartered in New York City, Strong Studios develops and produces original feature films and television series, while acquiring third party rights to content for global, multi-platform distribution. The studio launched in March with an IP development slate acquisition and an initial distribution agreement with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment’s Screen Media for two new scripted series—the supernatural horror Safehaven, and the dramedy Flagrant, with Michael Rapaport—both of which have been greenlighted for production this year. Screen Media will distribute both series, with their streaming services Crackle, Popcornflix, and Chicken Soup for the Soul having first rights to premiere. Additional series in Strong Studios’ development and production pipeline include Shadows in the Vineyard, starring Judith Light and Noah Wyle; the drama Heartbeat, co-created by DJ couple Kiss and M.O.S.; and the horror series MidNightMares.
Ballantyne Strong, Inc. is a diversified holding company with operations and holdings across a broad range of industries. Its Strong Entertainment segment is the largest premium screen supplier in North America, provides technical support services and related products and services to the cinema exhibition industry, and recently launched its studio operations to produce content for streaming and other entertainment outlets.
Sokolow is repped by Foundation Media Partners, APA and Alexander, Lawrence, Frumes & Labowitz.