Kevin Kinsella, a La Jolla resident since 1981, is now on his “fourth career,” running a television and film production company he started with his wife, actress Paten Hughes.
Cowboy + Cougar Entertainment, started late last year, is a “way to combine efforts to have screenplays and licensed material in one place,” said Kinsella, who won a 2006 Tony Award as a producer of the Broadway show “Jersey Boys.”
“We’ve been engaged in writing and developing scripts,” he said. “What distinguishes us is we’re fundamentally interested in … ordinary people who come to junctions in their lives where they are challenged by something [and] they have to make a moral or ethical decision that involves saving themselves and their families from some peril. …
“We’re not interested in supernatural powers, horror, a lot of thematic things that you see in movies or streaming today.”
Projects for Cowboy + Cougar stem from a combination of material written in-house and licensed material or others’ commissioned scripts, Kinsella said. “I have written eight scripts myself and am enjoying the process immensely.”
With close to a dozen projects in various stages of treatment or production, Kinsella said he is “excited about the genre of things that we’re doing.”
One project, “Fermi’s Paradox,” is an “intelligent alien movie” that he is writing in collaboration with Jim Hart, he said.
“What’s been fun about this is working with Seth Shostak,” an astronomer with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute who wrote “Confessions of an Alien Hunter.”
Kinsella said “there were a number of things in that nonfiction work that got me to thinking it would form a nice basis to do a fictional piece with some characters that I would create and see where it would take me. It’s taken me pretty far.”
He said he’s also excited about licensing the rights to Julia Oliver’s book “Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky,” a period piece set in 1938 rural Alabama.
It’s “a love story that goes wrong. It’s a great human drama,” Kinsella said, “with ordinary people [who] get confronted by a turn of events that will have consequences.”
Developing Cowboy + Cougar in a pandemic has afforded Kinsella the opportunity to tap into his creative side. “It’s interesting,” he said. “If you’re writing and reading and watching films, by not having to travel anywhere you have lots of time to yourself. I find it’s been very positive for the creative process.”
“I’ve met a great deal of talented people in the industry,” he added, including an Oscar-winning producer he said he can’t yet identify and an “accomplished director” who have come on board for one of the company’s projects.
Running a production company has its challenges, however. “This is an entrepreneurial business to a certain extent,” he said. “People disappoint you and you have to go in another direction. But that’s all part of business and life. I’ve learned to negotiate among talent and their agents and managers, and that’s sort of different from my day job, so to speak.”
Kinsella’s “day job” is as head of Avalon Ventures, where he runs a venture capital fund.
“If you’re backing entrepreneurs and going to invest in their company, they don’t have agents and managers. That’s a little different,” he said.
He also owns the Kinsella Library on Kline Street in La Jolla, which he bought in 2010 when it was the Copley Library and transformed it into a home for his collections of California plein air art and “Jersey Boys” memorabilia open for tours.
Kinsella also owns the Kinsella Estates winery in Sonoma County.
Kinsella said he enjoys the difference between film production and his other businesses. “What’s interesting about a movie is that you’re bringing a team of people together for a limited period of time until you get the film edited, in the can, ready to be released. It’s a miracle to see that happen.
“It’s nice to have definition to something within a finite period of time. It’s accelerating the whole business formation process.” ◆