University of Southern California

From Finance to Filmmaking
From Finance to Filmmaking
June 20, 2009 • by News at Marshall

For USC Marshall alumnus Thomas "Tommy" J. Papa (MBA '00), an investment banker based in Newport Beach, California, one of his most recent ventures is turning out to be one of the most fulfilling. A partner in CRESO Capital Partners, an investment bank with more than $250 million in capital, Papa has followed his passion and branched out into filmmaking.

Just a little under two years ago, Papa partnered with director Cyrus Nowrasteh ('79), also a USC alum from the School of Cinematic Arts, to create Prime Meridian Pictures to finance films that support the social ideals of democracy, freedom and human rights, while having mass audience appeal. The company's first project, "The Stoning of Soraya M," is slated for U.S. release on Friday, June 26. Nowrasteh (The Path to 9/11), also directed and co-wrote the film with his wife, screenwriter Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh.

"We were looking for the right project and we had the right team put together in order to do this film the best way," said Papa, who is an executive producer of the film, which was produced in association with MPower Pictures' Stephen McEveety (Braveheart and Passion of the Christ). "We're very proud that in less than two years we've been able to get our first project out there and to get such support and notoriety at this stage is beyond comprehension."

The film has already received acclaim as a second runner up to Slumdog Millionaire as the Audience Favorite at last year's Toronto Film Festival.

Based on a true story, The Stoning of Soraya M. tells the tale of a young woman who is stoned to death in a remote Iranian village and the other woman who bravely recounted the story to a journalist who becomes stranded there. The film stars Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) as Zahra, the woman who bears witness to Soraya’s death, and Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà Vu) as the journalist who tells her story to the world.

The film is inspired by the international best-seller of the same name, which first brought global attention to the real Soraya, who in 1986 was buried to her waist in her hometown square and stoned to death by her fellow villagers.

While Prime Meridian is considering numerous projects in line with their vision, Papa and his partners are staying focused on The Stoning of Soraya M, which will be released theatrically by Roadside Attractions and MPower Pictures.

"We could only hope that with our first endeavor we would put together a world-class team and be successful and to do something we are proud of and passionate about," said Papa, who earned his degree in Marshall's PM program. "It's surpassed our wildest dreams at this stage."

Papa studied international business and entrepreneurship at Marshall while working for a Fortune 500 company. After graduation Papa joined the MBA Enterprise Core and spent time in Yugoslavia, doing economic development in war-affected areas. Upon his return to the U.S. he delved into investment banking, eventually creating CRESO.

For more information about the film and to watch the trailer, visit

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.