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From Finance to Filmmaking

From Finance to Filmmaking
Shohreh Aghdashloo plays a woman who witnesses the death of a young villager.

For USC Marshall School of Business alumnus Thomas “Tommy” J. Papa MBA ’00, an investment banker based in Newport Beach, 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, a USC alum from the School of Cinematic Arts, to create Prime Meridian Pictures, which set out 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, was released on June 26. Nowrasteh (The Path to 9/11) 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, an executive producer of the film, which was produced in association with MPower Pictures’ Stephen McEveety (Braveheart, The 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 earned 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 another woman who recounts the story to a stranded journalist. 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) as the journalist who tells her story to the world.

The film is inspired by the international best seller of the same name, which 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.

Papa, who earned his degree in USC Marshall’s PM program, studied international business and entrepreneurship at the school 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 United States, he delved into investment banking, eventually creating CRESO. He has been involved with the USC Marshall Alumni Association for many years and is president emeritus of the Orange County chapter, a national board member and a champion adviser for the USC Marshall Alumni Endowment Scholarship Fund.

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

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