UPDATED, July 3, 6:15PM: Digital Domain issued a statement today to clarify any misconceptions about its ownership in the wake of the deal: “A press release issued on July 2, 2014 announcing the purchase of a 30.2% stake by Mumbai-based Reliance Media Works in Prime Focus Ltd. implied that Prime Focus now has access to or control over the visual effects house Digital Domain 3.0. This transaction had no effect on the management and control of Digital Domain 3.0, which remains unchanged. Digital Domain Holdings Limited in Hong Kong continues to be the majority owner of Digital Domain 3.0.”
PREVIOUSLY: The deal, announced in India overnight, is Prime’s latest move to build a globe-girdling VFX and media-services company, and it comes just days after Prime Focus World merged with Oscar-winning UK effects house Double Negative. The newest deal will merge Reliance Capital subsidiary Reliance MediaWorks’ film and VFX operations — which also include Lowry Digital, a 30-percent share of Digital Domain and 1M square feet of production and post-production facilities in Mumbai — to make what the companies called the world’s largest independent VFX and animation house. Money from the Reliance buy-in, an infusion of about $40 million, will finance the Double Negative merger and further expand operations, the companies said in a release. In return, Reliance Capital will get a 30-percent stake in the merged company, which will headed by Prime Focus executive Chairman and CEO Namit Malhotra. Reliance previously held a stake in Prime Focus, but exited after Prime went public in 2006. Read More »
Lucasfilm has appointed Teresa Cheng as General Manager for Lucasfilm Singapore. She joins the company from DreamWorks Animation where she was senior production executive for the joint venture between DWA and Oriental DreamWorks. Cheng has also held senior positions at Warner Bros, Rhytym & Hues and Digital Domain. Feature credits include Shrek Forever After, Madagascar, Batman & Robin and True Lies. In January, George Lucas unveiled Lucasfilm’s new digital production headquarters in the Southeast Asian city-state, replete with the Sandcrawler building that sits on a 22,500 square meter campus. Industrial Light & Magic Singapore is currently working on Transformers: Age of Extinction, Star Wars Episode VII and Agent 47. Colin Brown, who has served as Lucasfilm Singapore’s interim GM for the past seven months, will remain with the company through the summer to help transition Cheng into her new post. She will report to Lynwen Brennan, President and GM of ILM. Read More »
A keynote session with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 helmer Marc Webb leads the final lineup for the 2014 SXSW Film Conference slate which also includes chats with filmmakers Jason Bateman (Bad Words), Mike Myers (Supermensch) moderated by Jon Favreau, Ralph Steadman (For No Good Reason), and actors Robert Duvall and Tilda Swinton. The SXSW Film Festival runs March 7-15:
SXSW 2014 Features Lineup, New TV Section Unveiled
SXSW Midnighters & Full Shorts Slate Unveiled
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The agency has signed new client Digital Domain 3.0 as the visual effects company continues to bounce back out of a 2012 bankruptcy. Digital Domain’s current iteration was acquired last year by Sun Innovations which appointed Daniel Seah as CEO. WME will advise on continued growth and expansion in visual effects, virtual performance productions like 2012′s Tupac resurrection at Coachella, and commercials. The agency will also advise in the area of film financing following Digital Domain’s test-run with Lionsgate’s Ender’s Game. Digital Domain took a co-producer credit and provided cash and VFX for the $110M sci-fier, in which it was an equity stakeholder. Digital Domain 3.0 is currently working on Disney’s Maleficent and is Oscar-nominated for Marvel’s Iron Man 3.
Li Ming, chairman of film and TV firm Beijing Galloping Horse Group, passed away on Thursday night. According to reports, the cause was a heart attack. He was 47. The exec founded Beijing Galloping Horse in 1994 as an advertising agency which then segued into TV and film production and investment. Galloping Horse’s credits include the feature remake of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and the historic TV drama Three Kingdoms. It is also the principal backer of John Woo’s The Crossing which is currently shooting. In 2010, Galloping Horse entered the exhibition business, building movie theaters in smaller Chinese cities, China.org noted. More recently, in 2012, Galloping Horse America teamed with Reliance MediaWorks to acquire Digital Domain, the VFX company founded by James Cameron. The partners paid $30.2M for Digital Domain Productions and subsidiary Mothership Media with Galloping Horse taking a 70% stake and Reliance 30%. But Galloping Horse later sold its share to Hong Kong’s Sun Innovation Holdings for $50.5M.
The SXSW Film Festival is adding a series of daily keynote sessions to its 2014 lineup, led by a trio of forward-thinkers who “embody the DIY spirit, ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive” of the annual Austin fest. Lena Dunham, who launched her career out of SXSW with Tiny Furniture and came full circle last year with a panel on her HBO show Girls, is scheduled to deliver a keynote along with micro-budget horror whiz Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge) and Spirit Award-winning indie filmmaker Casey Neistat (HBO’s The Neistat Brothers, Daddy Long Legs). Each keynote session will be held at 11 AM from Saturday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Here’s the first wave of SXSW panel announcements, including talks from the fest’s first-ever SXSports conference: Read More »
The first pic to fall under this multi-movie, multi-year deal is Mortdecai, the Johnny Depp action comedy adapted from the 1970s novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli. David Koepp is set to direct from Eric Aronson’s script. Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and, as we broke, The Newsroom‘s Olivia Munn are aboard to co-star. The two companies already have partnered for Ender’s Game, the sci-fi pic that Lionsgate releases November 1. One project we’re told is not in the mix: the Oddlot-financed Rosewater, directed by Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart. Here’s today’s release:
SANTA MONICA and CULVER CITY, CA, September 19, 2013 – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) and OddLot Entertainment have formed a multiyear, multipicture co-financing and distribution deal beginning with OddLot’s co-financing of the action comedy Mortdecai starring Johnny Depp, the two companies announced today. The arrangement provides a framework for Lionsgate and OddLot to co-produce and co-finance additional pictures that may be sourced by either party, and it provides OddLot with access to committed distribution on certain pictures.
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Digital Domain 3.0, the latest iteration of the VFX company reborn out of the ashes of its 2012 bankruptcy, has promoted two execs to President. Terry Clotiaux, who served as EP of Digital Domain’s Feature Film division from 2007 to 2009 before departing to rival Prime Focus overseeing work on films including Avatar, Tron, and Men In Black 3, returned to the company in March and has now been promoted to President of Feature Film Production. In his new post he’ll oversee all VFX feature film production for Digital Domain 3.0′s California and Vancouver locations. Meanwhile, Rich Flier has been upped to President of Advertising & Games and will now oversee all ad and vidgame VFX and production at Digital Domain 3.0 and Mothership. He’s been with the company since 2011 when he joined as Executive Producer and was promoted to VP in 2012. Digital Domain 3.0 co-produced Oddlot and Summit/Lionsgate’s upcoming sci-fi adaptation Ender’s Game.
Big changes at Digital Domain after Hong Kong-based holding company Sun Innovation paid $50.5M for the parent of Galloping Horse, a film and TV firm that owned 70% of the VFX house. Ed Ulbrich, who has been at Digital Domain since director James Cameron helped to found it in 1993, has stepped down as CEO to become a creative consultant. He will continue working as a producer on Lionsgate’s Ender’s Game. Replacing him in the top job is Sun’s Daniel Seah who has managed projects in entertainment, media, energy, and environmental protection and technology, the compnay says. The changes follow Sun’s acquisition of Galloping Horse US, the Beijing company that partnered with Reliance MediaWorks to purchase Digital Domain out of bankruptcy in 2012. Reliance will continue to own a minority stake in the company, now dubbed “Digital Domain 3.0.” It has shaped effects for Titanic, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the Transformers trilogy and TRON: Legacy.
The fallout from Digital Domain Media Group’s bankruptcy continues with investors in the troubled special effects and 3D conversion firm taking the former CEO, the company’s auditors and other executives to court for fraud. Having lost millions in the James Cameron-founded company just before it went under last September, Iroquois Master Fund and Kingsbrook Opportunities Master Fund late last week filed a six claim complaint (read it here) against John Textor, his wife Deborah, various DDMG directors and auditors SingerLewak LLP. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages as well as interest, legal fees and “such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.” The complaint in New York State Supreme Court alleges common law fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, negligent misrepresentations and omissions, negligence, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and civil conspiracy. Read More »
Jim Carrey, Louis C.K., Conan O’Brien and Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer were among nine people honored last night by the Producers Guild of America for their contributions to the advancement of digital entertainment and storytelling in the past year. John Lasseter, Morgan Freeman, and PGA President Mark Gordon were among those who attended the inaugural Digital V.I.P. Awards (Visionaries, Innovators and Producers) at the Bel Air home of entrepreneur Elon Musk. Click over for a complete list: Read More »
Unionization and the creation of a trade association topped the priorities at a visual effects biz town hall meeting Thursday in Los Angeles where hundreds of VFX professionals gathered to discuss the state of their troubled industry. Despite calls for solidarity within the global community and a general sense of accord, a tense volley of boos erupted halfway through the panel when Visual Effects Society rep Mike Chambers took the mic and mentioned the organization’s call for larger California subsidies made in an open letter last month. In the letter the VES had announced plans to hold a VFX Congress, which has yet to materialize. “What are you going to do?” shouted one audience member to Chambers, who had no answer for his group.
Related: VFX Oscar Protesters Grow To 400 As Pros Plead Their Case
The exchange highlighted the most crippling challenge currently facing VFX workers: With no organized body other than the strictly honorary VES, artists have no leverage as the current system continues to squeeze their employers for slim profit margins. Among the industry wide issues identified by keynote speaker Scott Squires: A flawed studio-VFX house business model, too much competition, and job-migrating subsidies. Panelists and audience members also decried the strains on health and home life endured by individual VFX artists at the bottom of the VFX food chain. Unpaid overtime, long work weeks and a lack of healthcare benefits are common for visual artists, who comprise one of the last remaining sectors in Hollywood that is not yet unionized.
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EXCLUSIVE: Break Media is adding a high octane new channel to their portfolio, just in time for SXSW. The male-targeted online network is launching their new YouTube channel Hardcoded with a web series that blends found footage with episodic action, starring James Kyson (Heroes), Camille Guaty (The Vampire Diaries), Wes Chatham (The Unit), Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism), and Jason Manuel Olazabal (Make It Or Break It).
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In an open letter issued Tuesday, the Visual Effects Society (VES) officially joined the growing crisis accelerated in recent weeks by the bankruptcy filing of Oscar-nominated VFX studio Rhythm & Hues. The missive calls for Governor Jerry Brown to expand post-production tax incentives in California and announces a VFX Congress to be held in the coming weeks to give artists a means of focusing their collective messages and goals into a united, focused strategy. “There’s a lot of energy and upset and desire on part of artists to say the industry is going through huge changes, and we all want to get together and get recognition at a much higher level”, Roth explained to Deadline. “But once you get there, what do you do with it?”
Related: ‘Life Of Pi’ VFX Winner Played Off While Thanking Bankrupt Rhythm & Hues
The VES is an honorary society of VFX professionals that counts just under 3,000 members in 30 countries. However, the industry lacks a VFX trade organization or union. Roth tells Deadline the VFX Congress is still being organized but will take place within the next few weeks. The VES aims to tap feedback from all stakeholders in the VFX industry including studios and facilities, although it is still to be determined who exactly will be allowed to participate in the Congress meeting. Read Roth’s open letter:
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Avengers 2 helmer Joss Whedon and actors Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, and Clark Gregg will host a discussion at SXSW following the U.S. premiere of their Much Ado About Nothing, the fest revealed today. Also joining previously announced panelists Carlton Cuse (presenting a look at A&E’s Bates Motel) and Matthew McConaughey in the Film Conference sidebar are Harmony Korine and the Spring Breakers cast; Danny Boyle, who will tease his April release Trance; and Rob Zombie (Lords Of Salem). Fox Searchlight’s anarchist drama The East, from Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, will close the fest which runs March 8-16 in Austin. Fifteen additional features have been added to the line-up including Stevie Nicks’ self-directed (with the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart) documentary In Your Dreams – Stevie Nicks, James Ponsoldt’s Sundance favorite The Spectacular Now, and the iPhone short A Year In The Life Of Wayne’s Phone directed by The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. Here are new Film Conference and Film Festival additions unveiled today:
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Warner Bros and New Line’s comedy starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey will have its world premiere March 8 at the SXSW Film Conference and Festival, which made the announcement today. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, about a pair of Las Vegas magicians who face off against a new rival, is directed by Don Scardino and opens wide March 15. The Austin-based fest also said it will premiere the reimagined Evil Dead; Joe Swanberg’s comedy Drinking Buddies; the Napster documentary Downloaded from Alex Winter; and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers starring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and James Franco. Most of the full lineup will be announced January 31 and the fest runs March 8-16. Here are SXSW’s descriptions of the films and panels set so far: Read More »
Disney has been temporarily granted a request to halt Digital Domain Media Group’s sale of 3D conversion patents. Disney has claimed that the proposed $5.4 million sale would infringe on its licensed ability to convert films from 2D to 3D and could make the company vulnerable to lawsuits. On Monday, Judge Brendon Shannon granted the media giant a 45-day stay of his order that had previously approved the sale; last week, Disney filed an appeal against the sale in federal court. Today’s order allows Disney’s federal appeal to go forward. It also allows the outcome of that appeal to not be rendered irrelevant if a sale occurred before the courts had reached a conclusion. In the interim, Disney will have to put up a $5.4 million bond to cover the projected patent sale fee. Read More »
Anil Ambani’s sprawling Indian conglomerate Reliance and China’s Wanda Group have announced plans to create long-term joint ventures in cinema exhibition in India and the United States, Reuters reports. Plans also call for Reliance and Wanda to build real estate projects in India involving a combined area of about 20 million square feet across a pair of locations in Navi Mumbai and Hyderabad. Wanda Group earlier this year became the world’s biggest owner of movie theaters when it acquired U.S. chain AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion. It has about 1,000 screens in China and 5,890 in the U.S. from AMC. Wanda says it plans to spend $10 billion in North America over the next decade. Reliance currently operates 254 screens in India and 170 screens across the U.S., according to Film Business Asia. Reliance also has invested in DreamWorks Studios and has backed a 10-episode pirate project for NBC. Wanda Cinema Circuit was yesterday named Exhibitor of the Year at the annual CineAsia convention in Hong Kong. Reliance’s facilities and post-production unit Mediaworks recently partnered with China’s Galloping Horse to acquire the U.S. effects house Digital Domain. Mediaworks has a 30% stake and Galloping Horse 70%.
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Eileen Moran, a driving creative force at Weta Digital and longtime visual effects executive producer for Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Joe Letteri, died in New Zealand Tuesday. At the top of her profession, Moran worked with James Cameron on Avatar, Steven Spielberg on The Adventures Of Tintin, Ridley and Tony Scott, and with Jackson on King Kong, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Lovely Bones, and the upcoming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. She missed the Hobbit premiere last week because she was in hospital. In a note to the staff of Weta Digital, Jackson and Walsh said, “Fran and I are terribly upset at the news that we lost Eileen a couple of hours ago. She was a lovely, decent person who had great respect for all the artists she worked with. Eileen was so proud of Weta and the work all of you have done over the years. She was fiercely loyal to the company, and to Fran and I personally, and we will always be grateful for her friendship.” James Cameron offered the following remembrance: “Eileen was an integral part of building Weta Digital into the most powerful engine for imaginative imagery that ever existed, and she shepherded some of the milestone films of her generation to completion.”
Moran grew up on NY’s Long Island and attended New Paltz University drama school with dreams of becoming an actress. But she decided it was too tough. instead, she took a job as a production assistant on a commercial, working her way up to … Read More »