Here’s another new company on the growing list of ventures involving veteran execs to be formed in recent months. Optimum founder Will Clarke, former Exclusive Media managing director Andy Mayson and former Pathé International exec Mike Runagall have jointly created UK-based Altitude Film Entertainment. It’s described as a “vertically integrated film company focusing on production, financing and international sales and with a strong commercial outlook” and with “the financial capability to get projects off the ground.” Clarke and Mayson are joint CEOs with Runagall managing director of Altitude Film Sales. The first partnerships are with directors James Watkins (The Woman In Black), Owen Harris (Holy Flying Circus) and Ben Craig (Modern Times) along with playwright Matt Charman and producer Gregor Cameron. With Watkins, Altitude is developing The Loch, a new take on the Loch Ness myth. Altitude is also teaming with Cameron and Harris to make Kill Your Friends, set in the Britpop era of the late 90s and based on John Niven’s novel. Finally, it’s producing Ben Craig and Matt Charman’s action adventure Mythica.
The founder and CEO of Optimum Releasing is leaving to become a producer with long-time business partner Paul Higgins. It was Higgins who bankrolled Clarke in the first place, setting up Optimum on £13,000 back in 1999. Optimum’s turnover last year was £36 million. I’m told that Clarke personally made £16 million ($24 million) when StudioCanal bought it for £22-25 million in 2006. I suspect that Clarke has always been more of an entrepreneur than a manager. And he has wanted to produce for a long time, steering Optimum towards production with its Brighton Rock remake and comedy Attack the Block.
Danny Perkins, the COO of Optimum who owns 17% of the company, will take over as CEO on September 1, reporting to StudioCanal chairman/CEO Olivier Courson. Optimum has become one of the UK’s most exciting distributors, releasing some of my favourite recent films – A Prophet, Donkey Punch and Eden Lake.
The backbone of the business is that StudioCanal 1,500-title back catalogue, which the distributor repackages into DVDs. Around 500 have been released so far. Optimum is also on board several juicy remakes mined from that catalogue, including Peter Jackson’s 3D The Dambusters. You can imagine how excited we Brits will be sitting in a darkened cinema when the Dambusters March strikes up, with 3D tracer fire zipping past your head.
Magnolia Pictures acquired North American rights to Filth, the adaptation of Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh’s equally unsettling and rude black comedy that stars James McAvoy as a copper looking for a promotion and willing to go to any lengths to get it. The film is the second highest grossing R-rated film in the UK this year, and it also stars Jamie Bell, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan, Shirley Henderson, and Jim Broadbent. Jon S. Baird wrote the script and directed it and produces through his Logie Pictures banner with Ken Marshall for Steel Mill Pictures, Trudie Styler and Celine Rattray for Maven Pictures, McAvoy, Christian Angermayer and Jens Meurer for Film House Germany, Mark Amin and Will Clarke.
The deal was negotiated by Magnolia Director of Acquisitions John Von Thaden, with CAA and UTA on behalf of the filmmakers. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical release in the spring of 2014.
Oscar winner Jim Broadbent and Ray Stevenson (Thor, GI Joe: Retaliation) have joined the cast of action adventure pic Big Game. Samuel L. Jackson is playing the president of the United States in the film that starts shooting today. It’s written and directed by Jalmari Helander, the Finnish helmer of 2010′s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. The story centers on a shy 13-year-old boy (Onni Tommila) who undergoes a test of manhood by spending a day and night alone in the wilderness. On the same night, Air Force One is shot down by terrorists and the boy discovers the president in an escape pod in the forest where the pair team up in a struggle for survival. Also joining the cast is German actor Mehmet Kurtulus. Petri Jokiranta is producing for Subzero; Will Clarke and Andy Mayson for Altitude Film and Jens Meurer for Egoli Tossell. Alex Garland is executive producer. Altitude has worldwide sales and is jointly repping North America with WME.
Will Clarke’s Altitude Film Entertainment is teaming with Subzero Film Entertainment to produce action adventure pic Big Game which has Samuel L. Jackson attached to play the president of the United States. Jalmari Helander, the Finnish director behind 2010′s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, makes his English-language helming debut with the pic. The story centers on a shy 13-year old boy who undergoes a test of manhood by spending a day and night alone in the wilderness. On the same night, Air Force One is shot down by terrorists and the boy discovers the president in an escape pod in the forest where the pair team up in a struggle for survival. Clarke and Andy Mayson co-produce for Altitude along with Jens Meurer of Egoli Tossell Film. Alex Garland is executive producer. Production starts in late summer and Altitude Film Sales will start pitching to buyers in Cannes. It’s also starting sales on horror thriller The Loch, co-scripted by The Woman In Black director James Watkins. Simon Duric will direct with Peter Mullan attached to star. The new take on the Loch Ness myth is set to go into production later this year.
Cannes Briefs: Epic’s ‘Thale’ Sequel; Osiris’ ‘The Kill Hole’; Darclight’s ‘Contracted’; Simon Cowell’s ‘Pudsey’; Ridley Scott’s ‘Get Santa’; More
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Epic Sets English-Language ‘Thale’ Sequel
Epic Pictures is partnering with Norway’s Yesbox Productions to finance and produce an English-language sequel to Norwegian thriller Thale. The sequel will be written and directed by Thale‘s Aleksander Nordaas. Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson are producing alongside Bendik Heggen Strønstad of Yesbox. Thale appeared in Toronto and SXSW last year and told the story of two crime-scene cleaners who discover a tailed female creature in a concealed cellar who has been held captive for decades. Thale was based on a mythical character in Nordic folklore called the “huldra,” a beautiful creature with female attributes that is said to seduce men by humming a beautiful song, but the men never return to their villages. Epic’s Patrick Ewald says the budget will be upped for the sequel “so that Aleksander and Bendik’s vision can be accomplished on a grand scale.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Altitude Boards Stone Roses Doc, K5 & ‘Beware Of Mr Baker’, Oz Filmmaker Launches PicSeeder, ‘In The Shadow’ & More
Altitude To Proffer Stone Roses Doc at EFM
Will Clarke’s Altitude Film Sales has boarded This Is England director Shane Meadow’s The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone as the UK-based company heads into its first European Film Market in Berlin. Set up just prior to Cannes last year by Optimum founder Clarke, along with former Exclusive Media managing director Andy Mayson and former Pathé International exec Mike Runagall, Altitude will also handle international sales on Catch Me Daddy, the first feature written and directed by commercials and music video director Daniel Wolfe. Documentary The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone chronicles the cult British rock band on their 2012 reunion tour after a 15-year split. Warp Films’ Mark Herbert is producing the Film4-financed picture which will be released in the UK by Revolver Entertainment. Catch Me Daddy director Daniel Wolfe’s credits include work for and videos for rapper Plan B, boy band Take That and French group The Shoes. His thriller follows a couple on the run and is produced by Mike Elliott of Emu Films with backing from Film4 and the BFI Film Fund. Studiocanal is distributing in the UK.
At the Toronto Film Festival last month, UK-based Cascade Pictures announced its intentions to package films through a mix of gap and debt finance, international soft money options and pre-sales. Today, via its Cascade Media Development arm, the company is launching the Writers’ Couch, an initiative that aims to help screenwriters develop projects and move them into production. Scribes, who must be UK residents and must not have representation, will be invited to pitch their completed scripts once a month to development execs at Cascade who will judge projects on writing quality, probability for commercial or critical success and how they fit with Cascade’s aim to produce genre projects for the UK and international market. Cascade has previously said it will support low to mid-high budgets in its first year before moving into the higher-end range.
Ewan McGregor, currently working with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, will shoot heist pic Son Of A Gun in Australia early next year. The film centers on the complex relationship between McGregor’s public enemy number one character and his young protégé. Oz director Julius Avery is best known for the Cannes and Sundance award winning short Jerrycan. He also wrote Son Of A Gun and will make his feature helming debut with the film. Altitude Film Sales, a division of Optimum founder Will Clarke’s Altitude Film Entertainment, is handling global rights. UTA Independent Film Group has North America. Hopscotch/eOne has already taken Australia and New Zealand. Timothy White is producing via Oz-based Southern Light Films with Media House Capital’s Aaron L. Gilbert exec producing. McGregor is repped by UTA, UK-based United Agents and attorney Robert Offer. He’ll next be seen in Juan Antonio Bayona’s tsunami drama The Impossible which releases in December. Avery is repped by UTA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and attorney Bryce Menzies.
The slow recovery of the independent distribution business took a giant step at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which featured a fast and furious flurry of big-money deals made for partially completed films whose sellers brought sizzle reels and scripts. The Iron Lady, Wettest County In The World (retitled Lawless and in competition), Looper, Great Hope Springs, Killer Elite, The Host, The Artist and Megan Ellison’s whopping $20 million buy for Terminator rights were among the films snapped up by product-hungry domestic and offshore distributors.
This year, there will be way more pictures to be bought in the Cannes market. Agents say there will be dozens of packages, promo reels and scripts for talent-attached packages. And there will be way more upstart international sales companies hawking them. Some buyers, and sellers for that matter, are looking at the list of packages — including multiple films starring the likes of Gerard Butler and Matthew McConaughey — and wondering if some of those new sales companies will have reputations tarnished if some of those proposed films don’t make it into production because the sales aren’t there.
One thing for sure: The pace of buying will be slower. Aside from more product, there are …
A panel of industry experts led by former culture secretary Lord Chris Smith published its highly anticipated recommendations on revamping UK government film policy today. The panel, which included Sony’s Michael Lynton, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Optimum Releasing founder Will Clarke, made suggestions with the intent of increasing audience choice and growing the demand for British films both at home and abroad. With calls for regulated film investment from broadcasters like BSkyB and ITV, the review also seems to be taking a cue from its neighbors across the Channel on certain points. Within the 56 recommendations that aim to boost the British film brand are a handful of proposals that, if heeded, would make the UK business more closely resemble the French model.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron made headlines last week when he called for British filmmakers to make more “commercially successful pictures.” The remarks left the local industry in a bit of a huff, with director Ken Loach telling the BBC: “If you knew what was going to be successful before you made it then we’d all be millionaires.” (It’s worth noting that Loach’s last several films have been made with French backing). Despite Loach’s initial take on Cameron’s comments and as some industry folks I spoke to late last week suggested, the review that’s been released today is not quite so incendiary as the prime minister’s statements led people to believe. After Cameron’s quips, Fellowes last week said, “At the moment it’s being presented as if there’s a sort of polarity, you either support mainstream films or minority pictures. That isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about broadening the base, so that money goes into all kinds of films.” Supporting Fellowes’ comments, the report’s first recommendation is that major organizations must recognize that a key goal is to connect the widest possible audiences with the broadest and richest range of British films. In comments today, Lord Smith noted that between inward investment that’s helping to boost the local economy (think lavish Hollywood pics shooting in Britain) and a run of strong local films at the box offrice (The King’s Speech, The Inbetweeners Movie), British film is in a strong place. But, “we need to sustain that.” The report notes that although the average Briton watches over 80 films a year on big and small screens, UK indies made up only 5.5% of box office from 2001-2010.
New York, NY (January 14, 2011) – IFC Films, the leading American distributor of independent and foreign films, announced today that the company is acquiring the U.S. rights to director Rowan Joffe’s debut feature BRIGHTON ROCK. Joffe, whose previous writing credits include 28 WEEKS LATER and THE AMERICAN, adapted the script from Graham Greene’s 1939 iconic crime novel of the same name. Produced by Paul Webster (ATONEMENT, EASTERN PROMISES) and co-produced by Paul Ritchie (NOWHERE BOY, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), the film stars Sam Riley (CONTROL), Andrea Riseborough (NEVER LET ME GO), John Hurt (IMMORTALS), and Helen Mirren (THE LAST STATION) and will be released by IFC Films in the summer of 2011.
The deal was negotiated by Arianna Bocco, Senior Vice President, Acquisitions & Productions, and by Anna Marsh at Studio Canal on behalf of the filmmaker. Jenny Borgars, Will Clarke, and Lamie Laurenson executive produced the project. Produced in association with the BBC and UKFC, BRIGHTON ROCK is the first of an ambitious slate of high-level British productions financed by Studio Canal to be released in the UK by its company Optimum.
BRIGHTON ROCK embraces the classic elements of film noir and the British gangster film to tell the story of Pinkie (Riley), a desperate youth who is hell bent on clawing his way up through the ranks of organized crime. When a young and very innocent waitress, Rose (Riseborough), stumbles on evidence linking him to a revenge killing, he sets out to seduce her to secure her silence.