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‘Wadjda’s Haifaa Al Mansour To Direct ‘A Storm In The Stars’ For Gidden Media

By | Friday February 28, 2014 @ 4:57pm PST

Haifaa-Al-MansourEXCLUSIVE: Haifaa Al Mansour made history with Wadjda, the first feature by a Saudi Arabian woman and the first to be shot entirely within the Kingdom. For her second feature, the director is in negotiations to helm A Storm In The Stars for Amy Baer’s Gidden Media. The period romantic drama is about the tumultuous love affair between dangerously charismatic poet Percy Shelley and the brilliant and beautiful 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft. The relationship ultimately inspired the latter to write Frankenstein. The script was written by Emma Jensen, and will be produced by Baer. Joannie Burstein and Rebecca Miller are executive producing. Last Vegas producer amy baerBaer launched Gidden Media last November. Of A Storm In The Stars, she says, “From the minute I read the script, I was hoping to find a female director who would realize what Emma was trying to say — that Mary Shelley’s story is as much about female empowerment and about a woman ahead of her time, and not just a ‘monster’ origin story.” Baer sees similarities with Wadjda, the story of a young girl who challenges deep-rooted Saudi traditions in a determined quest to buy a bicycle. It’s “remarkably on point thematically — about a young girl chafing against the norms of her society as she tries to be true to herself. I couldn’t be more … Read More »

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‘Last Vegas’ Producer Amy Baer Starts Gidden To Incubate Pics; Ernest Shackleton Tale ‘Endurance’ Among Them

By | Monday November 11, 2013 @ 6:33pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Last Vegas producer Amy Baer has launched Gidden Media, and the former CBS Films head and senior Sony Pictures executive gets off the ground with a batch of projects and a 7-figure development fund raised through a consortium of private investors. Baer will do what she does best, which is to invest the time nurturing material through the development process and then shop the results for feature films and longform television. Baer got her first taste of producing when she exited CBS Films two years ago to join Laurence Mark and Joe Drake on Last Vegas, the Jon Turteltaub-directed comedy that crossed the $33 million mark in its second weekend, with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline starring for CBS Films.

Baer gets underway with several promising projects at Gidden, including some that she developed during her long stint at Sony. After starting her career working for late CAA agent Jay Moloney, Baer moved to TriStar in 1992 and worked her way up until she left to form CBS Films as president/CEO in 2007. Baer said she never forgot the unmade projects she shepherded all those years. Like a cop who won’t give up on a cold case, she approached her former Sony colleagues, who are letting her run with several stuck projects with great scripts. One is Endurance, the survival story of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, who rescued his entire crew in 1916 after his ship got trapped in ice for over a year while attempting to cross Antarctica. I wrote about this film numerous times over the years, but it never made it to the start line at Sony as a feature. Baer is going to get made as a limited series by Sony Pictures Television. Wolfgang Petersen, who has been trying to make this movie for over a decade, is producing and directing a script by Steve Zaillian. Viking’s Alan Gasmer will also produce. Read More »

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CBS Films In Deal For Martin McDonagh’s ‘Seven Psychopaths’ With Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell And Chris Walken

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films is negotiating to co-finance Seven Psychopaths, the next film by In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh. CBS Films will distribute the film in the United States. The film reunites McDonagh with his In Bruges star Colin Farrell, who plays a screenwriter who struggles to find the handle on his script, called Seven Psychopaths. He gets drawn into the dognapping escapades of his friends (played by Rockwell and Walken). Once the beloved Shih Tzu owned by a psychopathic gangster goes missing, the screenwriter finds himself fueled with all the drama he needs for his screenplay, if he can stay alive long enough to write it all down. The film’s produced by Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin, with Tessa Ross set as executive producer. CBS Films executive vice president Scott Shooman will oversee it when it shoots in Los Angeles this fall.

CBS Films, whose president/CEO Amy Baer just finalized her exit to produce for the company starting in late October, has made a strong effort under COO Wolfgang Hammer to supplement its home grown pictures with films that are acquired either finished or at script stage. CBS Films began its acquisitions uptick with The Mechanic, and recently made the big deal of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival acquiring Salmon Fishing in the Yemen for north of $5 million. CBS Films also made a script stage acquisition of the Colin Firth-Cameron … Read More »

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CBS Films’ Amy Baer Exiting As President And CEO As Focus Shifts To Acquisitions

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Les Moonves has just released a statement on the exit of Amy Baer from CBS Films: “We thank Amy for her important role in building CBS Films. Going forward, we remain fully committed to the division’s focus on a targeted slate of smart acquisitions and quality homegrown productions in all genres. CBS Films is small in the overall size and scope of our company, but continues to fit nicely with the Corporation’s premium content strategy. We’re excited about its future and to start its next chapter.”

EXCLUSIVE, 2:57 PM: Amy Baer will transition out of the post of president and CEO of CBS Films, ending her four-year tenure at the start-up production/distribution company in late October. Baer will immediately join Laurence Mark as producer of the Jon Turteltaub-directed Last Vegas, CBS Films’ Dan Fogelman-scripted comedy that revolves around four best friends in their late 60s who decide to escape retirement and throw a Las Vegas bachelor party for the only one of them who stayed single. Read More »

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CBS Films Taps Scott Shooman For Acquisition Post

Mike Fleming

CBS Films, which has supplemented its homegrown slate with acquisitions of finished films, has hired Scott Shooman to be EVP Acquisitions. CBS Films president and CEO Amy Baer made the appointment. Shooman, who spent a decade at Sony Pictures and was most recently veep of Acquisitions and Productions there, will report to CBS Films COO Wolfgang Hammer. Hammer has been leading the CBS acquisitions charge that resulted in the release of The Mechanic, and the acquisition of the Daniel Radcliffe haunted house thriller The Woman in Black, and the Colin Firth-Cameron Diaz comedy Gambit. Shooman was involved in such films as Insidious, Hanna, Machete, and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. “Scott has a great eye for commercially viable, high quality films like Insidious,” Hammer said. “He also possesses a deep passion and healthy aggressiveness for working with filmmakers. Simply put, we’re incredibly excited to welcome him to the team.” Said Baer: Acquisitions are an important part of our strategy and the addition of Scott gives us new energy and strength.”

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CBS Films Targets ‘American Assassin’ To Launch Mitch Rapp Franchise, Sets Ed Zwick To Direct

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has redrawn its plans to launch a film franchise based on the Vince Flynn novel series about CIA agent  and Mitch Rapp. Ed Zwick has come aboard to direct an adaptation of American Assassin, a bestseller published last fall by Atria. Though it was the 11th book in the  Rapp series, American Assassin was a prequel that told the story of how, as a college scholar and athlete, tragedy forged Rapp’s path to become a ruthless hunter of terrorists for the CIA.

CBS Films, which first acquired the rights to Flynn’s popular book series in 2008, originally intended to start with Consent to Kill, an action-packed thriller that contains several twists that change Rapp’s life permanently. CBS Films got as far as attaching Antoine Fuqua to direct and courting Gerard Butler, Colin Farrell and Lost’s Matthew Fox to play Rapp.

Instead, Flynn’s prequel novel provided a way to start the series at the very beginning of Rapp’s covert career. That means they will tap the strong crop of young leading men, much the way that Paramount Pictures signed Chris Pine to re-launch its Jack Ryan series. Consent to Kill will come later.

Zwick is writing the script with partner Marshall Herskovitz, and they will join Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler as producers. Zwick last directed Love and Other Drugs, and Defiance and Blood Diamond before that.

“We were prepping Consent to Kill when Vince told us he was going … Read More »

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In Book Deals: New Regency Taps Swedish Crime Series ‘Three Seconds’, Struggling CBS Films Makes Stephen King’s ‘Stand’

Mike Fleming

The book-to-movie business is kicking back into gear. Hoping for another Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, New Regency has just acquired Three Seconds, part of a bestselling Swedish crime novel series by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom. Shine will produce and they will set a writer quickly. In Three Seconds, an ex-con who works undercover for the Stockholm police is charged with breaking the Polish mob’s stranglehold on amphetamine dealing in Sweden prisons. The ex-con gets himself arrested so he can infiltrate the mob in a maximum security prison. Beyond the fact his wife is unaware he’s working undercover, the operative’s challenge is to crack the ring and get out before he’s exposed. The book is the fifth novel in the series, was named Sweden’s top crime novel of 2009. The author team is intriguing, considering one’s a former journalist, the other an ex-criminal.The book was published by Silver Oak.  Shine’s Sue Swift brought the book to Regency’s Michelle Kroes to get the deal started and Dan Wilson will oversee for Regency.

In other deals, a film option deal was made for Cutting For Stone, the Abraham Verghese novel optioned by Anonymous Content for its production company.

And Warner Bros and CBS Films will try to turn Stephen King’s celebrated novel The Stand into a feature. Given the spectacularly restrictive budgets that have forced CBS Films to rely on forgettable films like The Back-Up Plan and Extraordinary Measures, it seems likely Warner Bros will have to put up the dough for this to get off the ground. Even then, King’s apocalyptic epic will be very difficult to compress into a feature film, which is why it previously was turned into a 1994 TV miniseries. Each time I write about CBS Films, the question lingers: why did Les Moonves bother to form a feature division in the first place and hire away a capable exec like Amy Baer from Sony only to hobble her by not taking any big swings? Baer has a franchise percolating in Vince Flynn’s Consent to Kill, which focuses on ruthless government operative Mitch Rapp. It’s a Jack Ryan waiting to happen, but though CBS Films last year had discussions with Gerard Butler, Colin Farrell and Lost‘s Matthew Fox for the Rapp role, it still hasn’t happened. A lot has to do with the need to secure a partner. Hey, Les? In the movie business, it’s no guts, no glory. Deadline has heard that a “reconfiguring” is coming to the still struggling movie unit. CBS Films will make more acquisitions to fill the pipeline. Read More »

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Shakeups Inside CBS Films And Lionsgate

By | Wednesday December 1, 2010 @ 8:40pm PST

It has been so busy tonight that tips on this news have been sitting in my email account since 3 PM: Lionsgate EVP of the Motion Picture Group Wolfgang Hammer is headed to CBS Films as the new COO to work for President & CEO Amy Baer and oversee acquisitions, finance, legal, and business affairs, including co-productions and creative decisions. Hammer had only been with Lionsgate for 2 1/2 years, and is replacing Bruce Tobey who served as CBS Film’s first COO and will be departing the company at the end of the year. ”Bruce got this division up and running, and established for the days ahead,” Baer said in a statement. “I have great respect and gratitude for his talent, commitment and his contributions to CBS Films. We wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”

Hammer’s hiring follows the box office tanking of the first 3 productions by CBS Films including Faster this weekend. ”Hammer will report to Baer and the pair will work together on the division’s business and creative decisions,” the official CBS Films release said. “Wolfgang’s aptitude for innovative deal making, strong background in international financing, his excellent relationships with talent and his passion for the business of movies make him the perfect addition to our team,” said Baer. Prior to Lionsgate, where he began as VP of Production, Hammer, who’s Austrian, was at Media Rights Capital (MRC) and began his industry career at the old Endeavor agency under … Read More »

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Great Role For 30-Ish Actress (Who Hasn’t Adopted In A Third World Country)

By | Monday July 19, 2010 @ 2:16pm PDT
Mike Fleming

12037.gifEXCLUSIVE: CBS Films and Sony Pictures are teaming to acquire It Takes A Village, a comedy pitch that Keenen Ivory Wayans will write and direct about a 30-something white single career-obsessed woman who decides on a whim to adopt a child from a South Pacific island. But she comes home with the tribe’s chief and seven elders until she proves she’s mommy material.

Todd Garner will produce with Wayans and Rick Alvarez. It took two studios to make the deal for It Takes A Village. The pact that UTA brokered for Wayans is mid 6-figures upfront, but contains aggressive progress to production stipulations: after Wayans turns in the script, the studios either make it or the reps take it elsewhere. Wayans, who last directed the 2006 comedy Little Man, hopes to make this his next film. CBS Films chief Amy Baer, who spent most of her career at Columbia, put the pact together with Sony’s Columbia co-president of production Doug Belgrad, who worked closely with Wayans on White Chicks.

The family theme makes the film a departure for Wayans. From his raucous sketch show creation In Living Color to his subsequent feature comedies, family-friendly meant lining the cast with his siblings. Here, Wayans sparked to an idea by Garner (The Zookeeper), who recently became a father and was struck by the litany of mandatory child-rearing accessories–from car seats to baby-wipe-warmers–and fantasized about a stripped-down version of parenting. That led to what Wayans saw as a … Read More »

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