With Cannes just over, is it already time to look to Berlin? Evidently, as the festival has announced a big change this morning. As of June 1, Matthijs Wouter Knol will be the new head of the European Film Market. Longtime outgoing chief Beki Probst will become president of the market and in her new function, the festival says, she will help install Knol and provide “support and advice.” This will be a big deal for EFM exhibitors who have established deep bonds with the well-liked Probst over the last 26 years. Knol, however, is not a stranger to the festival. He has been the program manager of Berlinale Talents (formerly known as the Berlinale Talent Campus) since 2008. In recent years, the market has been hit with general criticism of its place on a packed winter schedule, rising screening and stand prices, and a chorus of “Do we really need to be here?” Today, festival chief Dieter Kosslick said, “Matthijs Wouter Knol will inspire new areas of business and the development of the European Film Market. With Knol, a professional is joining us who knows the festival well. He will strategically strengthen the synergies that have developed between the festival and the EFM.” Knol hails from The Netherlands and was a journalist before segueing to producing in 2001. In 2007, he joined the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam working between the co-production …
While the normally freezing weather in Berlin is an annual lament, this year’s unseasonably balmy clime became a major focus of conversation. And, as they say, when people have nothing else to talk about, they talk about the weather… The notably lackluster European Film Market boasted a small handful of buzz titles and only a few headline-grabbing deals. As such, the usual whispers of “Do we really need to be here?” grew louder in the last week. Another talking point was the early-in-the-market news of a shake-up at Exclusive Media, the production and foreign sales company headed by well-respected veterans Nigel Sinclair and Guy East. And, reliably, Lars von Trier’s director’s cut premiere of Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 was a head-turner, albeit for star Shia LaBeouf‘s pre-screening antics here.
Distribution consultant Jason Resnick mused yesterday, “It was the warmest Berlin ever, and yet the coldest Berlin ever.” Yet, no one was particularly shocked by the way business went here. Offshore and domestic deals were done, but folks roundly agreed there was a serious lack of oomph. As one exec told me ahead of the market, “Everybody is asking where the projects are.”
Berlin Briefs: Mads Mikkelsen Western ‘The Salvation’ Rides To Buyers; $40M ‘Kong’ Mines Monkey King Story; More
As a very quiet EFM winds down, TrustNordisk reports it’s had high interest on Mads Mikkelsen-starrer The Salvation. After pre-selling the movie in Cannes, a sizzle reel of Kristian Levring’s western was shown to buyers on Saturday morning in Berlin, adding deals in Australia/New Zealand (Madman) and Benelux (Wild Bunch). A multi-territory pact is in the offing. The English-language Danish western is co-written by Susanne Bier’s frequent collaborator, Anders Thomas Jensen. The revenge tale also stars Eva Green and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Sisse Graum Jørgensen produces for Zentropa Entertainments33 in co-production with South Africa’s Spier Films and the UK’s Forward Films. The Scandinavian release is set for August through Nordisk Film Distribution.
EXCLUSIVE: London-set action thriller Blowback is moving forward with Armadillo helmer Janus Metz in the director’s chair. Penned by Gregory Burke, writer of the hot Berlin Competition pic ’71, the film will shoot this summer. The story follows a team of soldiers who return to London from Afghanistan and are drawn into crime on a major scale. But all is not what it seems as they encounter one deception and double-cross after another. Casting is underway with what I’m told will be high-level British talent.
Metz won the top prize in Cannes’ Critics’ Week in 2010 with war documentary Armadillo, and Burke’s 71 is a wartime drama; Blowback teams them on familiar ground. The UK’s Shine Pictures and LA’s Fields Entertainment have boarded in association with American Entertainment Investors. The film is fully financed and Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales. Blowback will be produced by Ollie Madden and Simon Fields, with Stephen Garrett and Joseph Cohen exec producing. Shine’s Madden says, “We’re thrilled to be moving forward with this project, which as well as being a gripping, entertaining thriller also feels very timely. Janus is a huge talent with an obvious affinity for the material, and Greg Burke is one of the very best writers in this space.” The news comes a couple …
Alive Alone, the Thunder Road produced drama that Protagonist Pictures is selling, was originally announced in Cannes with Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts starring. Schoenaerts has had to pull out for personal reasons, and now boarding are Idris Elba and Sam Worthington for a March start. The New York-set drama marks the feature helming debut of Khurram Longi. He’ll direct form his own script which featured on both the Black List and the UK Brit List. Elba stars as an ex-detainee of Guantanamo Bay working as a taxi driver, and Rapace plays a prostitute on the run from a feared crime boss (Worthington). When their worlds collide, they unexpectedly find salvation in one another. Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk is producing with Rapace acting as executive producer. Michael Benaroya’s Benaroya Pictures is financing and Protagonist is selling here in Berlin. Elba is repped by WME; Longi, Rapace and Worthington by CAA.
After last night’s massive Weinstein Co acquisition of The Imitation Game, domestic action has perked up slightly today. Dimension and Radius-TWC have made a preemptive move on Everly, acquiring U.S. rights to the Salma Hayek thriller. Joe Lynch is directing the pic that’s from the Black List script by Yale Hannon. It’s described as an intense action thriller aboout a down-on-her-luck woman who is forced to fend off waves of assassins sent by her ex, a dangerous mob boss, while trying to save her estranged mother and daughter. Togo Igawa (Last Samurai), Masashi Fujimoto (Sympathy For Mr Vengeance) and veteran Hiroyuki Watanabe also star. Dimension and Radius have set a fourth quarter 2014 release.
Radius co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego said, “We’ve been on the hunt for a female driven action franchise and we’ve finally found it in Everly. Salma is utterly transcendent.”
The film was produced and financed by recently launched Singapore venture Vega, Baby! and produced via Adam Ripp and Rob Paris’ Crime Scene Pictures. Luke Rivett of Anonymous Content and Andrew Pfeffer also produced. Rizal Risjad, Ricky Budhrani and Paul Green are the executive producers. Brett Hedblom is the co-producer. and Sierra/Affinity has international sales Quinn and Janego negotiated the deal with CAA, Paris and …
Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award, 52 Tuesdays has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Kino Lorber. The company is planning a second semester 2014 limited release. Visit Films is handing world sales on the pic that’s also closed deals with Edko in Hong Kong and Praesens in Switzerland. The movie is screening in Berlin’s Generation 14 Plus section today. Australian helmer Sophie Hyde shot the drama chronologically, one day every week for a year. It follows a teenager (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) adjusting as her mother (Del Herbert-Jane) begins a gender transition. The characters’ time together becomes limited to once a week, on Tuesdays. Matthew Cormack scripted from a story by Hyde. Ryan Kampe, president of Visit Films says, “Kino Lorber understands the film in the way that we did when we first saw the 1 minute promo in Melbourne at 37 South and will be able to really take this film out to a wide audience, maximizing the film’s unique and groundbreaking style.” Richard Lorber, chairman and CEO of Kino Lorber, says the “courageous” film is a work of “bold and innovative cinematic structure.” Visit is also handling Berlin Competition title History Of Fear, among others.
Berlin Briefs: Frank Dillane Boards Bow’s ‘Maestro’; ‘Watermark’ Sells For eOne; John Travolta Is ‘Gummy Bear’
Up-and-comer Frank Dillane (Heart Of The Sea, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince) has been set to star in Maestro, the adaptation of Peter Goldsworthy’s 1989 bibildungsroman. Catherine Jarvis is directing the pic that starts shooting in the spring in Northern Australia and Vienna. Daniel Harvey and Bow Street Films partners Joe Jenckes and David Dickson are producers. The story centers on a talented pianist who moves to an exotic outpost of 1960s Oz and is forced to learn from the only piano teacher his father can find – an eccentric, enigmatic Viennese refugee with a shadowed past. The piano becomes a battle ground with volleys of Wagner and Hendrix alike thrown between the pair as the young man tries to make sense of his own identity and ambition to become a concert pianist while coming closer to the truth about the Maestro’s past. Casting is underway for the part of the Maestro. Craig Leon is producing original music for the film that will play alongside recordings by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, whose work was highlighted during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony. The soundtrack will be released internationally by Deutsche Grammophon/Universal. Dillane, who was recently cast in writer/director Gerardo Naranjo’s untitled new drama alongside Dakota Fanning, is repped by Michelle Braidman of Braidman Associates and WME.
Berlin Briefs: Rob Cohen To Helm ‘Risk’; Umedia Digs ‘Deep’; Buyers Show Up For Competition’s ‘In Order Of Disappearance’
Alex Cross and The Fast And The Furious director Rob Cohen is set to helm Umedia‘s action heist thriller Risk. A summer production start is eyed. The film follows a brilliant thief who’s sprung early from prison to execute a nearly impossible art heist. Reluctant to follow the same path that put him in jail in the first place, he’s drawn into a dangerous triangle with a crime boss and a beautiful and mysterious accomplice. Brussels-based Umedia’s Adrian Politowski and Karl Richards will produce with Tim Kwok, Ksana Golod and George Parra. The screenplay is by Eric Harlacher. Umedia International will handle sales.
In other Umedia news, the company’s international sales arm has boarded Spanish animation studio The Thinklab’s family feature Deep. From a script by former DreamWorks story consultant Mike de Seve of Baboon Animation, the film is directed by Julio Soto (Fluffs!). Umedia is showing a sizzle reel to buyers. The story is set in a deep-sea world of the future where humans have abandoned the earth and the oceans have risen. An adventurous octopus named Deep, and his two best friends, angler fish Evo, and neurotic shrimp Alice, must set off on a perilous journey when an earthquake destroys their home. Deep is produced by Adriana Malfatti and Jorge Bazaco, Character development is managed by Spa Studios, the original story creators of Despicable Me, and the company’s owner Sergio Pablos who has designed characters for Disney’s Tarzan, Blue Sky’s Rio, Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Hercules.
EXCLUSIVE: Paradise City, the newly-minted production label of Paris-based Memento Films International, has tapped Bill Paxton to direct the adaptation of prolific author Joe Lansdale’s The Bottoms. The Edgar Award winning, racially-themed novel is set in East Texas and follows an adolescent boy, his little sister, and their father who stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottom of the Sabine River. The townsfolk cover up the crime until the body of a white woman is found in similar circumstances and it falls to the family to unearth the truth. The transfer is written by Brent Hanley who penned Paxton’s 2001 directing effort Frailty. Shooting is planned for later this year.
Related: Berlin: Memento Films International Builds Paradise City Label; Staffs Up In London
“I have been a big fan of Joe Lansdale’s writing since the Hap And Leonard novels,” Paxton says. “His stories and characters are vivid, original and indelible. The screenwriter Brent Hanley and I have been looking to team up again, since Frailty and when we read Joe’s book The Bottoms, we knew we had hit pay dirt. With a story and script this good, we have a chance to make a bonafide classic. I couldn’t be more …
The Berlin fest’s European Film Market kicked off today under surprisingly sunny skies. That’s oddly apt for a market that a buyer referred to this week as “a desert.” The exec was lamenting the lack of big-ticket product to be proffered up and down hotel halls here. “Everybody is asking where the projects are. Cannes better be good because we can’t fall any lower.” That’s a pretty harsh evaluation, but one that’s been echoed by others.
That’s not to say there is a total lack of catnip amongst the pickings here. Some of the projects generating extra heat include IM Global’s M. Night Shyamalan/Bruce Willis reteam Labor Of Love, and Chris Pine-starrer The Line; FilmNation’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain and directed by JC Chandor; Sierra/Affinity‘s Jonathan Mostow-directed action thriller For The Dogs with Emma Roberts and Sam Worthington; and Mister Smith’s Jesse Owens pic Race. But the oft-heard complaint that Berlin falls too closely on the heels of the AFM, the holidays and Sundance, is even more of a lament this year. IM Global’s Stuart Ford tells me, “As ever, Berlin does suffer from the time crunch. It’s always hard to get new projects completely packaged.” There’s also a bit of a slowdown in the higher-budget …
In his new role at International Film Trust, the outfit launched at Cannes last year as a partnership of Benaroya Pictures and Miscellaneous Entertainment, Kevin Hoiseth will primarily focus on Asia and Eastern Europe. The exec was previously director of international sales and marketing for Voltage Pictures. Hoiseth is jumping into his job at the EFM this week where IFT’s slate includes a modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich and Dakota Johnson; Your Voice In My Head, starring Emma Watson, and on which Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired key territories at the AFM; comedy The King Of The Kastle starring Clive Owen, Jacki Weaver and Asa Butterfield and produced by Jonathan Gordon and Michael Benaroya; Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack action thriller Cell; horror thriller Exists; and Neil LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning with Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve. “IFT is gearing up for an exciting period ahead as we continue to expand our slate and will have six films go into production before the end of the year. Kevin is a welcomed addition to the team as we enter the next phase of growth,” said IFT president Christian de Gallegos and co-founder Benaroya.
The company launched last year by Rich Goldberg and Mitch Budin has made a pre-emptive strike ahead of Berlin, grabbing all North American rights to the psychological thriller. Vertical Entertainment picked up the Ombra Films production Mindscape from StudioCanal on the eve of EFM. Produced by Jaume Collet-Sera, the pic stars Sherlock Holmes heavy Mark Strong as a memory detective who enters people’s minds to help them recall details in order to solve crimes or investigate trauma. But when he suffers a stroke during a session gone wrong, he is left a broken shell of his former self. Brian Cox and Taissa Farmiga co-star in Mindscape, which is director Jorge Dorago’s feature debut. The filmmaker, who has helmed many award-winning shorts including La Guerra and has AD credits including Bad Education and Talk To Her, signed with WME after Cannes last year.
Berlin Briefs: Vera Farmiga Pirouettes To ‘Prima’; ‘Your Right Mind’ Adds Clea DuVall; ‘Take Down’ Casts Up; Buyers Like ‘Someone You Love’; Sophie Nélisse To Play ‘Gilly Hopkins’; More
Vera Farmiga has signed on to star in relationship comedy Prima. Even Greenberg wrote the script and is directing the film that was previously known as Dance Of The Mirlitons. The film is prepping for a March start and centers around a 12-year-old girl who shocks everyone when she is accepted into a prestigious school for dancers. While she learns that to get to the top, she must kill or be killed, her mother struggles to acclimate to her posh stomping grounds. The Allegiance Theater’s Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine are producing along with Karine Martin under her Mediamax banner. Highland Film Group has worldwide sales here in Berlin. Farmiga is repped by CAA, Jon Rubinstein of Authentic Talent and Literary Management, and Jodi Peikoff of Peikoff Mahan.
Principal photography is currently underway on another Highland Film Group pic, Ami Canaan Mann’s Your Right Mind with Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes starring. Joining the cast are Clea DuVall, Sheryl Lee, Emily Alyn Lind and Ryan Bingham. Canaan Mann wrote the script about a modern-day traveling folk singer who puts his dreams of becoming a successful musician on hold when he meets a former country singer fighting for custody of her daughter. Molly Hassell is producing with Canaan Mann and John Jencks. Jon Avnet, Rodrigo Garcia, Highland Film Group’s Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier, and Main Street Films’ …
EXCLUSIVE: Epic Pictures Group is introducing Louder Than Words at the EFM here in Berlin this week. The drama is from director Anthony Fabian and stars David Duchovny and Hope Davis in the true story of John and Brenda Fareri. The real-life couple lost their youngest daughter to rabies in 1995 and went on to build a state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Valhalla, NY in her honor. Timothy Hutton also stars in the Benjamin Chapin-scripted film. Preferred Content is repping domestic rights while Epic handles international. Here’s the trailer:
EXCLUSIVE: Emilie Georges’ Memento Films International and its production arm La Cinéfacture, are formally launching specialty label, Paradise City. The offshoot, whose moniker is a wink to the location of Memento’s Paris headquarters, has been formed to develop, produce and finance genre projects and beyond. The Paradise City banner has already been quietly operational, co-financing and co-producing Jim Mickle’s hit Sundance 2013 cannibal pic We Are What We Are, as well as the follow-up Cold In July and Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin. Paradise City has now optioned a number of projects with a slate to be curated by Georges and execs Nicholas Kaiser, Nicholas Shumaker and Naima Abed. Abed has just joined La Cinéfacture and Paradise City after stints at Headline Pictures, Metrodome Distribution and eOne. She will be based in London.
MFI, which has consistently demonstrated strong taste, has notably handled such titles as Laurent Cantet’s Cannes Palme d’Or winning The Class and Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winning A Separation and this year’s Oscar submission, The Past. The company has been steadily expanding into production and financing over the last three years and Georges says, “Jim’s work with We Are What We Are showed us that we really enjoyed crafting the content in partnership with creative producers, and supporting the directors from the beginning… As wonderful as it is to distribute films, it’s become equally as exciting …
K5 International has boarded international sales on futuristic actioner Vice, starring Bruce Willis. K5 Media Captial has also come aboard to finance with Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films. Shooting starts in Alabama next month on the movie that’s set in a resort where the rich live out their most perverse fantasies via synthetic humanoids. When one becomes self-aware and breaks out, she seeks her revenge. Willis plays the resort’s owner and Ambyr Childers is the renegade android. Thomas Jane has also joined the cast. Brian A. Miller is directing from a script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore. Randall Emmett, George Furla and Adam Goldworm are producers. K5’s Oliver Simon and Daniel Baur are exec producing with Grindstone Entertainment’s Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb. Lionsgate is releasing in the U.S.
Tom Hiddleston will play the lead in High-Rise, the upcoming film from producer Jeremy Thomas. Ben Wheatley (A Field In England) directs the picture that’s based on J.G. Ballard’s 1975 thriller. Amy Jump adapted the book that centers on a luxurious London residential tower so advanced, it’s a world apart. But things begin to degenerate and the tenants turn against one another. Hiddleston plays a young doctor seduced by the building who finds himself in the middle of mounting violence. Wheatley, whose …
Albert Nobbs helmer Rodrigo Garcia is set to direct Last Days In The Desert, a co-production from Mockingbird Pictures and Division Films. Ewan McGregor has boarded to play the dual roles of a holy man and a demon who must confront his own fate after an encounter with a family struggling to survive in the harsh desert environment. Tye Sheridan, who picked up the newcomer prize in Venice for his turn in David Gordon Green’s Joe, also stars as do Ciarán Hinds and Ayelet Zurer. Garcia wrote the script and will start principal photography this month in Southern California. Emmanuel Lubezki is lensing the picture in a reteam with Garcia after their 2000 collaboration Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. Just last weekend, the Gravity cinematographer told Deadline of the project, “It’s a tiny little beautiful, extraordinary script that Rodrigo wrote that we’re going to shoot for five weeks.” Mockingbird’s Julie Lynn and Bonnie Curtis are producing with Wicks Walker. Walker and Nicolas Gonda are financing via Walker’s Division Films and Gonda’s Ironwood Films, in association with Aspiration Media and New Balloon. WME has domestic rights, with Hanway Films representing international here in Berlin. McGregor most recently wrapped production on Mortdecai opposite Johnny Depp. He’s next up in Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got A Gun and makes his Broadway debut …