BREAKING: WME has minted 20 new partners into the agency fold, and those include the tireless Sundance dealmakers working under WME Global Finance & Distribution chief Graham Taylor. Mark Ankner, Liesl Copland and Alexis Garcia all have made partner.
EXCLUSIVE: Image Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Lovely Molly, the thriller directed by Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez. The deal is high six figures and the plan is to release theatrically next spring. Lovely Molly made its debut in the Midnight Madness section of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Newcomer Gretchen Lodge plays the title character, a newlywed who returns to her long-abandoned family home and is hit with scary reminders of her nightmarish childhood that quickly color her new life. She descends into an evil that is part psychosis and part obsession. Haxan Films’ Robin Cowie and Gregg Hale produced with Amber Entertainment’s Jane Fleming and Mark Ordesky.
The deal comes as Content Film sells international territories at AFM. Image acquisitions VP Mark Ward called the film “a return and evolution to the genre that [Eduardo] created” with Blair Witch. “We look forward to partnering with Haxan and Amber to maximize the truly robust transmedia marketing campaign they’ve put together to make the film a huge success.” It’s the second significant AFM-timed deal for Image, which on Friday launched a distribution relationship with Alamo Drafthouse.
Content has acquired foreign rights on Lovely Molly, the genre film written and directed by Blair Witch Project‘s Eduardo Sanchez. A domestic distribution deal is coming. Lovely Molly made its debut in the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto Film Festival last month. The title character (Gretchen Lodge) is a newlywed who returns to her long abandoned family home and is hit with scary reminders of her nightmarish childhood that quickly color her new life. She snaps, basically, into a descent into an evil that is one part psychosis and another part possession. WME Global’s Graham Taylor and and BHDRL’s Stuart Rosenthal made the deal. The film’s produced by Robin Cowie, Gregg Hale, Jane Fleming, and Mark Ordesky. The intention is to employ the same kind of viral marketing that helped turned Blair Witch into such a big hit. “We were shocked by Gretchen Lodge’s extraordinary performance, it’s truly a sensational debut, in this powerfun and intense film from Eduardo Sanchez,” Content’s Jamie Carmichael said. “We’re delighted to be working with the Haxan and Amber teams on what promises to be a highly innovative and compelling campaign.” Content will sell the film at next week’s AFM. After the eye-opening $54 million opening weekend of Paranormal Activity 3, there should be a captive audience.
UPDATE: Graham Taylor, one of the top dealmakers in packaging and brokering distribution deals for independent films, gave a lively keynote speech at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Taylor gave Martin Scorsese a run for his money in terms of the music cues he employed in his speech to make his points about the improving indie film marketplace:
Money Talks And Art Matters, Graham Taylor, LAFF 2011 Keynote
[Music cue: We Will Rock You by Queen]
Never in the history of the movie business has there been a better time for the Independents to be entrepreneurial. The balance of power between Studios, Indies and Consumers is changing. Whether you are a filmmaker, producer, financier, distributer, or executive, now is the time to embrace the change. We are after all in the middle of a revolution, and nobody puts baby in the corner.
I asked my friend Bill Pullman to say a few words on the state of the independent film business over the past few years.
[roll clip of Bill Pullmans infamous speech in “Independence Day”]
[Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft [filmmakers] from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial (festival) battle in this history of mankind [the movies]. Mankind [The movies] — that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July [LAFF], and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution [Harvey] — but from annihilation. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the 4th of July [LAFF] will no longer be known as an American holiday [film festival], but as the day when the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!” Today, we celebrate our Independence Day [Film]!]
Good Morning. Thanks to Rebecca Yeldham and LAFF for asking me to speak today and kickoff a series of discussions over the weekend. When I asked Rebecca had she in fact meant to ask Graham King to speak instead, her response (buried with a disarming Aussie accent) was “well love, he is smarter and more successful, but he wasn’t available.” LAFF titled this morning’s discussion “Money Talks and Art Matters.” The convergence of film, art and commerce. This is a subject I am pretty well versed on. After all, my dad was a PhD economist and my mother an artist. Both Berkeley grads and present during the era of the sit-down protest, our home in Portland, Oregon was littered with Econ theory books, paintings in progress, and Birkenstocks.
From a young age I was forced to read my dad’s anti-trust testimony on the Utility Industry (you know, the sexy stuff), and at the same time was winning the Oregon State Fair’s mother/son weaving competition. Yes, I had a mean cross-over stitch. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: like an even blend of both parents, as a former producer and now as an agent, I am still right in the middle of the relationship between the artist and the money. A couples therapist, if you will. I build companies, enable artists and activate content. For me it’s simple: I love movies and I and love the movie business.
Like all of us, I have unwittingly found myself front and center in the time of a revolution, when the only way to act is entrepreneurially. In order to operate effectively I have had to relearn lessons from the past. After all, in the movie business history has a funny way of repeating itself. Over the last 100 years, our business has had a few constants. Hollywood has produced and distributed content globally with more than 90% of it controlled by a handful of studios. In the 20th century, the greatest American export has been entertainment. The studios have operated sophisticated machinery that ships content globally, reaching anyone, anywhere.
At odds over economic realities, the relationship between the indies and the studios has always been a precarious one. This strained relationship has resembled an ad for the Olive Garden. The studio says “Hey, we treat you like family,” but instead they have consumed artists and money like the unlimited bread bowls put forth. In the same way that no self-respecting Italian from the old country would dine there, we as Independents have been forced to seek other options to carbo-load.
In 1919, when Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks created United Artists, it was an entrepreneurial reaction to the studio system. Artists and money banding together to create something different, introducing the idea of the “Independent.” At the time Metro Pictures head Richard Rowland said “the inmates are taking over the asylum,” in reference to the four actors starting UA and going up against the studios. People thought they were bonkers, but their passion and entrepreneurial spirit to create content and get it directly to consumers was an inspired mission. Sadly those principles at UA eventually disbanded 20 years later and the Golden Age of Hollywood settled in, effectively creating a caste system. Minus a few anomalies, it would again take the artists to rise up in the late 60s and early 70s, when a crop of groundbreaking films and entrepreneurs would take shape and give rise to Independents. A number of independent companies would fly high and fan out throughout the 70s and 80s and for the first time, the studios truly sourced outside financing, often from other countries.
In 1990, some pre-pubescent Mutant Turtles well versed in martial arts would kick the box office’s ass to 100 million. This showed the world the economic power of the independent film and institutionalized our peeps. The studios in turn responded, opening “indie divisions” and giving Independents a real seat at the table for the first time.
UPDATE: Relativity Media has closed its deal for Act of Valor, as Deadline revealed earlier today. Press release is below our original break on the deal. Relativity has dated the film for 2012, so I suspect it will be Presidents’ Day weekend in late February.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 1:27 PM: In what will shape up as arguably the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast, Relativity Media is finalizing a deal where Ryan Kavanaugh’s company will pay a $13 million minimum guarantee and a $30 million P&A commitment for Act of Valor, a mission movie involving Navy SEALs. The film’s being plotted for either a Veterans Day weekend release in November of a Presidents Day release in February.
The film will be the first movie about Navy SEALs to come out since that group killed Osama bin Laden; others SEAL films are percolating including a Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama about the actual hunt for bin Laden that Sony Pictures acquired. In Act of Valor, the half dozen lead roles were played by active-duty Navy SEALs, and the military was behind a picture that was shot under the radar. The picture was scripted by Kurt Johnstad (300) and directed by the Bandito Brothers’ Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh.
I’d heard that the picture was gaining buzz after it was given recruited screenings over the past couple weeks at the Arclight and in New York, and distributors began bidding. …
EXCLUSIVE: Conan the Barbarian helmer Marcus Nispel will next direct Backmask, a $10 million film that will begin shooting this summer. It’s based on an idea by Nispel, whose recent films include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. Kirsten Elms is writing the script. Nispel is keeping the plot close to his vest, allowing only that it involves paranoia, possession and the paranormal. The film will be produced by Steven Schneider, one of the architects behind the Paranormal Activity films as well as the haunted kid hit Insidious and the upcoming Barry Levinson-directed eco-thriller The Bay.
Voltage Pictures’ Nicolas Chartier will unveil the title at Cannes this week, where he’ll broker international territories, while WME Global’s Graham Taylor will handle North American sales. The film is being funded by 1821′s Paris Latsis and Terry Dougas, who’ll produce with Schneider and Nispel. The filmmaker is repped by WME, while Elms is repped by Gersh and Generate.
EXCLUSIVE: A pre-Cannes domestic distribution deal was closed last night by Image Entertainment for The Double, the Hyde Park/Imagenation thriller that marked the directing debut of Michael Brandt. Brand wrote the script with Derek Haas, his writing partner on such films as Wanted and 3:10 To Yuma. The film was expected to be auctioned during the Cannes Film Festival, but WME Global’s Graham Taylor and Hyde Park’s Ashok Amritraj snuck the picture for domestic distributors Friday night. They went with Image, the recapitalized distributor that is emerging as a player in the revived independent film sector. The deal was over $2 million minimum guarantee and a P&A commitment for an October rollout. Haas produced it with Amritraj, Patrick Aiello and Andrew Deane.
Image released the Peter Weir-directed The Way Back and the Hilary Swank-starrer The Resident. The Double stars Richard Gere, Topher Grace and Martin Sheen. A retired CIA operative is paired with a young FBI agent to figure out who killed a senator. The clues indicate that he might have been a victim of a Soviet assassin. Amritraj will screen the film in Cannes. Already, Tele Munchen has bought Germany, Aurum has bought Spain and D’Al Angelo has acquired Italian rights. Brandt and Haas are repped by WME, Industry and attorney Adam Kaller.
EXCLUSIVE:They saved the best for last on the final movie day of the South By Southwest Festival. In the biggest deal of SXSW this year and possibly ever for the Austin fest, Anchor Bay paid low seven figures for U.S. rights to the Xavier Gens-directed genre thriller The Divide. Multiple territories are still in play. France was acquired by BAC Films, and a deal will be made shortly for Canada, with Anchor Bay a contender for that territory as well. Content Film is handling international.
The Divide made its world premiere Sunday at midnight, and the deal was closed this evening by Kevin Iwashina of Preferred Content, WME Global’s Graham Taylor and Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha. The Divide is a post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies, set in the basement apartment of a New York building. It’s a gritty film but played through the roof at its premiere. Michael Biehn and Milo Ventimiglia star, and Ross Dinerstein and Darryn Welch produced.
WME Global had a strong SXSW, closing three deals in Austin. In the other two deals brokered by the agency, The Weinstein Company paid low seven figures for the high school gridiron documentary Undefeated, buying distribution and remake rights, and a multi-faceted deal was made by WME Global for the Rodman Flender-directed Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop. That documentary is about the concert tour the late-night host undertook …
EXCLUSIVE: Anchor Bay has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Dito Montiel-directed cop drama The Son Of No One, which was the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s final premiere last Friday. I’m told the deal was in the $2 million minimum guarantee range and a P&A commitment for a theatrical release in at least 10 of the top 20 markets. The film stars Channing Tatum, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche and Al Pacino and is a police thriller about a young cop assigned to the Queens neighborhood where he grew up. He’s forced to confront past troubles. The picture was financed by Millennium Films/Nu Image’s Avi Lerner and his partners Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Boaz Davidson. Before its premiere, the film had an early screening for buyers, and was forced to overcome a nasty trade article that claimed an “exodus” of walk outs, a story disputed in Deadline by sales agent and exec producer Cassian Elwes. Elwes had the last laugh as he and WME Global’s Graham Taylor closed what might be the last big sale of a festival full of them. Despite the one bad article, Elwes and Taylor had several bidders circling with offers in the $2 million range but Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha has sealed the deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Mike Fleiss, who created The Bachelor and other reality hits before branching into films, has acquired feature film rights to the life story of Richard O’Barry. He is the dolphin preservationist and the central figure in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. O’Barry started his career training the dolphins that starred in the TV show Flipper. When one of them died in captivity–and maybe had lost its will to live–O’Barry began a life long quest to free dolphins from captivity. He came to the forefront in the documentary, in which director Louie Psihoyos covertly filmed the carnage in a cove in the small former whaling village of Taijii. Fisherman annually herd thousands of dolphins into the cove, and slaughter them in a frenzy that actually makes the waters run blood red. The film created a global uproar.
Fleiss and Lincoln O’Barry will produce under Next Films and BayRock Media, and Next Films’ Chris Briggs will also be a producer. WME Global’s Graham Taylor will package and sell distribution rights. Fleiss is teamed with Next Films on Shark Night 3D, Hostel 3 and the documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne.
Below is an upsetting film which illuminates O’Barry’s crusade: