EXCLUSIVE: Film financier and producer Michael Benaroya (Kill Your Darlings, Margin Call) has teamed with veteran manager-producer Darryl Taja to form an independent television studio, Revolution Media. It will borrow from the Benaroya Pictures financing model and will finance TV shows as an independent studio using a mix of equity, foreign presales and tax credits after securing a domestic broadcaster. Revolution has committed up to $50 million for the production of four series over the next year, with plans to start production on the first series in the beginning of 2015. Revolution, which will operate out of the Benaroya Pictures offices in Beverly Hills, will focus on packaged projects with showrunners and talent already attached. The focus will be on edgy hourlong dramas, which travel better internationally, though the company plans to also produce comedies. It already has acquired a drama and a comedy and is in the process of attaching talent and meeting with broadcasters. “This represents the launch of a financing model for TV that I’ve been interested in for a couple years,” said Benaroya. “And now, having all the pieces come together, with a great partner, great projects and an in-house sales team, I feel that we are uniquely well positioned to execute this model and take top quality scripted content directly to series.” Independent companies that employ the direct-to-series model in the U.S. include Gaumont International TV, Entertainment One and MRC.
EXCLUSIVE: Indie finance/production co. Benaroya Pictures has boosted Ben Sachs from SVP to President as the company adds a new spec acquisition to its upcoming slate. Sachs will oversee Benaroya’s production and development titles including Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, and Damien Lewis and Z is for Zachariah starring Amanda Seyfried, Chris Pine, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Those pics both begin filming early this year. In his new position Sachs will report directly to founder Michael Benaroya and produce or exec produce all Benaroya-backed films. That includes pre-production titles Asa Butterfield-starring King of the Kastle and Stephen King adaptation Cell with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. The latest addition to Benaroya’s line-up is spec script Slingshot,
Benaroya Pictures and Miscellaneous Entertainment are assembling pics for International Film Trust, the sales company they are launching at Cannes. They’ve made their first pic the comedy King of the Kastle, which stars Clive Owen and Jacki Weaver, with Owen playing a philanderer who’s blackmailed by a teen. They’ve also acquired the horror thriller Exists, directed by Blair Witch Project co-helmer Eduardo Sanchez about pals who venture into the Texas woods and are chased by Bigfoot.
The new sales company will in part represent the theatrical feature film productions from their own banners on a non exclusive basis as well as titles from other producers and third party productions. It will be run by IFT cofounders Michael Benaroya and Miscellaneous Entertainment principals D. Todd Shepherd and George Waud. They start with a $15 million fund to acquire and provide minimum guarantees on third party productions for international sales.
Los Angeles, CA (November 8, 2011) – K5 International, a division of K5 Media Group has picked up international rights to Benaroya Pictures’ ELVIS & NIXON. The comedy will mark Cary Elwes’ directorial debut and stars Eric Bana as Elvis Presley and Danny Huston as Richard Nixon. ELVIS & NIXON is produced by Michael Benaroya of Benaroya Pictures and Holly Wiersma. Bana’s Pick Up Truck Productions is executive producing, marking the company’s first U.S. production.
ELVIS & NIXON tells the story about Elvis Presley visiting President Richard M. Nixon at the White House in December of 1970. The meeting was initiated by Presley, who wrote Nixon a six-page letter requesting a visit and suggesting that he be made a ‘Federal Agent-at-Large’ in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Presley brought with him family photos and a Colt 45 pistol as a personal gift to the President.
CANNES: FilmDistrict Acquires U.S. Rights To Joe Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis Sci-Fi Action Film ‘Looper’
EXCLUSIVE: A frenzied Saturday auction on the Croisette has ended with FilmDistrict in final negotiations for U.S. distribution rights to Looper, the Rian Johnson-directed science fiction film that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. There were at least six bidders spanning major studios and independents, and it sounds like some serious upfront money was paid. But the intriguing part is that the deal orchestrated between CAA and FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel will likely end in FilmDistrict using an option with Sony Pictures, which would release and market the film through the TriStar label. That replicates the distribution structure of District 9, which Schlessel acquired while he was at Sony. The picture has a similarly brainy construct and is also reminiscent of the first Terminator.
Johnson wrote the script, about a contract killer who works for the mob of the future, and who kills victims that are sent back in time 30 years, so there is no trace of the crime in the future. It’s a great gig, until the killer (Gordon-Levitt) recognizes that one of his targets (Willis) is a futuristic version of himself. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also star. The film was financed by Endgame’s James Stern, who produced with Johnson’s partner Ram Bergman.
CAA still has to paper the deal, but that likely gives Sony and Amy Pascal its second release schedule addition in the last 24 hours. As Deadline revealed early Saturday, the studio acquired the David Frankel-directed Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell starring.
The project that has the Cannes buying crowd most hot and bothered at the moment is the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World. Hillcoat, who directed The Road, here covers a band of Depression Era bootleggers in the South, with Shia La Beouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska starring. I’m told that Relativity Media has posted the high bid so far, just shy of $6 million. This might drag out, with The Weinstein Company, CBS Films, FilmDistrict hot and bothered, with Fox Searchlight and Focus also in the mix. Buyers read a script and watched a sizzle reel. It has been an interesting festival, with the appetite of the old days restored, with bidders having to test the new resolve to not overpay and to be disciplined. Pic’s being sold by CAA with Cassian Elwes involved on behalf of Michael Benaroya, who funded the pic with Megan Ellison.