NEWS


Netflix is not entirely to blame for market woes in the independent sector, a panel of international sales agents said at the Entertainment Finance Forum presented by Winston Baker on Wednesday February 28th.

Despite frequent stories about the challenges of selling into the UK, Germany and France, Highland Film Group COO Delphine Perrier said the overall effect of market forces were the cause.

“Everything is changing around us and we’re going with the flow,” said Perrier. Sierra/Affinity president of sales and distribution Jonathan Kier noted the role of geopolitics.

“Turkey is in political upheaval,” said Kier. “Italy is in perpetual political upheaval. In the UK you have Brexit and in Russia the currency has collapsed.”

Netflix dominated the conversation, as the panellists said the streamer’s ability to come in and take all rights off the table was altering the way they deal with long-standing independent distribution partners. Nobody said it explicitly, but the clear implication was the situation was becoming complicated as traditional buyers struggled to compete.

Later in the day, panels on funding solutions and monetising the future of entertainment focused mostly on the need to make premium content and exploit the proliferation of platforms, while not overlooking the important of festivals as discovery platforms.

“A sales agent is the last person I talk to,” said producer Christopher Leggett of Delirio Films in a remark that would have raised eyebrows at the earlier panel of sales agents. “The idea is to let the market dictate how you finance [a project].”

Delirio Films arrived at Sundance last month with Shia LaBeouf starrer Honey Boy, and the documentaries Ask Dr Ruth, and Mike Wallace Is Here, fully aware that the route to distribution could differ on all three.

All three sold, however Leggett was under no illusion that festivals can be treacherous: difficult to get into, and hard to capture the attention of executives once inside. ”There are only a handful of festivals that drive sales (Sundance and Toronto). The riskiest thing is for independent filmmakers to rely on festivals.”

Each film required a plan and a back-up plan, he said, depending on its genre, budget, availability or otherwise of talent, and the experience level of the director.

By Jeremy Kay, Screendaily.com

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Buyers have responded strongly at EFM to Trauma Center, the first in the three-film pact between Bruce Willis and MoviePass Films that Highland Film Group has licensed in multiple territories.

Studiocanal has acquired rights to the hospital-set action thriller for France, YouPlanet for Spain, MisLabel for Scandinavia, IIF for Italy, Dutch Filmworks for Benelux, and Cinemundo for Portugal.

Elsewhere Trauma Center has gone in the Middle East (Falcon), Eastern Europe and South Africa (Daro), Japan (Nikkatsu), China (Vision), South Korea (Andamiro), Indonesia (Prima), Turkey and India (Tanweer), Greece (Feelgood), and Israel (Five Stars). Fox Vision acquired rights for pan-Asian pay-TV.

Production is scheduled to start on March 12 in Miami on the story of a former paramedic who gets injured after she witnesses a crossfire involving two corrupt cops. Dispatched to hospital, the woman must survive the night as the men hunt her down. Willis will play the police officer assigned to protect her.

Brian A Miller is directing from a screenplay by Paul da Silva. Willis’ long-time collaborators Randall Emmett and George Furla, whose Emmett Furla Oasis Films was snapped up by MoviePass parent company Helios & Matheson Analytics last year, are producing. Executive producers are Ted Farnsworth, who serves as co-head of MoviePass Films alongside Emmett and Furla, as well as Tim Sullivan and Alex Eckert.

HFG’s production and sales slate includes: Joe Carnahan’s Boss Level starring Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson; Michael Cristofer’s The Night Clerk with Tye Sheridan, Ana de Armas and Helen Hunt; Vaughn Stein’s Inheritance starring Simon Pegg and Lily Collins; Joshua Caldwell’s Southland with Bella Thorne; and Steven C. Miller’s action thriller Escape Plan 2: Hades starring Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista.

By Jeremy Kay, Screendaily.com

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Today, we’re happy to debut an exclusive trailer and poster for Welcome to Acapulco, a new thriller that travels down to the sun-soaked beaches of Acapulco to unfold an action-packed mystery. The film follows video game designer Matt Booth, who heads to the Video Game Awards in New Mexico to unveil the project that will save his career. But when he has one to many at the airport, Matt ends up in Acapluco, Mexico instead and walks off the plane straight into a mess of high-powered criminals, hitmen, femme fatales, and FBI agents who all think he possesses a “package” that he knows nothing about.

Directed by Guillermo Ivan from a script by Garry CharlesWelcome to Acapulcostars Ana Serradilla, Michael Kingsbaker, Michael Madsen, Paul Sorvino, William Baldwin, Bradley Gregg, Jeannine Kaspar and Michael Papajohn. Momentum Pictures will release the film on digital and On Demand March 12th. 

By Haleigh Foutch, Collider.com

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Lily Collins in joining Simon Pegg in the independent thriller “Inheritance.”

Vaughn Stein, who recently helmed “Terminal” with Pegg and Margot Robbie, is directing. “Inheritance” explores what happens when the patriarch of a wealthy and powerful family suddenly passes away, leaving his wife and daughter with a shocking secret inheritance that threatens to unravel and destroy their lives.

Matthew Kennedy wrote the script, and Richard B. Lewis is producing through his Southpaw Entertainment banner alongside David Wulf. It’s Highland’s second collaboration with Stein after partnering on his debut film “Terminal.”

Highland Film Group will continue international sales at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival this week. Highland had launched foreign sales in November at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif., with Kate Mara and Pegg in negotiations at that point. UTA and Highland are co-repping the U.S. rights.

Collins currently stars in BBC’s television adaptation of “Les Misérables” alongside David Oyelowo and Dominic West. She will appear next opposite Zac Efron in Netflix’s Ted Bundy thriller “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” which premiered at Sundance last month.

Pegg most recently reprised his role as Benji Dunn alongside Tom Cruise in Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

Collins is represented by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Definition Entertainment and Pegg is represented by UTA and Dawn Sedgwick Management.

By Dave McNary, Variety

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EXCLUSIVEAssassination Nation and Famous In Love star Bella Thorne is set to star in writer-director Joshua Caldwell’s (Layover) crime feature Southland, about two young lovers who rob their way across the southland, posting their exploits to social media, and gaining fame and followers as a result.RelatedMelissa Leo & Bella Thorne To Star In ‘Leave Not One Alive’

Colin Bates (Maggie) and Michael Jefferson (Keys To The City) of Lucidity Entertainment are producing alongside Thor Bradwell (Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy) and Scott Levenson (King Cobra). Garrett Clayton, Katie Leary, Bennett Litwin and Adam Litwin will serve as executive producers. Highland Film Group will handle world sales, which commence in Berlin this week. Additional casting is underway.

The story follows Arielle (Thorne) who works in a diner in a small Florida town. When she falls for a recently paroled young criminal she drags him back into a life of danger, learning that posting their criminal exploits on social media is an easy way to viral fame. Obsessed with their rising number of followers, they embark on a dangerous adventure together that leads to robbery, cop chases and murder. Lensing is due to begin this spring.

Caldwell made his feature directorial debut with French-language film Layover in 2014. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival. He then directed the first season of Hulu series South Beach and Be Somebody for Paramount Pictures. Most recently, he made spy thriller movie Negative.

Highland’s slate includes Bruce Willis action movie Trauma Center and Al Pacino drama Axis Sally, both of which are Emmett/Furla films.

Thorne is represented by CAA and Thirty Three Management and Caldwell is represented by CAA and Coronel Group.

By Andreas Wiseman, Deadline.com

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