The 2016 American Film Market gets underway today in Santa Monica and it’s looking like the frantic last-minute packaging has paid off for sales agents and buyers alike as there’s plenty of product on offer to feed hungry distribution mouths. There is indeed a noticeable shortage of what you would call star-driven, big-budget titles and less of the mid-budget action thrillers that were once so typical of the AFM, but there’s still a variety of smart, indie fare on offer that’s sure to find a place in the landscape.
“I think we’re going to see an AFM that’s very reflective of the changes of the industry that are in effect right now,” says IM Global’s Stuart Ford, whose company showed a screening of its Martin Scorsese title Silence to buyers yesterday. “People are waiting for finished movies and marketing materials have become even more central to the selling process.”
And while the impact of Brexit is sure to be a talking point this market, it’s not going to cripple the business, says Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer, which is shopping Casey Affleck thriller Villain and Tonya Harding comedy I, Tonya. “Currency fluctuation is something you always have to be cognisant of but if you’re making movies that are of quality and represent value, it won’t devastate your business. And if you want to be a long term-partner to distributors, you have to be in touch with everything that is going on so that you can get through problems and enjoy successes together.”
AFM has a swathe of product on offer this year but we’ve compiled a list of titles at various stages of production that are looking the most promising and likely to be the biggest talking points for buyers out in Santa Monica this year:
IN DEVELOPMENT OR PRE-PRODUCTION
ANGEL HAS FALLEN – Director: TBD. Cast: Gerard Butler. Threequel follow-up to hit films Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen sees U.S. Secret Service agent Mike Banning, who has spent his career keeping American presidents safe, but this time he’s the target. Among those at risk is the President, whose official plane (Air Force One) is code-named “Angel.” Nu Image/Millennium Films is selling.
VILLAIN – Director: Mikael Marcimain. Cast-writer: Casey Affleck. Set in an atmospheric city overrun with crime, story sees a man lose everything when a brutal home invasion leaves his family dead and two bullets lodged in his head. Having miraculously survived, he is left with the power to see into people’s pasts, presents and futures and goes on a revenge mission. Sierra/Affinity repping sales. CAA reps domestic.
HORSE SOLDIERS – Director: Nicolai Fuglsig. Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena. Black Label Media and Jerry Bruckheimer produce this tense true story of a U.S. Special Forces team and their untested captain sent to a rugged region of Afghanistan in the weeks after 9/11. Lionsgate selling, CAA repping domestic.
BEL CANTO – Director: Paul Weitz. Cast: Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, Demian Bichir. A love story set against a backdrop of immortal music, and mortal danger and based on Ann Patchett’s bestselling 2001 novel. It sees a world-renown American opera singer become trapped in a hostage situation when she’s invited to perform for a wealthy industrialist in South America. Bloom selling international, U.S. repped by WME.
I, TONYA – Director: Craig Gillespie. Cast: Margot Robbie. The story of Tonya Harding’s sensationalized involvement in the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, exposing the absurd, tragic, and hilarious story-behind-the-story of the most infamous tabloid scandal in the history of figure skating and the Olympic Games. Sierra/Affinity handling international sales, UTA Independent Film Group and CAA handling U.S.
JULIET, NAKED — Director: Jesse Peretz. Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd. Based on the bestselling novel by Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked tells the story of Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan, and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession. Rocket Science selling international, UTA Independent Film Group and CAA repping U.S.
FONZO — Director: Josh Trank. Cast: Tom Hardy. Once a ruthless businessman and bootlegger who ruled Chicago with an iron fist, Alfonse Capone was the most infamous and feared gangster of American lore. At the age of 47, following nearly a decade of imprisonment, dementia rots Alfonse’s mind and his past becomes present as harrowing memories of his violent and brutal origins melt into his waking life. Bloom selling international, U.S sold by CAA, WME Global.
THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN – Director: David Lowery. Cast: Casey Affleck, Robert Redford. Based on a 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann, title follows the true story of Forrest Tucker, an outlaw with 18 successful prison breaks and a lifetime of bank robberies to his name. Rocket Science handling international sales, WME Global and CAA handling U.S. rights.
UNTITLED ALEXANDER MCQUEEN BIOPIC – Director: Andrew Haigh. Cast: Jack O’Connell. Based on the legendary fashion designer, the film explores McQueen’s creative process in the months leading up to one of his greatest shows in 2009. Pathé repping sales.
AMERICAN ANIMALS – Director: Bart Layton. Cast: Evan Peters. The unbelievable but mostly true story of four young men who mistook their lives for a movie and attempted one of the most audacious heists in US history. International sales handled by Sierra/Affinity,
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY – Director: Mike Newell. Cast: Lily James. In the aftermath of WWII, free-spirited journalist Juliet Ashton forms a life-changing bond with the delightful and eccentric Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, when she decides to write about the book club they formed during wartime. Studiocanal repping sales.
GREYHOUND – Director: Aaron Schneider. Writer-cast: Tom Hanks. World War II drama about a career officer finally given command of a Navy destroyer, who along with the enemy fights his self doubts and personal demons to prove he belongs. Project still coming together but FilmNation expected to fund and sell. CAA reps domestic.
ZOE – Director: Drake Doremus. Cast: Lea Seydoux, Charlie Hunnam. Two colleagues at a revolutionary research lab design technology to improve and perfect romantic relationships. IM Global repping international, UTA repping domestic.
I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW – Director: Reed Morano. Cast: Elle Fanning, Peter Dinklage. The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse – until a second survivor arrives with the threat of companionship. IM Global selling, CAA, WME selling domestic.
WHERE HANDS TOUCH – Director: Amma Asante. Key Cast: Abbie Cornish, Christopher Eccleston, Tom Sweet, Amandla Stenberg, George Mackay. Set in 1944 Berlin, story follows a bi-racial German teenager who begins a friendship with a member of the Hitler youth. Protagonist handling worldwide sales.
THE LOST WIFE – Director: Ben Shirinian. Cast: Daisy Ridley. In pre-WWII Prague, a talented art student and her best friend’s older brother fall in love, only to have their dreams destroyed by the Nazi invasion. CAA handling sales.
WILDLIFE – Director: Paul Dano. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp, Ed Oxenbould. Based on the novel by Richard Ford, the story, set in 1960’s Montana, is a family drama about the nature of masculinity, curiosity in the face of stagnation and the loving bonds of family no matter how flawed those bonds may seem. FilmNation handling international sales, WME Global handling U.S. rights.
THE TRAINER – Director: Neil Jordan. Cast: Liam Neeson. John Moore, a premier Irish horse trainer, is beset by tragedy and loses everything he cherishes. When a teenage refugee , who has fled her own horrors, comes into his life, the two find that the only connection to themselves, and ultimately to their own hearts, is a horse called Allabelle. CAA and Hanway repping sales.
THE LADY AND THE PANDA – Director: Justin Chadwick. Cast: Rebecca Ferguson. UK-Chinese co-production about 1930s New York socialite Ruth Harkness, the first person ever to bring a live giant panda out of China and to the world’s attention. The Exchange handling international sales, CAA repping U.S.
FLAG DAY – Director: Sean Penn. Cast: Dylan Penn. Based on the memoir by Jennifer Vogel about her father John, who robbed banks, scammed investors and plotted murder and single-handedly counterfeited more than $20M. CAA and Insiders repping sales.
THE BELL JAR – Director: Kirsten Dunst. Cast: Dakota Fanning, Jesse Plemons. Set in 1950s, a young woman from Boston’s suburbs wins a summer internship at a prominent women’s magazine in New York City but struggles to adapt and becomes mentally unstable. Based on Sylvia Plath’s novel. Cornerstone selling.
SHAUN THE SHEEP 2 – Director: Richard Starzak. Aardman Animation brings back the world’s favorite sheep following the Oscar-nominated 2015 cinema debut. Shaun and the Flock are back for another epic and hilarious journey. Studiocanal selling.
THINK LIKE A DOG – Director: Gil Junger. A science experiement goes awry and creates a telepathic connection between a boy and his dog. Double Dutch repping sales.
LORDS OF CHAOS – Director: Jonas Akerlund. Cast: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer. Scott Free and Vice team for Oslo-set story about a 17 year-old boy who, determined to escape his traditional upbringing, becomes fixated on creating “true Norwegian black metal” with his band. Protagonist handling sales.
OPHELIA – Director: Claire McCarthy. Cast: Naomi Watts, Daisy Ridley. The story of Hamlet told from Ophelia’s perspective. CAA, Covert Media repping sales.
KEEPERS – Director: Kristoffer Nylom. Cast: Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Joe Alwyn, Celyn Jones. Three lighthouse keepers arrive on an uninhabited island 20 miles from the rugged Scottish coast and stumble upon gold, leading to a tense battle for survival, fed by isolation, paranoia and greed. Protagonist handling international sales and co-repping domestic with CAA.
SHARON TATE AND THE MANSON MURDERS – Director-writer: Michael Polish. Cast: Kate Bosworth. Follows the life story of the model and actress who married Roman Polanski and was murdered in 1969 while pregnant at the age of 26 by members of the Manson family.
PINOCCHIO – Director: Matteo Garrone. Cast: Toni Servillo. A live-action feature produced by Jeremy Thomas and Jean Labadie of Carlo Collodi’s classic tale. Hanway repping sales.
WISH UPON – Director: John Leonetti. Cast: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Elisabeth Rohm, Shannon Purser. Teenage misfit Claire finds a magic box that promises a chance at the life she’s always wanted only to discover that each wish demands a deadly payment. Mister Smith handling international sales. Broad Green
KURSK – Director: Thomas Vinterberg. Cast: Colin Firth, Matthias Schoenarts. The 2000 Kursk submarine disaster, focusing on the sailor’s fight for survival and their families’ battle against political and impossible odds to save them. Europacorp handling sales, ICM handling domestic.
THE KILL TEAM – Writer-director: Dan Krauss. Cast: Nat Wolff, Alexander Skarsgard. Based on true events, project tells the story of a young American soldier trapped between his conscience and his survival when members of his platoon carry out a murderous scheme in Afghanistan. Cornerstone selling, CAA is selling domestic.
DISOBEDIENCE – Director: Sebastian Lelio. Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams. A timely, distinctive and emotionally powerful story set at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, of personal desires and the demands of faith. Film4 development produced by Braven Films and Element Pictures. FilmNation handling international sales, WME Global repping domestic.
10×10 – Director: Suzi Ewing. Cast: Luke Evans, Kelly Reilly. In broad daylight, Lewis kidnaps Cathy and takes her to her home in the middle of nowhere and hides her in a soundproofed cell measuring 10 feet by 10 feet. As his motive become clear and he tries to extract a secret from her, it’s clear Cathy won’t play the victim and becomes a formidable match for her kidnapper. Altitude handling international film sales.
ANDORRA – Director: Fred Schepisi. Cast: Gillian Anderson, Toni Collette, Clive Owen, Vanessa Redgrave. A mysterious American moves to the country of Andorra where he befriends two women. When a dead body turns up, he must prove his innocence. Celluloid Dreams selling.
BLACKFRIARS – Director: Lee Toland Krieger. 2015 Black List comedy written by Chris Bremner based on the true story of uptight Boston police detective Walter Robinson who gets assigned to protect Bobby Zachary, the lone survivor of the infamous 1978 mob hit known as the Blackfriars Massacre. Lakeshore Entertainment selling.
SOVEREIGN – Director: Marc Munden. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. When Roman who, in the wake of a fractured marriage, goes to find his wife and the entire crew of a space station who have gone missing, he discovers the truth about their disappearance is forced to confront his own role in losing her. Jack Thorne doing a re-write of Geoff Tock and Gregory Weidman’s script. Sierra/Affinity selling, although new script not ready. WME Global repping domestic.
COLETTE – Director: Wash Westmoreland. Cast: Keira Knightley. Biopic of French author Colette, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. WME Global, CAA and Hanway repping sales.
ANDROID – Director: Niall Johnson. Cast: Aaron Paul, Olga Kurylenko. A man alone in space recreates his lost family with android robots, but when their intelligence exceeds his intentions a violent game of cat and mouse ensues. Fortitude handling international, producers selling domestic.
BRAD’S STATUS – Director: Mike White. Cast: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jenna Fischer. Brad, who despite a good career and happy family, is obsessed with the better fortunes of his old friends from school. While escorting his son on an East Coast tour of colleges, he’s forced to confront his friend and his feelings of failure. Sierra/Affinity repping sales. Amazon Studios, which co-financed the pic with Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, has U.S. rights.
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN – Director: Farhad Safinia. Cast: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Natalie Dormer, Michael Nyqvist, Jeremy Irvine, Ioan Gruffudd. Based on the worldwide best-selling novel by Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary true tale of madness, genius and obsession about two remarkable men who created literary history with the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary. Voltage repping sales.
ON CHESIL BEACH – Director: Dominic Cooke. Cast: Saorise Ronan, Billy Howle. Based on Ian McEwan’s book, this 1962-set story follows newlyweds Edward and Florence, both in their early 20s and also both virgins, who spend their honeymoon anxious about the upcoming consummation of their marriage. Rocket Science handling sales.
PADDINGTON 2 – Director: Paul King. Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw. Happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, Paddington has become a popular member of the community, until an a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop is stolen and it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief. David Heyman producing. Studiocanal handling international sales
YOU, ME AND HIM – Director: Daisy Aitkens. Cast: Lucy Punch, Faye Marsay, David Tennant. Romantic comedy set in middle-class England about a driven lawyer and her hedonistic girlfriend who must re-examine their relationship after befriending a Casanova-type neighbor. Double Dutch handling worldwide sales.
I KILL GIANTS – Director: Anders Walters. Cast: Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots. Based on the Joe Kelly graphic novel, a young misfit girl battles both real and imagined monsters in her life. XYZ selling worldwide.
FINDING YOUR FEET – Director: Richard Lonzcraine. Cast: Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley. A “grey dollar” story about an elderly woman whose life is turned upside down as she enters retirement when she discovers her husband has been having an affair. Protagonist selling.
THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK – Director: Marc Webb. Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Callum Turner, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons. Adrift in New York City, a recent college graduate’s life is upended by his father’s mistress. FilmNation handling international sales. Amazon Studios has U.S. distribution rights.
GOING PLACES – Director: John Turturro. Cast: John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tatou, Susan Sarandon. A spinoff of The Big Lebowski as well as a remake of 1974 controversial French comedy of the same name, film follows a trio of sexually-depraved misfits. Cornerstone selling. ICM Partners reps domestic. Footage likely to be shown at the market.
BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 – Director: S. Craig Zahler. Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter. Story about a former boxer who loses his job as an auto mechanic as his troubled marriage is about to end. When he is caught in a gunfight, he is thrown into prison where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground. WME Global and XYZ repping sales.
CHAPPAQUIDDICK – Director: John Curran. Cast: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms. Ted Kennedy’s life and political career become derailed in the aftermath of a fatal car accident in 1969 that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne. Sierra/Affinity, WME Global selling.
ALL EYEZ ON ME – Director: Benny Boom. Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Jamal Woolard. The epic story of legendary rapper, poet, actor and revolutionary Tupac Shakur. Born the son of Black Panther activists into a world of injustice, Tupac’s struggle gave him his voice. And the more people tried to silence him, the louder his voice became. Voltage handling sales
S.M.A.R.T CHASE — Director: Charles Martin. Cast: Orlando Bloom, Simon Yam, Hannah Quinlivan, Lynn Hung, Lei Wu, Jing Liang. A washed-up private security agent, is given the rare opportunity to escort a valuable Chinese antique out of Shanghai but is ambushed en route. IMR International repping sales.
VICEROY’S HOUSE – Director. Gurinder Chadha. Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson. Film follows iconic British statesman Lord Mountbatten in 1947 Delhi, when he served as India’s last Viceroy. Pathe selling.
CARGO – Director: Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling. Cast: Martin Freeman, Susie Porter, Simone Landers. In a bid to outrun a pandemic, a couple take refuge on a houseboat with their one-year-old daughter. Bankside selling.
CHURCHILL – Director: Jonathan Teplitzky. Cast: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson. New promo set to be unveiled on this drama about Winston Churchill and his wife Clemmie. Embankment selling.
DRUNK PARENTS – Director-writer: Fred Wolf. Cast: Alec Baldwin, Will Ferrell, Salma Hayek. Two drunk parents attempt to hide their financial problems from their daughter and friends in elaborate schemes. UTA, WME Global and CAA repping domestic. Fortitude repping international.
THE STORM IN THE STARS – Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour. Cast: Elle Fanning, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth. Love affair between poet Percy Shelley and 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft, which resulted in her writing Frankenstein. Hanway repping sales.
SHOCK AND AWE – Director: Rob Reiner. Cast: Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich, Tommy Lee Jones, Alec Baldwin. There will likely be footage at the market for this film about the Bush administration as it prepares to go into Iraq in 2003. Voltage selling, CAA handling domestic.
STEEL COUNTRY — Director: Simon Fellows. Cast: Andrew Scott, Bronagh Waugh, Denise Gough. A small-town truck driver turns into a detective when a young boy is found dead in a sleepy part of Western Pennsylvania. His investigations turn into an obsession to prove the boy had been murdered, leading to harrowing consequences. Bankside repping international sales.
PLEASE STAND BY – Director: Ben Lewin. Cast: Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve. An austistic woman sets out on a road trip of a lifetime to deliver her Star Trek script to a Hollywood competition. CAA, Embankment repping sales.
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL – Director: Paul McGuigan. Cast: Annette Benning, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters. Story about Hollywood femme fatale Gloria Grahame and how a family in Liverpool nursed her through seriously ill-health. IM Global, CAA, WME Global selling.
FINAL PORTRAIT – Director: Stanley Tucci. Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer. Based on James Lord’s biography, the script recounts an intimate exchange between two friends, artistic genius Giacometti and his muse. Hanway repping rights with CAA selling domestic.
HIGH WIRE ACT — Director: Brad Anderson. Cast: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Larry Pine, Shea Whigham. Set in 1980s Beirut, Hamm plays a former U.S. diplomat who is called back into service to save a former colleague from the group possibly responsible for his wife’s death. Good Universe selling.
MUDBOUND — Director: Dee Rees. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel, post-WWII story follows the fates of two very different families collide while struggling to make their dreams come true in Mississippi. When two celebrated soldiers return home, one white and one black, their unlikely friendship complicates the already fraught relationship between the families. Good Universe selling.
ASHES IN THE SNOW —Director Marius Markevicius. Cast: Bel Powley, Jonah Hauer-King, Martin Wallstrom, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Sophie Cookson and Peter Franzen. Story of a 16-year-old girl who is separated from her family in Siberia amidst Stalin’s reign of terror in the Baltic region during WWII. She risks her life and uses her art to secretly send messages to her imprisoned father to let him know she is still alive. Radiant Films International handling foreign rights.