EXCLUSIVE: Growing Canadian distributor levelFILM, whose 2018 slate included faith-based box office hit I Can Only Imagine, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, and Ike Barenholtz’s The Oath, has bolstered its board of directors with the appointment of music video producer and manager Taj Critchlow (SuperFly).

Toronto-based indie levelFILM now plans to develop and package film and TV projects with Critchlow’s production outfit Popp Rok, whose management clients include music video directors Director X and Karena Evans, who recently signed with WME. The new partnership will bring with it a first-look deal for Canadian rights.

Critchlow, co-founder of Popp Rok and an executive producer on Drake music videos including Hotline Bling, God’s Plan and In My Feelings, was an executive producer on Sony’s 2018 remake of blackploitation pic SuperFly and associate producer on 2015 pic Across The Line. Both films were directed by Critchlow client Director X.

As the first title from the first-look deal with Popp Rok, levelFILM has acquired Canadian rights to director R.T. Thorne’s debut feature 40 Acres. The dystopian thriller will tell the story of a female, black military veteran, who has raised her children as soldiers in order to defend their ancestral farm land against all those she perceives as threatening.

Critchlow and levelFILM will serve as executive producers on the project which will be produced by Lora Campbell (The Beaverton Digital). The film is due to start production in spring 2019 in Canada with casting announcements to follow. Music video and TV series director Thorne has directed shows including Find Me In Paris for Hulu, and most recently Blindspot for NBC Universal.

On the levelFILM board, Critchlow joins company co-founder and Managing Director David Hudakoc, co-founder Michael Baker, literary manager Ben C. Silverman, and chairman Laurie Venning.

Earlier this year, levelFILM acquired rival Canadian distributor Search Engine Films, which added industry veteran John Bain as the company’s Head of Distribution. Upcoming releases include Tom Wilkinson starrer Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back), Ethan Hawke’s Blaze and TIFF pic Firecrackers.

“We cannot say enough about the opportunities we see this partnership bringing to market,” said Hudakoc. “Taj’s unprecedented ability to find and develop new and explosive voices behind the camera is unparalleled and adding him to the levelFILM family is an exciting moment for our company.”

“I’m beyond excited about joining forces with levelFILM,” added Critchlow. “Our mission is to develop the next wave of groundbreaking cultural storytelling in film and television. 40 Acres is a testament to exactly that and I am truly honored to be working with a group of extremely talented, forward-thinking individuals.”