EXCLUSIVE: After helping to hatch the MI6 formation story Section 6 that Universal will make with Joe Cornish directing and Jack O’Connell starring, and doing it again on a Winter’s Knight sale to Sony that got Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg attached to direct, executive-turned-producer Lawrence Grey has found funding to set up new projects under his Grey Matter banner. Grey has plugged into a multi-year funding agreement with an investor group led by principals Cyrus and Darius Mojibi, Patrick Wade and Lawrence Kao, that will allow Grey Matter to buy and develop project with a development fund and give them access to production financing. Grey said this will also allow for staff expansion.
Grey Matter’s first new acquisition under the deal is a preemptive purchase of what shapes up to be the next film by writer-director David Robert Mitchell, whose Radius/TWC film It Follows was a sleeper horror hit that cost under $1 million and grossed $14.7 million. It’s untitled and the plot is under wraps, but this will be done on a larger scale and outside the horror genre. The company is in production on its first homegrown film, Lights Out, which Grey Matter developed from a short film with the director David Sandberg and set at New Line Cinema. Grey Matter is producing with James Wan and Eric Heisserer. Other projects include a partnership with Bruce Lee Entertainment’s Shannon Lee and Janet Yang to develop a biopic of the iconic Enter The Dragon star.
Grey put himself in this position after going into producing with some ideas he married to newcomer writers, plugging in established producers as they sold in big studio deals. That included Section 6, which had several studios chasing a script that was peppered with newspaper articles of the period that grounded in history the story of the formation of the British intelligence agency.
“I was an executive for a dozen years at Fox Searchlight and Universal and I wanted off the executive track,” he said. “I thought the only way to build equity as a creative producer was to come with my own ideas and develop them with writers with no track records. The first was Section Six with Aaron Berg. It was my idea, we worked on it for 11 months and it sold for $1.5 million. The next was this project on the Santa Claus mythology, which came from Norse mythology and so it was natural to make it about Vikings. The writers, Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, hadn’t sold anything before but we ended up with a big deal.” Same happened with a take on The Odyssey called Infinite Horizon, that went to Warner Bros.
Grey then saw the short horror film Lights Out and built out a treatment with Sandberg before adding Saw and The Conjuring helmer James Wan to godfather the project. That led to a progress to production deal at New Line and Sandberg is now making his feature debut. “A lot of writers seem to be waiting to hit the Black List and then hoping to get hired by Marvel or getting an audition for some big IP job. Studios are excited by the right kind of new material and having been a studio exec for many years, I get what a green light committee goes through, and what a script needs to gather elements and make it to production. I am most comfortable working with artists and this has put us in great position to be sitting with writers, helping to create movies that will work for studios.”
Grey Matter has former Quinn Emanuel litigator-turned-indie producer Ben Everard as COO, and has hired Nick Reimond as senior veep, who previously headed development at QED International and before that worked for Scott Rudin and Material Pictures. They will add more staff.
Mitchell is repped by Benderspink.