As the 36th American Film Market (AFM) winds down at the Loews in Santa Monica SSNinsider is here with our annual pick list of the ten most bankable titles out of the 2,000 films from the 391 exhibiting companies. The largest growth for the market that runs through November 11 came from South Korea, China, Germany and India. Nearly 1,600 buyers were in attendance from more than 70 countries. 407 films were screened in more than 30 languages including 87 world premieres and 242 market premieres.
Aside from the $80 million budgeted Ferrari that made waves this year, films at the market and on this list are by and large much more modestly budgeted given their indie origin. While these films aren’t going to make the billion dollars studio superhero films gross, the films on this list should make their money back and then some. Read on to see our picks for the 2015 American Film Market.
Biopic/Drama (Active Development)
Director: Kristen Sheridan | Writer(s): Kristen Sheridan | Producer(s): Alexandra Whitlin, Joshua Maurer, Tristan Orpen Lynch | Main Cast: Noomi Rapace
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: Lotus
Logline: Based on the life of singer Amy Winehouse. Script under wraps.
SSN Insight: This is one film where it’s easy to gauge audience interest in the topic. The recent documentary Amy, grossed over $8 million and is number one in terms of U.S. box office gross for a non-concert documentary about any one person. The film is written and directed by Sheridan who is a perfect choice given her endearing and very music-orientated film August Rush and her Oscar nomination for co-writing the semi-autobiographical film In America. The filmmakers were smart to cast Rapace, who is an up-and-coming actress in the U.S. but starred in the foreign version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise and is in discussions to join the cast of Ferrari.
Billionaire Boys Club
Crime Drama (Pre-production)
Director: James Cox | Writer(s): Captain Mauzner, James Cox, Steve Cox | Producer(s): Cassian Elwes, Holly Wiersma | Main Cast: Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Kevin Spacey, Emma Roberts
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: Good Universe
Logline: Based on the true story of the Billionaire Boys Club, a group of wealthy young men who resorted to murder in Los Angeles in the 1980s.
SSN Insight: While this film is far from the first that showcases the ups and downs of achieving money and fame at a young age, the fact that it’s a true story will add to its cache along with the hotter than hot cast with Ansel Elgort well known by the younger set for his roles in the Divergent franchise and Fault in our Stars and Taron Egerton whose talked about role in Kingsmen landed him the lead in Robin Hood: Origins. BBC’s true story angle coupled with its stars, if handled well could see dividends.
Animated Family Adventure (In Production)
Director: Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier | Writer(s): Ed Stone, Nate Hopper | Producer(s): Rob Minkoff, Yair Landau, Susan Purcell, Nate Hopper, Pietro Ventani | Main Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais, Mel Brooks, George Takei, Gabriel Iglesias
U.S. Distribution: Open Road Films | U.S. Rights Contact: GFM Films
Logline: A scrappy dog fights to save his town from a evil feline warlord.
SSN Insight: The producer, Yair Landau got the go-ahead for this loose remake of Blazing Saddles with a phone call says Brooks. “Yair called me on the phone…I trusted his raw judgement because I liked Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs so much.” The film is supported by animation vets who know what they’re doing and the quality of the film is evident from the concept art shown at AFM. It’s usually difficult to find a decent animated film at AFM where the quality of animation tends to be sub-par due to budget or talent, but this film stands apart with its stellar voice cast and pro character design.
Action/Crime (Post Production)
Director: Ben Wheatley | Writer(s): Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump | Producer(s): Andy Starke, Ben Wheatley | Main Cast: Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sharlto Copley
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: Protagonist
Logline: A hard-boiled crime film set in 1970s Boston. A secluded meeting between two gangs in a warehouse suddenly explodes into a shoot-out and a fight for survival.
SSN Insight: Olivia Wilde was previously attached to the role played by Brie Larson, but Larson is a far more interesting choice to play a lead in an action film given her resume includes mostly indie comedies and dramas. This may very well be the year Larson receives full star wattage given her amazing turn in Room, her film making the rounds as it heads to Oscar territory. If that happens, this film will certainly get more attention at the box office. Couple that with Armie Hammer, an actor who should be a huge star by now, but has suffered due to sub-standard material. Martin Scorsese, the king of gangster crime films, has also given the film his blessing and a mark of quality as he’s attached in the executive producer role.
I Kill Giants
Director: Anders Walter | Writer(s): Joe Kelly | Producer(s): Chris Columbus, Justin Nappi, Kim Magnusson, Kyle Franke, Michael Barnathan | Main Cast: Zoe Saldana, Madison Wolfe
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: XYZ Films
Logline: Barbara Thorson is a misfit, who battles the monsters in her life, both real and imagined.
SSN Insight: It’s amazing that this film lacks a U.S. distributor given the imaginative fantasy graphic novel it’s based on by Image Comics (pictured left). It is directed by Anders Walter, known for his 2013 film Helium, which won Best Live-Action Short at the 2014 Academy Awards and produced by veteran fantasy filmmaker Chris Columbus. Not to mention the film centers on a female action hero to be played by Zoe Saldana, a move that’s certainly on trend given the recent gender switch of Ghostbusters and the box office clout of Hunger Games and Divergent, among other franchises. This film also has the added bonus of being adapted by the writer of the original graphic novel, Joe Kelly. Snatch this one up before it’s gone.
In Dubious Battle
Period Drama (Wrapped)
Director: James Franco | Writer(s): Matt Rager, Tom Steinbeck | Producer(s): Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Scott Reed, Vince Jolivette, Ron Singer | Main Cast: Nat Wolff, James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Bryan Cranston, Sam Shepard, Ed Harris
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: AMBI
Logline: Based on the John Steinbeck novel, the story takes place in 1930s California, and focuses on an activist who organizes a group of fruit workers in a labor strike.
SSN Insight: Although Alec Baldwin and Brad Pitt were previously mentioned to star, this cast is not without fantastic accolades with Oscar nominees Franco, Harris and Shepard along with Oscar winners Duvall, and Golden Globe winner Cranston. Add in young hot cast like Josh Hutcherson and Selena Gomez and it’s hard to look away from the sheer number of talented actors. The novel may have been written in 1936, but sadly the plight of migrant workers in California still very much resonants with today’s audiences. That along with the fact U.S. audiences still love a good underdog story against big corporate greed and it has the makings of a box office hit provided it doesn’t layer on the cheese.
Romance (In Production)
Director: Scott Speer | Writer(s): Eric Kirsten | Producer(s): John Rickard, Zachary Schiller, Jen Gatien | Main Cast: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: MisterSmith
Logline: Sheltered 17-year-old Katie, who has a rare disease that makes sunlight deadly to her, meets Charlie and they have a summer romance.
SSN Insight: This film is based on a Japanese feature and is about a very real, but very rare disease where the person is extremely sensitive to daylight. It story likens itself to Rapunzel about a princess trapped in the castle who when finally freed is excited to experience a world that so many of us take for granted. Both its stars are definitely on the rise and Bella Thorne’s added musical talent is put to great use in the film. This film has all the earmarks of a sweet love story that’s completely engrossing. As few true romantic films are made every year, the stand-outs certainly have a chance to make their money back and then some given the lack of competition.
Sci-Fi Thriller (Pre-production)
Director: Duncan Jones | Writer(s): Duncan Jones, Michael Robert Johnson | Producer(s): Stuart Fenegan, Duncan Jones | Main Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Sam Rockwell
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | U.S. Rights Contact: Lotus
Logline: A hard edged noir thriller set in a future-version of Berlin forty years from today. A roiling city of immigrants, where East crashes against West in a sci-fi Casablanca. A mute bartender has one reason for living there- the love of his life has disappeared. But when Leo’s search takes him into the city’s underbelly, an odd pair of American surgeons are his only recurring clue.
SSN Insight: Duncan Jones has serious sci-fi power having directed two of the most mind-bending films in the genre in the past decade- Moon and Source Code. That alone signals that the film will be more than meets the eye. The poster’s gorgeous concept art of the city was akin to a colorful take on Blade Runner. If the film’s production design is anything like the poster seen at AFM, it will be a feast for the eyes that will do well to sell the pic. The mis-match fun pairing of Skarsgard and Rudd also piques interest as Rudd is playing in a new genre and in a part that just might work, especially given his solid display in Ant-Man this year.
Rita Hayworth with a Hand Grenade
Director: Sloane U’Ren | Writer(s): Ant Neely | Producer(s): Robert Graf | Main Cast: Elizabeth Banks
No U.S. Distribution at Press Time | Sales Agent: Radiant Films International, UTA
Logline: A World War II war photographer’s plane is shot down, and she is stranded on a South Pacific island with a marooned Japanese soldier who becomes her ally in the fight to survive.
SSN Insight: This is definitely one of the buzzier titles at the market given that Banks is on quite the roll this year with her directing debut of Pitch Perfect 2 that grossed $285 million and landed her the directing job on the Charlie Angels reboot. This film’s female-centric storyline will capture audiences given most WWII films center on the men of action. While audiences have seen a survival tale about a shipwreck or two, this odd couple pairing adds plenty of drama and new twists as the leads don’t just dislike each other but are on different sides of a war.
Thriller (In Development)
Director: Neil Marshall | Writer(s): Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Eric Bress | Producer(s): Marc Helwig | Main Cast: None Set
U.S. Distributor: EuropaCorp | Sales Agent: EuropaCorp
Logline: In the near future the American prison system has been completely revamped: after a criminal commits a violent crime, the victim’s family members are offered government-sanctioned shotguns and 24 hours to hunt down the criminal and kill him.
SSN Insight: This film has the tightest, most gripping logline out of any thriller at AFM bar none. The film provides an avatar that allows the audience to live the fantasy of power being handed to the victim. While there’s no cast yet, the director Neil Marshall is more than up for handling the task as his film, The Descent has wildly been up there with some of the greatest horror films of all time. EuropaCorp has already nabbed the rights but this one is worth putting on your radar for the sheer audacity of the logline.