The ongoing actors strike has cast a pall over this year’s American Film Market, which runs through Sunday, with far fewer projects on offer at the AFM‘s new headquarters in the Le Meriden Delfina hotel.
Producers and sales agents have complained about the difficulties in attaching name talent to projects until the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, reaches a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) representing the streamers and major studios.
But the indie business finds a way. Indeed, despite the strike-induced slowdown, a number of star-studded packages have launched at AFM this week.
The Syndicate is pitching the new thriller Turn Up the Sun! from Welsh filmmaker Jamie Adams (Black Mountain Poets) starring James McAvoy alongside a European cast that includes Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris), Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale) and Almudena Amor (The Good Boss). The thriller, in which two couples accidentally book the same countryside mansion for a weekend break, only to discover things may not be as they seem, has already begun shooting in the U.K. under an Equity-PACT agreement.
Guy Pearce and DeWanda Wise are attached to star in Film Bridge International‘s new supernatural thriller Killing Faith, from writer-director Ned Crowley (Middle Man). Pearce will play an atheist doctor who agrees to escort an anguished mother (Wise), convinced her daughter is possessed by the devil, on a journey across a treacherous desert in the hope she can find a cure for her. Tim Roth is in final negotiations to co-star, playing a preacher.
Killing Faith has secured a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement to allow the project to begin filming in New Mexico in January. Film Bridge has already closed multiple international pre-sales on the film, including with Signature Entertainment in the U.K., Umbrella Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand, and Falcon Films for the Middle East and North Africa, among other deals.
Meanwhile, GFM Global Sales launched Robin and the Hood, a new family adventure comedy from director Phil Hawkins (Prancer: A Christmas Tale) which stars James Bond alum Naomie Harris as an unscrupulous land developer. Game of Thrones actor Gwendoline Christie co-stars as an environmental activist. Mark Williams, who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films, plays the town mayor. Robin and the Hood completed principal photography over the summer. The film will launch in the U.K. and Ireland as a Sky Original on the Sky Cinema channel.
Yellowstone star Kelly Reilly is in final negotiations to join Samuel L. Jackson and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny actor Boyd Holbrook in Last Meals, a new drama from Tony-winner Kenny Leon (The Wiz Live, Netflix’s American Son). David Strathairn (Nomadland) is also in negotiations to join the project, which will see Jackson play Walter, a disgraced former White House chef who, 30 years later, finds himself cooking last meals for death row inmates. Having secured a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement, Last Meals is set to begin shooting in Atlanta on Nov. 28. The Solution is handling international sales on the film with CAA Media Finance and Sentient repping domestic rights.
And the late, great American writer Joan Didion is getting the creative biopic treatment, courtesy of Matthew Wilder, the director of American Martyr and Your Name Here and screenwriter on Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog and Robert Schwentke’s John Malkovich-starrer Seneca. The still-untitled work, which David Michaels’ Enfant Terrible is producing and selling, is described as set in a dreamlike day in the life of Didion in 1960s California when the young journalist swirls between encounters with the jailed Manson Family killers, Black Panther protestors and Nancy Regan. The plan is to shoot the movie in Los Angeles next year.