Netflix builds indie line-up with five new films
James R | On 21, Jan 2016
Netflix continues to build its line-up of indie originals with the acquisition of five new films.
Netflix has already established itself as a friend to indie filmmakers, with a major deal announced last year with the Duplass brothers, not to mention it stepping in to acquire Beasts of No Nation.
The company has an explicity global strategy of working directly with independent filmmakers and producers. Indeed, much like its documentary acquisitions, the streaming giant is now in a position where it can offer worldwide eyeballs for smaller projects, which may otherwise fly under the audience radar. Indeed, earlier this month, the site launched in 130 new countries simultaneously, extending its global reach.
The first of the new deals, announced by Deadline, is for Amateur, by Sundance Screenwriting Lab alumnus Ryan Koo, which follows a 14-year-old basketball prodigy (Michael Rainey Jr.) who finds himself on a team with older high school players after a video featuring him goes viral. It is produced by Jason Michael Berman of Mandalay Pictures and Chip Hourihan.
ARQ follows Amateur, telling the story of an engineer who has invented a technology with the potential to provide unlimited energy – only to find his house surrounded by masked intruders trying to get their hands on it. The problem? The technology has also created a time loop that leaves them reliving the same day over and over. The film is written and directed by Tony Elliott, with THR reporting that The Flash’s Robbie Amell and Jessica Jones’ Rachael Taylor will star. The movie will start shooting this winter in Toronto.
Netflix has also snapped up Clinical, directed by Alistair Legrand, a thriller about a psychiatrist (Vinessa Shaw) attempting to get her life back on track after a violent attack. Legrand has co-written the script with Luke Harvis and Campfire and Ross Dinerstein are producers.
Gerard McMurrary’s Underground, co-written with Christine Berg, sees a pledgee in “Hell Week” torn between honouring his code of silence or standing up against his hazing. Mandalay’s Berman is again a producer, alongside Stephanie Allain, Reginald Hudlin and Mel Jones.
They join Osgood Perkins’ I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House, which stars The Affair’s Ruth Wilson as Lily, a nurse hired to care for Helen Bloom, an elderly author of ghost stories who is living her final days in a suitably spooky country home. Bob Balaban and Lucy Boynton also star in the film, with Rob Paris’ Paris Film, Inc. producing and co-financing the film alongside Robert Menzies’ Zed Filmworks, with Canadian real estate developer Alphonse Ghossein’s Go Insane Films exec producing.
The slate of agreements follow the high-profile acquisitions of two films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – Paul Rudd’s The Fundamentals of Caring and Elliot Page’s Tallulah – for a total of $12 million.
The former, for $7 million is thought to be the biggest pre-festival acquistion in history, according to THR, and that kind of money is starting to transform the way the industry is working.
“We are increasingly trying to figure out, ‘Can we do a theatrical and partner Netflix into the deal,'” ICM’s Jessica Lacy told the trade publication (Netflix’s two Sundance deals do not include the theatrical distribution rights). “We’re no longer just thinking of all-rights deals with traditional distributors.”
“There is definitely a Netflix factor. They’ve made themselves a player very quickly,” added UTA’s Rena Ronson. “They’ve shown that they can put muscle behind something to get awareness in the marketplace, and they spend money. I don’t think anyone is surprised.”