Adam McKay has berthed his new production company Hyperobject Industries to a first look feature film deal at Paramount Pictures, and hopes the new relationship will get off the ground with the pending destruction of earth by a meteor, in a moment where everything is paralyzed by polarizing and partisan political and media landscapes.
McKay hopes to next direct Don't Look Up, which Paramount will get first look at when he completes the first draft soon. He describes it as a “dark satire in the school of Wag the Dog, Doctor Strangelove and Network and if it is half as good as any of them, I will be happy,” McKay told Deadline. “Two mid-level astronomers discover a meteorite will destroy earth in six months and must go on a media tour to warn mankind.”
Paramount was long the studio home for Gary Sanchez, the company that McKay ran for years with partners Will Ferrell and Chris Henchy before Deadline broke in April that McKay and Ferrell would wind down a creative partnership that started back to Saturday Night Live in the mid-1990s, and led to the formation of that 13-year old multi-platform company. The principals remain connected on projects they set up and will see through.
McKay, who shared an Oscar with Charles Randolph for adapting Best Picture nominee and Paramount hit The Big Short, and who last directed the Dick Cheney film Vice, sees his new Hyperoptic Industries as the next natural iteration of his career. He already set a 5-year first look television deal at HBO, and revealed that the new company will also make podcasts. But movies are important to McKay also, and he felt so comfortable with Paramount brass that he made the new first look feature deal there.
“We have long enjoyed a successful creative and collaborative relationship with Adam, and couldn't be happier to be alongside him on this journey as he explores this latest chapter,” said Wyck Godfrey, President of Paramount's Motion Picture Group.
Said McKay: “The first script I ever wrote was at Paramount. Our first overall deal was with Paramount Vantage 12 years ago. We've done a half-dozen movies there. Mix in Great people like Wyck Godfrey and Jim Gianopulos, and this all feels very comfortable.”
The film side will be steered by longtime collaborator Kevin Messick, and the braintrust includes Betsy Koch and the recently hired Who Is America producer and Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Todd Schulman. They are only just getting going putting movie projects together. Executive producer Robyn Wholey creative exec Maeve Cullinane, associate producer Staci Roberts-Steele as well as Jenna Go, Stephanie Chopra and Daniel Omaits make up the rest of the Hyperobject Industries team.
What does the new company moniker mean?
“Timothy Morton is a philosopher out of Rice University and he coined this term to refer to things that are beyond human comprehension, forces that affect us in tangible ways, but our limited scope of perception can't fully comprehend,” McKay said. “It signals we are trying to dive into unknown areas. And the Industries part is a straight up joke.”
Just as McKay has evolved from straight up comedies into political minded but entertaining movies like his last two, he sees the entire creative landscape and audience expectations evolving also in good ways, even as he acknowledges that adult-themed mid budget films are having a tough go of it.
“We have this really nice deal with HBO, they were really generous with us, and when it was time to figure out the movie part, we looked at Paramount,” he said. “You get older, and once we split up Sanchez, it became clear they still wanted to work with us. So we'll be there a few more years with that first look deal. I believe that genres are starting to blur together, that the risks you are allowed to take is growing as so much stuff is getting made and audiences are so savvy. We started seeing it in the last few years of Sanchez, how everything is bending together and as a result the choices you can make in a movie or TV show has expanded. If there's a mandate - and all the producers here are empowered to seek what they like and find interesting - it's to keep pushing in that direction. Try to find stories, structures, tones and genres that really push the edges of what we traditionally thought we could do. Not just with what's going on streaming, but what's going on in the world. Politically, environmentally, economically. We're just living in strange, unprecedented times. The goal of the company is to dive face first into these times and see how much we can push things.”
McKay will do that with the limited series based on the upcoming book by Julie K. Brown on pervy financier Jeffrey Epstein. It was Brown whose reporting in the Miami Herald led to the arrest in July of Epstein on sex trafficking charges. He subsequently hanged himself in his jail cell.
“It is as deep and dark as anything I've seen,” McKay said. “I've followed that story for years, and god bless Julie Brown, she finally broke it. It's the old cliché you would see in 70s movies. How far does this story go? Straight to the top. This one really does.”
McKay revealed that Hyperoptic will also develop a series based on David Wallace Wells's Uninhabitable Earth. “It's a Black Mirror-like anthology dealing with what the world will be like as we go forward with global warming.” He said the show has connective tissue to the previously reported show he has been working on, about the Showtime years of the Lakers championship teams by Max Borenstein McKay’s directing the pilot, in that it is the kind of exercise audiences might have rejected just a decade ago. will Once again, ten years ago you don't see that show.
“You might think it's just about basketball, but it's about class, race, gender and we're shooting it in a multi format, with Super 8, video, 35 millimeter. These are examples of shows I'm not sure we could have made ten years ago, that audiences would be okay with some of the ways we're pushing it.”
Finally, McKay weighed in on this controversy over superhero films that was fueled by some comments made by The Irishman director Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola, who bristled about these blockbusters sucking all the oxygen out of the creative medium of cinema. He lands on the side of the spandex set.
“I wrote one, Ant-Man, and I love 'em,” McKay said of superhero movies. “I felt like, c'mon Marty, what are you doing? You're an all-time hero, and some of those movies are really good. To anyone who disses superhero movies, I always say, watch Thor: Ragnarok. That movie is awesome.”
When I mention how Phillips has stamped himself as a serious dramatic director McKay made the same kind of transformation from comedy with The Big Short, he said he wasn't at all surprised.
“Todd has always been supremely talented and I always thought the secret trick to The Hangover films was that they were so well made. I cannot wait to see Joker, Jo Jo Rabbit, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story. It's never easy but I look at the things that A24 and some others are doing, and think there is quality out there. With all the new streamers coming, we're about to see an explosion in the amount of movies and series being made, the likes of which I wonder has ever existed in Hollywood.”
McKay said that in support of the WGA, no Hyperobject Industries project will be part of any packaging deals through WME, who represents McKay as a director and producer along with Ziffren Brittenham LLP.
In the final moments of Joker, after being hailed as a hero by his rioting followers one of whom kills Thomas and Martha Wayne, which I’m sure won’t have an impact on their young son Bruce, Arthur Fleck is sent to Arkham Asylum. He can’t stop laughing. “What’s so funny?” his psychiatrist asks him. “Just thinking of a joke,” one that she wouldn’t get. We never learn what the joke is, either, although there’s been speculation that the joke is on us, the audience, for thinking what we witnessed actually happened; maybe it was all in Arthur’s head? If The Dark Knight taught us anything, it’s that Batman doesn’t wear hockey pants, and that Joker is not the most reliable narrator.
Todd Phillips, who wrote Joker, has said “there’s a lot of ways you could look at this movie. You could look at it and go, this is just one of his multiple-choice stories. None of it happened. I don’t want to say what it is. But a lot of people I’ve shown it to have said, oh, I get it — he’s just made up a story. The whole movie is the joke. It’s this thing this guy in Arkham Asylum concocted. He might not even be the Joker.” Maybe we can get a clear answer by going straight to the source: Phillips’ screenplay available here.
The key section:
He’s sitting across from an overworked HOSPITAL DOCTOR 50’s, African American woman. Somehow it’s the exact same room Joker imagined his mother was in some 30 years ago. The room and the doctor also look vaguely similar to the social worker and her office in the opening scene.
The “somehow” and “vaguely similar” phrasings are doing a lot of the work, but that paragraph which, as Digital Spy notes, isn’t from the final draft, but “so it would be pretty close to what they started filming with” tips the scale towards a dream-like “Arthur made it up.” Then again, why would he go out of his way to turn the Sophie reveal a twist, as he’d presumably want to continue the lie? Or maybe it’s both! Phillips won’t ever say for sure, of course, so it’s up for the audience to decide. Joke’s on us.
With a new production incentive, rising local box office, an infusion from Netflix and internationally acclaimed auteurs, "Polish cinema is on the rise."
To be clear: The Polish film industry doesn't need Hollywood.
While neighboring nations in Eastern Europe have clamored to introduce tax breaks and production incentives to attract international shoots, Poland, with its long and proud national cinematic tradition, has been happy to go it alone.
Polish box office receipts have soared in recent years, largely because of the success of homegrown titles, which account for around one-third of total ticket sales. A sign of the industry's maturity is how successful sequels and franchises have become. Three of this year's top titles were follow-ups: the romantic comedies Miszmasz czyli Kogel Mogel 3 and Planet Single 3 — which have grossed more than $10 million and $7.7 million, respectively — and Patryk Vega's Women of Mafia 2, the latest in his hit crime action franchise, which earned some $6 million at local theaters.
Internationally, Poland is enjoying the art house spotlight thanks to the success of such features as Pawel Pawlikowski's Oscar-nominated Cold War, Agnieszka Holland's biographical thriller Mr. Jones starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard and titles from the phenomenally productive Malgorzata Szumowska — who followed up her 2018 Berlin Jury Grand Prix winner Mug with the English-language horror title The Other Lamb, which premiered in Toronto, and has one Polish feature, All Inclusive, in postproduction while she is in the midst of shooting another the local-language comedy-drama Masazysta.
Poland's contender for the 2020 international film Oscar — Jan Komasa's Corpus Christi — manages to unite the Polish industry's commercial and art house strains. The drama, about an ex-con who experiences a spiritual transformation while in a youth detention center and, after leaving prison, poses as a priest in a small-town parish — has won critical acclaim since its festival screenings in Venice and Toronto and has become a box office hit back home, earning more than $1 million in its first week of release.
But while Polish film insiders don't need Hollywood's business, they're happy to have it. This year, Poland introduced a new filming incentive — a 30 percent cash rebate on local spend — aimed at boosting local as well as visiting productions. The Polish Film Institute is administrating the rebate, which has an annual budget of $54 million and is open to everything from feature films and animation to documentaries and TV series, with a maximum rebate of $3.7 million per project and $5.4 million per applicant in a calendar year. Applications need to have 75 percent of their financing already in place and pass a cultural test to meet certain criteria, including the participation of Polish cast and crew or the telling of stories with a particular cultural relevance to the country.
"Polish cinema is on the rise," says Radoslaw Smigulski, general director of the Polish Film Institute, who makes it clear he sees the new initiative as a means for Polish talent to collaborate with the world, not as a handout to international producers. "We have a pool of amazing, unquestionable talents who, on one hand, draw from the rich history of Polish films but also leave an individual imprint on modern storytelling. Polish filmmakers have stories to share and have an immense appetite to communicate with the world audience."
In addition to the rebate, the PFI is negotiating for the development of new production facilities to meet the increasing demand — both local and international — to shoot in the region.
Jaroslaw Sawko, president of Platigo Image, a local VFX firm whose credits include Lars von Trier's Melancholia, Andrzej Wajda's Katyn and Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing, notes that Poland "has been waiting a long time for a cash rebate system" akin to those in nearby Hungary and the Czech Republic. "But even without it, the production and postproduction services grew rapidly here." He points to his company's animation work on Raúl de la Fuente and Damian Nenow's Another Day of Life, which premiered in Cannes last year and won best animated feature at the 2018 European Film Awards. "We also work with Netflix," he notes.
The global streamer has recently discovered the wealth of talent between Wroclaw and Gdansk. Netflix tapped four of the country's most prominent directors — Holland, Kasia Adamik, Olga Chajdas and Agnieszka Smoczynska — to helm 1983, the streamer's first Polish original series. The fast-paced conspiracy thriller is set in a dystopian world in which the Iron Curtain never fell and Poland, still living under a repressive police state, is ripe for the revolution it was denied decades earlier.
Netflix's upcoming series The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill, also has Polish roots. The adaptation of the fantasy series by Polish writer Andrezej Sapkowski, which was turned into a hit video game franchise, shot mainly in Hungary and on the Spanish island La Palma, but a few key scenes were reportedly done in Poland — at the Ogrodzieniec Castle in the Silesia region along the German-Czech border.
Poland's location in the heart of the continent — every European capital is a maximum two- or three-hour flight away, and there are direct flights from Warsaw to Los Angeles, New York and Toronto — gives it a practical appeal for international producers. So does the country's varied landscape and diverse history, reflected in its architecture — which includes lavish Renaissance or Baroque palaces, thick-walled medieval castles, cobbled streets and squares as well modern urban landscapes. In recent productions, Poland has played Berlin, the Netherlands and Paris but, surprisingly, it's landscape has also successfully stood in for Manchuria.
Poland's strongest appeal, perhaps, lies in the combination of local talent — built by its strong, independent industry — and financial incentives that make the country competitive with its East European neighbors. In recent years, several new production companies have emerged — Madants, Film Polska Productions, No Sugar Films, Lava Films, Aurum Films and Opus Film,among them — that specialize in international co-productions.
"Perhaps the most impressive part was the competence of the crews and the clocklike organization," says Michael Trinklein, a producer on the 2017 PBS series Martin Luther: Return to Grace, which shot in Poland as a coproduction with No Sugar Films. "I have worked in Hollywood and New York, and I can say local Polish teams were more dedicated and professional than any I have encountered. In Krakow, we received an enormous value and lost noting in quality. Now I must come up with new ideas to shoot in Poland!"
Adds No Sugar Films producer Marta Habior: "I could speak for hours on why international companies should come to Poland, but let me quote the U.S., Australian and European partners I worked with — 'amazing production value for money!' I've shot all over the world and I can honestly say, from my point of view, the combination of extraordinary talent, top-notch crews and the range of locations we have in Poland makes me extremely happy and lucky to be working in the industry here."
Poland By the Numbers
Cash rebate on local spend, a program operated by the Polish Film Institute and budgeted at up to $53.17 million per year.
Production budget per year at Polish Film Institute
Number of regional film funds operating in the country, with a joint budget per year at $2.23M.
Annual budget in production subsidies for Polish-German co-productions. Polish productions and co-productions can also access Eurimages and Creative Europe funding.
Number of Polish bilateral co-production agreements, with France, Israel, India, Canada and New Zealand. For bilateral co-productions, the Polish contribution must be at least 10 percent of the total budget, and for multilateral co-productions, the Polish contribution must be at least 5 percent of the total budget Council of Europe Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production ratified.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter 's Nov. 8 daily issue at the American Film Market.
How many Easter eggs and comic references did you catch in the recent episode of Watchmen? Want a Spider-Man: Far From Home mini-poster by Matt Ferguson? Why are DC Comics writers arguing about naked Bane? Could Scarlet Witch be Marvel’s next big villain? Did you ever hear “Hollywood’s Superman,” a Los Angeles local celebrity of sorts? All that and more in this edition of Superhero Bits.
Get a load of nearly 100 Easter eggs and comic references from the recent third episode of the Watchmen series.
Warner Bros. President of Worldwide Marketing recently talked about pinpointing the target audience for Joker.
Tonight is the last night I wear the Arrow suit. pic.twitter.com/P4QTUSOQgG
— Stephen Amell @StephenAmell November 7, 2019
Arrow star Stephen Amell posted this set photo of what he says is the last time he will be wearing this suit.
An episode of Batwoman took an amusing swipe at a certain wardrobe choice for Batman in Justice League.
1st is the worst! Second is the nakedest! pic.twitter.com/xG4hWhQxAZ
— Tom King @TomKingTK November 6, 2019
DC Comics writers Tom King and Gail Simone are arguing about their naked versions of Bane on Twitter.
Former X-Men franchise star Daniel Cudmore, who played Colossus, has landed a role in Hulu’s Helstrom.
Buying Spider-Man: Far From Home in the UK next week? Go get it from HMV and you get this mini poster by me… https://t.co/wsc39vkgT5 pic.twitter.com/0gsQBL2XCy
— Matt Ferguson Thought Bubble table 42 @Cakes_Comics November 7, 2019
If you grab Spider-Man: Far From Home in the UK from HMV, you’ll get this mini-poster by Matt Ferguson.
A study from Flixed reveals people are more likely to watch Marvel movies than DC Comics movies in theaters.
Continue Reading Superhero Bits
Due to the amount of graphics and images included in Superhero Bits, we have to split this post over THREE pages. Click the link above to continue to the next page of Superhero Bits.
As long as there are an infinite number of holidays, there will always be holiday ensemble comedies. But Friendsgiving one might be one that we can give thanks for. Produced by Ben Stiller and starring an all-star cast of comedians that includes Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, and more, Friendsgiving has just been picked up by Saban Films with a planned theatrical release for long after Thanksgiving. But hey, being thankful is a year-round experience.
Saban Films announced that it has acquired the U.S. rights to Friendsgiving, an ensemble comedy directed by Funny People and The Big Gay Sketch Show actress Nicol Paone in her directorial debut. The film is set to star Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, Aisha Tyler, Deon Cole, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, and Fortune Feimster in a comedy that follows a “motley crew of close friends” during the new Thanksgiving tradition celebrated by friend groups across the country and inspired partly by the popularity of the Friends episodes set during the holiday.
Here is the synopsis for Friendsgiving:
Friendsgiving follows Molly Akerman, a glamorous, newly divorced actor, and Abby Dennings, her recently-dumped lesbian best friend. Together, along with their motley crew of close friends and strange acquaintances, they host a dysfunctional, comical and chaotic Thanksgiving dinner.
Saban Films, which is behind such independent films as Lizzie, Night Hunter, and the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, plans to release the film in 2020, presumably during Thanksgiving.
“We are thrilled to be championing Friendsgiving along with Red Hour and Endeavor Content,” said Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley. “This is a witty and relatable story, along with an outstanding and endearing ensemble cast that our audiences will be enjoying next holiday season.”
But unlike other cheesy holiday-themed ensemble movies that sprung up in the wake of Love, Actually like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, etc., the holiday in Friendsgiving doesn’t seem as central to the plot of the movie. With Ben Stiller producing alongside Nicholas Weinstock and Haroon Saleem for Red Hour Films, it seems more like a straight-up comedy than a holiday-themed studio cash grab. Akerman is also producing while Tara L. Craig is executive producing.
Altitude Films, the Brit producer of 'Horrible Histories' join forces with Jason Lust's Soluble Fish production company to develop family-friendly films and TV projects.
British production and sales house Altitude Film Entertainment, fresh off their success with Horrible Histories, has signed a production partnership with Jason Lust's L.A.-based Soluble Fish to develop high-end family films and television projects.
Lust was a producer on the animated Peter Rabbit franchise, as well as Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Pinocchio film for Netflix.
The deal, announced at the American Film Market on Thursday, marks Altitude's first venture into the U.S. market. The Brit company, led by Will Clarke and Andy Mayson, has produced such features as Samuel L. Jackson actioner Big Game, Kevin Macdonald's music doc Whitney and Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories.
Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans, an adaptation of the popular British kids' TV series, was a sleeper success in U.K. cinemas, grossing close to $4 million.
Altitude Film Sales, the company's sales arm, is handling world sales at AFM on such titles as Daniel Radcliffe-starrer Guns Akimbo and Ivan Kavanagh's horror film Son starting Andi Matichak and Emile Hirsch.
Lust said the two companies planned to create “family-friendly movies and television for global audiences” with a focus on hybrid and animation projects with an established brand “many of which will have a musical focus.”
“We've been huge admirers of Jason for some time and this is the perfect opportunity to launch our first operation in the U.S.,” said Altitude's Will Clarke. “ This partnership gives us the ability to produce and sell high-quality family films which we look forward to bringing to the marketplace.”