Rich signs helming deal for ‘Inkwell’

Matty Rich has reached an agreement to direct Giant Pictures’ “The Inkwell,” which will go into pre-production immediately and go into production in May.

To be distributed by Buena Vista, “The Inkwell” marks the 20-year-old Rich’s first go movie since his breakthrough pic “Straight Out of Brooklyn,” released in 1991.

The deal was brokered by William Morris Agency’s Beth Swofford.

Budgeted under $ 8 million, the financial structure to “The Inkwell” is similar to Columbia Pictures’ “Boyz N the Hood”: It is a low-risk proposition that will pay big bucks if everything clicks.

“The Inkwell” places Rich in Hollywood’s commercial mainstream. Though “Straight Out of Brooklyn” was distributed nationwide by Samuel Goldwyn Co., it was produced only after Rich’s family let him use their credit cards to finance the picture.

The greenlight on “The Inkwell” comes just as Rich prepares a major production push. The director is preparing to send out his crime epic “Forty Thieves” to talent next weekend. Rich has said he wants to direct two movies in 1993.

The pic is the first go movie for Giant Pictures, which was established 15 months ago as Irving Azoff’s movie marquee. The company has a first-look deal with Warner Bros.

“The Inkwell” is a coming-of-age story about an idiosyncratic African-American teen who finds his identity when romance comes his way. Marlon Wayans has expressed an interest in the starring role.

Trey Ellis, screenwriter for “The Inkwell,” also wrote the novel “Platitudes” and has been a prolific screenwriter in Hollywood. The Stanford-educated Ellis is currently penning Columbia Pictures’ “Home Repairs,” which is earmarked for producer/star Denzel Washington. In addition to “Forty Thieves,” Rich is attached to direct two other projects — TriStar’s “Coach” and producer Martin Brest and Alex Gartner’s “Holiday City” (a k a “Shock)”, which may be financed by Goldwyn. Rich has a two-year, first-look deal with TriStar Pictures.

“The Inkwell” puts Azoff firmly back in the movie business after an extensive hiatus. A former chairman of MCA Inc.’s music entertainment group, Azoff co-produced such movies as “Urban Cowboy” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in the early 1980s.

“I’m really excited for Jon Jashni and Matt Baer — the guys who actually run Giant Films,” Azoff said. “They spotted this script and worked hard with Trey Ellis to create a valid screenplay.”

Azoff said the involvement of Rich was especially gratifying because Giant Records’ black music division president Cassandra Mills originally brought the filmmaker to the company two years ago.

“The Inkwell” will be supervised by Jashni, Giant Pictures’ president, and line producer Guy Riedel, who previously worked on “The Waterdance.” Riedel was an exec at New Line Cinema before moving into the producer’s ranks.

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