First-time helmer hits low-seven-figure payday

Palm Pictures, the specialized film distrib banner from Island Pictures and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, has picked up Slamdance award-winner “Six-String Samurai,” a sci-fi fable about a man who seeks to become King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in a post-apocalyptic America.

First-time helmer Lance Mungia — who’s just out of Loyola Marymount film school — directed “Samurai.” Leanna Creel and Michael Burns of HSX Films produced.

Mungia co-wrote the screenplay with star Jeffrey Falcon, a martial arts expert who has acted in numerous Hong Kong action films.

Palm paid a reported low-seven-figure pricetag for domestic distribution, which it will handle with a still-unannounced major studio. Overseas Film Group has foreign rights.

Pic is set in the present day, in a fictional America that was largely destroyed in the 1950s by nuclear war. The Soviet Union took control of the country — except for capitalist bastion Las Vegas, where Elvis Presley ruled as king for decades. Falcon’s character, a samurai sword-wielding guitar player, sets out across the wasteland to assume the throne after Presley’s death.

Blackwell, who last year left Polygram’s Island labels under contentious circumstances, highly praised “Samurai’s” score, sources said. The Red Elvises, a Santa Monica-based band comprised of Russian-born musicians, performed much of the music. Brian Tyler scored.

Pic won awards for cinematography and editing at Slamdance.

Though Palm had previously picked up worldwide rights to Sundance pic “The Bible and Gun Club,” sources close to the company said Blackwell intends to make “Samurai” his company’s debut release.

William Morris agents Cassian Elwes and Hans Schiff brokered the distrib deal for the producers. Mark Burg, who was president of Island Pictures for nine years, negotiated on Blackwell’s behalf.

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