Offline Entertainment Group, the company behind the gritty “Slam,” is banding together with such producers as Oliver Stone, Norman Lear and Quincy Jones for a slate of pics about inner-city life.
The company includes financier David Peipers as chairman, former nightclub maven Henri M. Kessler as CEO, “Slam” helmer Marc Levin as president, and magazine writer Richard Stratton as senior VP.
With the sale of “Slam” for $2.5 million to Trimark at January’s Sundance Film Festival, Offline moved ahead with private financing sources for its slate of pics about the underside of urban life.
Now, the indie production entity has a mandate to explore reality-based subject matter, somewhat the way journalists do. “We have a reservoir that we’ve built up on the worlds of organized crime, street gangs, prison, etc.,” says Levin, a vet documaker. “We’re trying to make that work.”
Levin adds that though Offline has raised money from private sources, it may look for a studio to craft a production deal. Trimark, which has world rights for “Slam,” has shown interest, but nothing has been inked.
Projects in development for Offline include:
- “Jumpin,’ ” a story about one woman’s coming of age in the world of Double Dutch jump-roping. Lear’s Act III is attached to produce with Offline.
- “Patriots,” about skinhead racist gangs in the U.S. Military. Stone’s Illusion Entertainment will produce with Offline.
- “Godfather of Hip Hop,” a co-production with Jones about brothers from the Bronx whose lives tell the history of hip hop.
Kessler and Stratton will likely take producer credits on most of these. Peipers will be an exec producer. And Levin will direct.
Projects in pre-production:
- “Brooklyn Babylon,” a drama termed “West Side Story” meets “The Harder they Come” in Brooklyn. A reggae rap star and a young Orthodox Jewish woman fall in love and their social circles can’t handle it.
- “White Boys,” a comic drama about white teens in America’s heartland who think they’re gangsta rappers. Performance artist Danny Hoch will star.
Kessler says the company will look to develop projects for TV as well, potentially setting up TV skeins based on some of the Offline material. “This is a big part of the future of the company,” Kessler says.
Levin likes to point to Stratton’s background as indicative of the type of material the company wants to develop for features. Stratton did an eight-year stint in a federal penitentiary for drug smuggling, only to get out of prison by becoming a jailhouse lawyer. He later wrote for such mags as Rolling Stone, Spin, Newsweek and George. He founded Prison Life magazine and was a creative consultant on HBO’s “Oz” series, about prison life.
“Slam,” about a young gangsta’s jailhouse blossoming with the world of slam poetry, won the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury prize and helped raise the profile of the New York-based company. It screened in Directors’ Fortnight May 19 and was the subject of a bash at the Majestic Beach.
The recent producer deals for Offline were brokered by New York-based entertainment attorney John Sloss.