Horsethief debuts movies online starting with 'Rites'

Former PayPal exec Jack Selby, writer-helmer Tiller Russell and producer Duncan Montgomery are raising the curtain on Horsethief Pictures, a digital production and distribution venture.

The L.A.-based company’s first feature is a graphic novel-style Western dubbed “The Last Rites of Ransom Pride,” starring Peter Dinklage, Lizzy Caplan, Scott Speedman, Dwight Yoakam and Jason Priestly. The Horsethief partners aim to release the project via the Internet next spring. Russell said it would be made available through “leading digital platforms” as a paid download and Web-streaming option.

Pic was funded by Selby, who is now managing director of hedge fund Clarium Capital, and coin raised from private equity sources, Russell said. “Last Rites,” directed by Russell, was shot in Alberta to take advantage of Canadian production tax credits.

Horsethief aims to promote its titles through extensive viral marketing initiatives, such as a series of trailers to introduce each of the characters in “Last Rites” and contests designed to encourage viewers to create their own comicbooks and write songs for the movie. The hope is that over the long term, Horsethief projects will flip the traditional film distribution model upside down by migrating from online platforms to DVD and possible theatrical release.

Other projects in development at Horsethief include “Black Weasel,” an adaptation of a short story by “Blade Runner” scribe Hampton Fancher. Fancher is co-writing the script with Yoakam, who will also star. Russell is set to write and direct a comedy dubbed “House of Pies.”

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