Cannes: Medient Bows High-Tech Plan Georgia

Indian production company Medient Studios promises to revolutionize the process of filmmaking as it unveiled plans to build high-tech studio facilities in the U.S. state of Georgia in Cannes on May 15.

The 11-year-old OTC-listed company, which earlier this year acquired Munich, Germany-based sales agent Atlas Intl., also unveiled a slate of six indie movies.

Ground was broken last year on the first phase of Medient’s Studioplex site near Savannah, Ga., with physical construction commencing next week. The first soundstages will be complete by the end of the year, and additional facilities added over the subsequent three years.

The first phase of the complex will cost some $90 million to build. Medient said it had received $10 million investment from Effingham County Industrial Development Authority and a $40 million loan from India-U.S. post-production and visual effects company Prime Focus.

The Studioplex is designed to be an integrated campus that combines the best practices of a workflow pipeline. In addition to stages, the site will offer post-production, employee housing and robotics and is designed to be highly environmentally efficient.

Medient estimates that through technology and use of a permanent staff that works on multiple movies, production costs can be cut by 40%. That will either enable large-budget studio movies to reduce their production costs, or make indie productions more competitive.

“Workflow has not changed since the analog era,” said chairman and CEO Manu S. Kumaran. “We aim to take away the low skill elements of filmmaking and make workflow match the modern films of the digital era.”
Shooting of footage for games and multiple-language versions of visual effects-driven movies is expected to be standard working practise.

Kumaran said Medient did not specifically seek a base in the U.S., but was attracted to Georgia by the state’s tax and relaxed labor conditions. “It is a right-to-work state and it is one of the few states where rebates for the film industry do not have a sunset clause. If they expire after eight years, we would hope to have sufficient economies of scale by then.

“Pre-visualization is expensive, but the data is typically thrown away. We will use that data to drive robots (at the production stage) and for the actual visual effects,” said Kumaran.

“If you consider that the four main costs of making a movie are talent, equipment, crew and post-production, by building Studioplex we are investing in three of those elements and simply financing movies in a different way.”
Medient has produced 14 movies over its 11 years, including Indian drama “Mr. Singh/Mrs. Mehta” and British horror “Storage 24.”

By lowering costs Kumaran said the company also minimize the need for pre-sales of its own productions.

Medient/Atlas’ Cannes sales slate includes 4K nature documentary “The New Wilderness”; $12 million actioner “Kickback”; Savannah-set horror thriller “The Damned”; “Kilat,” a martial arts actioner from its Asian partner, Malaysia’s Tarantella Pictures; recently announced Indian political documentary “The Battle for Banares”; and Atlas Intl.’s “Der letzte mensch,” by Pierre-Henri Salfati starring Mario Adorf, Hannelore Elsner and Katharina Derr.

For “Kickback” it has non-contractual letters of intent from John Cusack, Famke Janssen, Mischa Barton, Sean Astin and Rutger Hauer.

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