Mathieu to buzz with ‘Fireflies’

Prisoners to do time with over 1,000 f/x shots

French commercial director Nic Mathieu is set to make his feature directing debut at MGM with “The Fireflies,” an action thriller built around a tiny weapon that has unparalleled power when it meets any water source. The studio is eyeing the project as a potential franchise and hopes to begin production before the end of the year.

No Prisoners Prods.’ Todd Moyer (“Wing Commander”) will produce the pic, which was written by Mathieu. “Fireflies” is set on a military platform in the Pacific Ocean where officers have developed a top-secret surgical weapon just one millimeter long. It operates by seeking any water source on the human body — even tear ducts — and atomizing the water molecules. When the weapon overrides its artificial intelligence and turns on its creators, it begins to seek all water sources and gives the ocean nuclear capabilities.

No Prisoners 3DFX will serve as the project’s effects house, which will allow the project to remain in the $35 million-$40 million range despite a budget that calls for more than 1,000 digital effects shots.

“Mathieu is incredibly talented,” said MGM president Michael Nathanson, who called the project “commercially and fiscally responsible.”

Mathieu, 23, pitched “Fireflies” with a show reel that included three scenes from the film — two created with detailed, animated storyboards and the third a 40-second, live-action scene that included some 100 effects shots.

“The pitch shows exactly how the product will look,” Moyer said. “This was a great selling tool. We worked on it for six months before we took it out to studios.”

“It’s not going to be the studio that brings down production costs,” Nathanson said. “It’s going to be the filmmakers who drive the cost down, because they know how to use the technology.”

Mathieu embarked on his first project at 16 when he directed the interactive CD-Rom game “Hardline” for Virgin Interactive Entertainment. He then enrolled in film school in France while juggling commercial directing assignments, but failed to graduate when professors didn’t consider production meetings reasonable excuses for missing class.

Mathieu’s first U.S. commercial, for Mercedes-Benz, will air April 19 during the NBA playoffs.

Mathieu is repped by CAA and attorney Craig Emmanuel.