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USA Films nabs TV satire ‘Contenders’

Deal worth more than $1 mil

USA Films has picked up North American rights to the satirical drama “Series 7: The Contenders,” in which the highest-rated program on television is one that selects people at random to kill one another for the top cash prize. Sources peg the deal price at just north of $1 million.

Written and directed by Daniel Minahan on digital video, “Series 7” stars Brooke Smith as a reigning champion who’s eight months pregnant. Cast also includes Glenn Fitzgerald and Donna Hanover.

The film was produced by Blow Up Pictures’ Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente (“Three Seasons,” “Chuck & Buck”) and by Killer Films’ Christine Vachon (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and Katie Roumel.

Sundance nurtured

Minahan developed “Series 7: The Contenders” at the Sundance Writers Lab in Utah; he was later invited back to workshop the script at the prestigious Directors Lab. He’s in development on the biopic “Simply Halston,” which he has written and will direct with Vachon producing. The duo also collaborated on “I Shot Andy Warhol,” which Vachon produced and Minahan co-wrote and served as second-unit director.

Blow Up is the DV production division of Kliot and Vicente’s Open City Films. Other Blow Up productions include Miguel Arteta’s current Artisan Entertainment release “Chuck & Buck” and Alan Wade’s “The Pornographer,” currently in post.

Killer’s ‘Suburbia’

Killer Films, which produced “Boys Don’t Cry,” will next see the release of “Crime and Punishment in Suburbia” by United Artists this fall.

USA Films’ acquisitions and co-productions department head, senior veep Steven Raphael, brought the project in to the company along with VP Peter Kalmbach. USA Films was repped in the deal by Avy Eschenasy, exec VP of business affairs, with attorney Sue Bodine of Epstein, Levinsohn, Bodine, Hurwitz & Weinstein negotiating the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.

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