GreeneStreet touches Raw Nerve

Horror arm created to tap into 'insatiable' fanbase

New York-based independent production banner GreeneStreet Films will launch Raw Nerve, a low-budget horror division run by a team of writers and directors headed by Boaz Yakin.

In addition to Yakin, who helmed “Remember the Titans” and MGM summer release “Uptown Girl” with Brittany Murphy for GreeneStreet, other creative chiefs behind the new venture include Eli Roth, co-writer, director and producer of Lions Gate fall release “Cabin Fever”; Scott Spiegel, co-writer of Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead II” and director of “From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Blood Money”; and horror scribe David J. Schow, whose screenplays include “The Crow” and “Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.”

“This is personally very satisfying,” GreeneStreet co-founder and prez John Penotti tells Variety. “Our relationship with Boaz goes way back and Eli worked as an assistant when GreeneStreet was first getting started. I was really impressed even then with this young kid’s extraordinary energy.”

Three unannounced projects are set to go for the division in 2003; Penotti says the financing model is for three to five features per year. He anticipates meeting that goal in Raw Nerve’s second year of activity.

“Boaz proposed this venture at the same time I had just seen ‘Cabin Fever’ and it really felt right,” Penotti says. “These kind of opportunities present themselves very infrequently and you couldn’t plan this kind of division without it growing organically. It fits well with GreeneStreet’s very methodical expansion plans. As an equity financier and producer, you have to keep exploring ways to get closer to direct revenue streams and Raw Nerve gives us the opportunity to do that.”

The company’s mission is to make well-crafted cutting-edge frightfests on lean budgets, following the tradition of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

“A horror movie doesn’t have to be big or glossy to work,” Yakin says. “In fact it’s the reverse: The more intimate, familiar and real the surroundings, the more effective the terror the viewer feels. By keeping our budgets low and our standards high, we can produce movies that are frightening, fun and extremely profitable.”

Penotti says Yakin’s sharp storytelling sense, detailed knowledge of classic horror and his ability to analyze what makes a film truly terrifying helped sell GreeneStreet on the venture. The principals will write and direct some projects themselves and develop others with filmmakers eager to push the boundaries of modern horror.

“Raw Nerve will be a safe haven for directors who want to get back to the essentials of filmmaking in a genre where so many of today’s top directors got their start,” Roth says. “You cannot make a film that is too disturbing for us — the scarier the better.”

“Horror fans are the most loyal fans out there,” Spiegel adds. “They will come out and support you if you give them the product, which we know we can do. The appetite for horror is insatiable.”

In Cannes with the company’s new inhouse international sales division, headed by partner and head of production finance Cedric Jeanson, GreeneStreet is registering strong presales on its two lead projects: Wayne Beach’s thriller “Slow Burn,” with Ray Liotta and LL Cool J; and Sally Potter’s romantic drama “Yes,” with Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian and Sam Neill.

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