Pics pumped at Ascendant

Co. pushes three of its own films into prod'n

Nearly a year after German media fund VIP tapped Ascendant Pictures to oversee its $280 million worth of production financing in Hollywood, the team has co-financed a slate of eight pics.

Through Rising Star, a joint venture between Ascendant and VIP, the companies are co-financing and exec producing Warner Independent’s “The Jacket”; Disney’s “Emperor Zehnder”; Terrence Malick’s “Che”; Robert Altman’s “Paint” (formerly “Ultraviolet”), to be distribbed by Sony Classics; and DreamWorks’ “Ask the Dust,” with Colin Farrell.

It has also previously invested in Artisan Pictures’ adaptation of Marvel comic “The Punisher” and MDP Worldwide’s “Monster,” starring Charlize Theron.

Upon announcing its arrangement last year with Ascendant, VIP originally expected to raise less than $200 million (Daily Variety, May 8), but the fund was able to generate $280 million in tax-based financing for a slate of pics set to head into production in 2004.

Nine pix per year

Company is looking to co-finance and produce about nine films per year, looking for studio-based, commercial films with budgets falling in the $20 million-$30 million range.

But Ascendant, which has a first-look deal with Morgan Creek, is also planning on using the funding to co-finance its own slate of internally developed pics.

Company has three pics nearing production budgeted at between $15 million-$50 million:

  • “The Big White,” a comedy written by Collin Friesen and directed by Mark Mylod about a destitute Alaskan travel agent with a deranged wife who thinks he’s found the answer to his financial problems in the form of a frozen body in the Dumpster behind his office.

  • “The Bird,” a laffer about a White House staffer who, days before Thanksgiving, is stuck with the job of picking up and delivering an uncooperative turkey the president will pardon in the traditional November ceremony. Television scribe Peter Lenkov penned the script, which J.B. Rogers (“American Pie 2”) will helm.

  • WWI love story “American Knight,” to be directed by Ascendant partner Chris Roberts (“Wing Commander”), about an American pilot in a British air squadron who is torn between fighting the good cause of the war and vying for the love of a French woman, the latter of which leads to an air-combat confrontation with the Red Baron. Roberts, Duke Selley and Joshua Rubin scripted the project.

Founded in 2002

Vidgame vet Roberts, who created the “Wing Commander” gaming franchise and helmed the film adaptation for Fox, founded Ascendant in 2002, along with Christopher Eberts, a former Fox production exec, who also produced “The Watcher,” “Half Past Dead” and the Oscar-nommed doc “Prisoner of Paradise.”

Ascendant’s execs also include John Schimmel, former head of development at Bel-Air Entertainment; Kia Jam, who produced “Dungeons & Dragons” and “Juwanna Mann”; as well as Deborah Aquila and Tricia Wood of Aquila/Wood Casting (“What Women Want,” “Mission: Impossible 2”).

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