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Stromberg, Third Floor team for Hydra

Pre-vis studio will finance feature development

Hollywood’s newest production banner has many heads: established pre-vis company the Third Floor, Oscar-winning production designer Robert Stromberg, “Avatar” concept artist and production designer Dylan Cole and veteran storyboard/comicbook artist Mark Moretti.

Appropriately, they’re calling the venture Hydra, and their hope is to become an alternative to studio development — a place where filmmakers can come to get their CG and live-action ideas off the ground just enough to entice studio partners for financing and distribution. Los Angeles-based company will use an inhouse fund to finance development, including a couple of projects already in the works.

Stromberg, who won back-to-back Oscars for his work as the production designer on “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” is making his directorial debut with Disney’s “Maleficent.” He was able to generate early momentum for the project and demonstrate his directorial style with a pitch-vis presentation.

“Many of the ‘pitch-vis’ trailers we’ve created for our clients have resulted in fully funded, greenlit productions,” said Chris Edwards, CEO of the Third Floor. “These successes convinced us to join forces with world-class filmmakers, production designers and other storytellers.”

Among projects in development at Hydra is “Safari,” a large-scale adventure pic in the vein of “Jurassic Park” and “Avatar” that Stromberg has committed to direct. Another is “The Otherworldly Adventures of Tyler Washburn,” a family film based on the children’s book written and illustrated by Cole.

“Now that I’m doing my own films and seeing what it takes to get something off the ground, I can tell you Hydra is an exciting next step for anybody who has an idea,” Stromberg told Variety. “With projects that have been sitting around a long time at a studio, it could rejuvenate those that would be potentially never be made.”

Hydra’s process enables simultaneous story and visual development, blending traditional screenwriting with high-end concept design, storyboarding and previsualization. While several like-minded companies in the videogame and book worlds are taking the transmedia approach, Hydra believes it’s the only company coming from a pre-vis background.

“Our goal is leveraging a lot of experiences that to us became the secret for getting a studio greenlight,” said producer Joel Newton, who will serve as general manager.”Everyone has been using us as the secret sauce, so that after a studio exec who’s inclined to say no sees the entire scope of the movie with a pre-vis trailer, it would get greenlit.”

The Third Floor’s former head of production, Nathan Santell, will head development for Hydra.

Hydra has a strategic partnership with the Third Floor, which has created pre-vis for hit movies including “The Avengers” and “Thor” for Marvel Studios, “Men in Black 3” for Columbia Pictures, “Alice in Wonderland” for Disney and “Avatar” for 20th Century Fox.

Santell, who previously served as director of development at Jaret Entertainment, met the Third Floor team while working on the “Resident Evil 5” videogame and worked through the ranks. Newton co-founded Artist Intl. and met Hydra’s founding trio when he left to focus on producing.

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