GOTEBORG — Doing one of the things it does best — tapping into original genre talent from the four corners of the globe — L.A-based XYZ Films has boarded “Party Animal,” a werewolf pic from cult Norwegian genre scribe-helmer Patrik Syversen (“Hellfjord”), taking sales rights to what its producers bill as the first modern Scandinavian werewolf movie.
Screenwriter-actor Stig Frode Henriksen, a co-scribe on the “Dead Snow” zombie Nazi franchise, also co-penned “Animal.”
Twinning talent behind “Dead Snow,” and “Hellfjord,” seminal titles on the Nordic Noir scene, “Animal” adds to a XYZ Films slate that, for Berlin alone, features three buzzed-up Sundance titles – “The Raid 2,” “Killers,” and Sundance competition entry “Life After Beth” – plus three new acquisitions: Kevin Smith’s “Tusk,” Toa Fraser’s “The Dead Lands,” and Christopher Denham’s “Preservation.”
A horror film with action and comedic beats, “Animal” turns on a disillusioned young man who arranges a bachelor party for his best friend at a locked-down location. But he has to fight for his life when it turns out that the groom is a werewolf. It is currently in development.
“Party Animal’s” producers are Thor Sigurjonsson and Jacob Jarek from Denmark’s Profile Pictures and Fredrik Pryser at Norway’s Fredrik Fiction.
Director of a stylized slasher, 2008’s “Manhunt,” which turned Syversen into a talent to track, Syversen delivered on promise with “You Said What,” a romcom retooling of Takashi Miike’s “Audition. He received his biggest plaudits to date, however, teaming with Frode Henriksen to co-write and then helm TV series “Hellfjord.”
A surreal procedural set in a backwoods northern Norwegian village milling with oddballs, aired on Norway’s NRT in 2012, its first season rapidly attained cult status.
XYZ’s international talent outreach means the company travels extensively – founder Nate Bolotin swings through Goteborg this week before seguing to Berlin. It has paid off handsomely.
Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 have set a March 28 U.S. release date for Gareth Evans’ highly-anticipated Indonesian actioner “The Raid 2,” co-produced and sold by XYZ Films, and part of one of the highest-profile new action-thriller properties to emerge from Asia in recent years.
XYZ closed a raft of international deals on mob-enforcer action thriller “The Night Comes For Us,” helmed by Timo Tjahjanto, who teamed with fellow Mo Brothers partner – though no brother – Kimo Stamboel on “The Killers,” a Japan-Indonesia thriller produced in association with XYZ Films, its sales agent.
“Killers” world preemed at Park City, has just sold to Lionsgsate U.K., following deals with Germany (Tiberius), France (Wild Side), among major territories. It will screen for the first time to foreign buyers at next week’s European Film Market (EFM).
Also at the EFM, XYZ will show early footage of Toa Fraser’s “The Dead Lands,” a New Zealand action revenge tale, meshing “epic storytelling, combined with gritty, choreographed hand-to-hand action,” said XYZ Films founder Aram Tertzakian.
He added: “It’s already an excellent script. Toa is a magnificent filmmaker, and Matthew Metcalfe is one of the best – if not the best – of producers working in New Zealand.”
“What took us by surprise with ‘The Dead Lands’ is that it’s literally something no one’s seen before on camera, in terms of its profile in culture, its employment of this type of combat. It’s something that’s unique and will excite buyers,” added fellow founding partner Nate Bolotin.
But in genre these days, great talent can come from anywhere, as the “Party Animal” deal underscores. “It’s a level playing field. Films are easier to make than they were before. A good story with a good filmmaker transcends,” said Tertzakian.
One of XYZ’s hottest tickets off Sundance is “Life After Beth,” the directorial debut of American filmmaker Jeff Baena, which was picked up at Sundance by A24 and DirecTV.
Announced during Sundance, XYZ will also sell Smith’s new horror movie “Tusk,” which A24 distributes Stateside.
Footage will be shown Feb. 6 at the EFM at an XYZ promo-reel screening, Bolotin said.
For Bolotin, “What drives us is to be able to discover and help support emerging talent, establishing long-term relationships with filmmakers. But we also want to work with established directors we admire. The best example is Kevin Smith.”
Zeroing in on yet more foreign talent with “Party Animal,” XYZ is fast building an arresting, high profile genre slate. In In the run-up to this year’s Berlin’s European Film Market, one significant question is whether there are elements in genre’s industrial DNA which gives it a competitive edge as the international business is caught in a paradox: Still easy access to U.S. equity coin; ever more difficult markets in ever more parts of Europe.
For Bolotin, “It’s about adapting, understanding the market price for a film before you start, being cost-conscious, smarter about how their films are financed,” so limiting movies’ net budgets.
As tech costs fall, genre is often strikingly cost-conscious. Furthermore, it’s not dependant on Hollywood A-list talent, a finite resource. As demand for this talent outpaces supply, financing now bottlenecks big time before major markets.
Non-star dependency creates new challenges. Beyond certain franchises and names – “The Raid,” Smith – genre movies have little individual brand. So XYZ has to become its own quality brand, a benchmark of good taste and market potential which distributors trust.
“That’s why we’re careful about what we take on. We roll our sleeves up and work with our filmmakers and producers to put them in the best possible situation to succeed,” Tertzakian concluded.