On Wednesday, AGC Studios founder Stuart Ford, director Roland Emmerich and producer and co-writer Harald Kloser unveiled to buyers at Cannes’ Carlton Hotel one of the biggest-budgeted movie projects ever to be offered on the open market: Emmerich’s “Moonfall,” a $150 million sci-fi action-thriller.
To raise “Moonfall’s” finance, alongside partners CAA, AGC Studios by Wednesday morning was “already immersed in a wide range of discussions and negotiations from sources ranging across major studios to the big independents to Chinese and international equity investors, to local Chinese distributors,” Ford said.
AGC held a standing room-only informational meeting packed with a reported 500 international attendees — hailing from Brazil, China, Japan and France, to name a few places — at a chandelier-lined ballroom in the Carlton Hotel, which overlooks the Mediterranean and the Croisette.
The team hopes to finish “Midway,” currently in the final stretch of post-production, by mid-September, then begin prepping “Moonfall” in the last quarter of this year. Shooting will begin next March and the film is expected to be completed by early 2021.
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It has yet to be cast, but Emmerich said, “we’ll stay away from too big a name” to avoid overshadowing the movie.
“It’s a complex negotiating landscape and feels a bit like the Battle of Winterfell but hopefully with a sunnier ending,” Ford added.
But raising third-party equity and selling “Moonfall” is only part of AGC Studios’ business. These days, rolling the dice on pure-play sales or distribution is an ever riskier uphill task for independents as U.S distribution outlets constrict and foreign market valuations fall even lower.
Positioned principally as a production-financing movie company, AGC Studios is moving more into the TV business — the same direction being taken by taken by other capitalized international movie players at Cannes such as FilmNation, Studiocanal, Constantin Film and Anton, to name just four.
“I still believe that well-chosen and smartly configured projects can find great financial and audience success via the independent distributor path,” said Ford. “But clearly there are also broader and bigger opportunities for a content company able to embrace the wider digital distribution universe. So we are playing extensively in both spaces,” he added.
AGC Studios already has three in-house productions in progress: Noomi Rapace starrer “The Secrets We Keep,” Neil Burger’s sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” and Tate Taylor comedy “Breaking News in Yuba County,” which also rolls next month with Mila Kunis and Regina Hall joining Allison Janney as key cast.
Six more movies rom AGC are revving up for second-half shoots:
- WWII feature drama “All That I Am,” starring Elizabeth Debicki and Vicky Krieps, directed by Emmy Award nominated Kate Dennis (“The Handsmaid’s Tale”), produced by Gabrielle Tena (”Stan and Ollie”) and Troy Lum (“The Water Diviner”).
- Nicole Kidman will star in a yet-to-be titled period drama comedy, “in the vein of ‘Madness of King George,’” said Ford, to shoot in the U.K. and produced by Tena and Lum.
- Kristin Scott Thomas’ directorial debut, romantic drama “The Sea Change.”
- N’Zinga Stewart (“Grey’s Anatomy”) will direct romantic comedy “The Perfect Find,” shooting this fall.
- Singer-actress Kiana Lede will star in teen hip-hop comedy “We Really Cool,”“Dear White People” producer Effie Brown producing and Melissa Murray directing.
- “Blackish” star Anthony Anderson is attached to star in “Football or Me,” inspired by Argentine comedy hit “Futbol o yo.”
Film, however, may soon prove a smaller part of AGC Studios’ business.
AGC’s business plan is “50/50 film/TV,” Ford said. But, he noted, “our biggest single investment is ‘War of the Worlds’ and that’s television, and that’s likely to continue to be the case.”
AGC’S lineup of scripted series in advanced development bears that out. New titles for television include:
- A drama set in the world of televangelists written by John Sayles with John Hillcoat directing;
- a female-led action thriller with “Black Swan’s” John McLaughlin writing;
- a WWII limited series written by Iris Yamashita, scribe of “Letters from Iwo Jima”;
- and an adaptation of the “Angeltown” graphic novel series, from Pat Charles (“Black Lightning,” “Bones”).
AGC Studios aims to go into production later this summer on a series adaptation for Amazon Studios of Gabriel García Márquez’s “News of a Kidnapping.”
Across film and television, AGC Studios will “try to maximize the benefits of our very long-standing international relationships with the major international broadcasters, pay TV operators and independent distributors.
“That universe is part of our DNA and can be a great source of high-end international production projects,” Ford added, citing “War of the Worlds,” where involvement stemmed from a “long-standing relationship” with Studiocanal.
This allowed AGC to co-finance with Studiocanal and Fox Intl. — an association consolidating AGC as a top TV player.
It’s in international where many major opportunities may lie.Said Ford: “A lot of the local broadcasters and local platforms, in order to compete with the global giants at a premium content level need to either originate their own projects or partner with each other and with well capitalized, dynamic and international-facing companies like our own.
The bold moves into TV, as much as such achievements as assembling financing on the $100 million “Midway” off last year’s Cannes Festival, may be one of AGC’s strongest bets as it looks to the future.
Even Cannes these days is just part of a far larger equation.