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In today’s film news roundup, William Moseley and Johanna Braddy get starring roles, Gravitas buys Malcolm Gladwell’s driverless car documentary, “The Fiddling Horse” gets a prize and “No Safe Spaces” gets a release. 

CASTINGS

William Moseley (“The Royals”) and Johanna Braddy (“Unreal”) are starring in the inspirational drama “Pencil Town,” which has just wrapped shooting around Los Angeles.

The feature film is based on a true story about a ruthless corporate raider on the verge of making partner at his private equity firm, when he is forced to return to his small town roots after he suddenly inherits his father’s nearly bankrupt pencil factory — the heart and soul of the depressed community. He must decide to either join the fight to save the factory, or let it close and relocate to China.

The cast includes Mimi Kennedy, Mary Pat Gleason, Shashawnee Hall, Paul Dooley, Bill Cobbs and James Eckhouse. “Pencil Town” is directed and executive produced by Jay Silverman from a script by Van Billet. Producers are William Newman, Bethany Cerrona and Joe Gamache.

“What excited me about making this film is the passion and unity displayed by the American’s worker’s fight to save their town, their job, and their dignity,” Silverman said. “I’m honored and humbled to be able to tell this story, as it’s at the heart of what America is, and why it’s worth fighting for.”

ACQUISITION

Gravitas Ventures has acquired rights to self-driving cars documentary “Autonomy,” directed by Alex Horwitz and executive produced by author Malcolm Gladwell, Variety has learned exclusively.

The film will be available in theaters and on demand on Nov. 15. “Autonomy” debuted at the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival and was inspired by a cover story in Car and Driver, “Auto-No-Mo’-Us: Addressing the Totality of the Driverless Car,” guest-edited by Gladwell.

“Autonomy” investigates how driverless cars could enhance mobility for the disabled and support agriculture, technology and the economy while also posing the question, “Are we willing to put our lives in the hands of a machine?”

“Alex presents an insightful and balanced examination of the driverless future that we’re racing towards every day, with its global implications both thrilling and foreboding,” said Tony Piantedosi, vice president of acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures.

“Autonomy” was produced by Car and Driver and Haven Entertainment. Piantedosi negotiated the deal with Joe Facarion at Endeavor Content.

FILM FESTIVAL

The Gulf Coast Film Film Festival in Houston has awarded its best feature title to an early edit of “The Fiddling Horse,” a dark comedy starring Paula Lindberg and Andy Kindler.

Lindberg plays a woman who inherits a racehorse, and in an attempt to elevate her failing status within her high society circle, teams up with an ex-celebrity jockey-turned-trainer to secretly execute a long-con to cash in on the monetary and social winnings at the racecourse. J. Ellis Weinstein, Alley Mills, Heather Matarazzo and Billy Mitchell also star.

Producers are CJ Wallis and Mallory Kennedy through Margrette Bird Pictures. The completed film will screen at the Chelsea Film Festival on Oct. 19.

RELEASE SET

Atlas Distribution has set a national platform release for the crowdfunded documentary “No Safe Spaces,” starring Adam Carolla and radio talk show host Dennis Prager.

The film, which explores First Amendment issues and censorship, will open in Phoenix on Oct. 25, followed by Denver, Tampa, San Diego, Greenville, SC., New York and Los Angeles openings on Nov. 15.

Footage was shot during two years and includes appearances by Tim Allen, Van Jones, Alan Dershowitz, Dr. Cornel West, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin. The film features a round table of comedians discussing what they call a backlash against comedy that crosses free speech boundaries.

Mark Joseph is the producer. Justin Folk directed from script by John Sullivan. See a full clip from the film below.