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SF Studios Expands U.K. Operations, Develops English-Language Survival Thriller ‘Don’t Move’ (EXCLUSIVE)

SF Studios Expands U.K. Biz, Develop
Copyright Albert Hjalmers

As it continues to expand its global profile, Nordic major SF Studios is ramping up its U.K. operations with high-profile new hires and is developing “Don’t Move,” an English-language survival thriller project to be directed by Scandinavian up-and-comer Alain Darborg (“Alex”).

SF Studios, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, stepped into English-Language moviemaking with “Borg McEnroe,” starring Shia LaBeouf, and most recently with “Horizon Line,” which is now in post and has been sold nearly worldwide by STX.

Based on an original story by Darborg, “Don’t Move” is set in Los Angeles and follows a medical student, Ali, who volunteers for the night shift at a Californian zoo. After a rescue mission goes awry, she finds herself trapped in the anaconda enclosure. It will take all of her willpower and intelligence to survive until morning with a hungry predator chasing her down and nowhere to hide. The action of the film will be contained in one location, the zoo, and takes place over one night, explained Fredrik Wikström Nicastro (“Borg McEnroe,” “Horizon Line”), the senior VP of international production at SF Studios, who is producing the film.

“Don’t Move” will start shooting by the end of the year with an international cast. Wikström Nicastro said the company will be casting the movie out of the U.K. as it did with “Horizon Line.” The U.K. is a great hub for casting; even Hollywood productions have been casting out of the U.K.,” said the executive.

“Don’t Move” will mark the English-language debut of Darborg, has been working with SF Studios for several years, and notably directed the hit series “Alex,” one of Viaplay’s most successful drama, and is getting ready to start shooting the Netflix original “Red Dot.”

Darborg said the story of “Don’t Move” came out of a nightmare he had years ago in which he was being chased by snakes. He said the movie will be packed with action and suspense, and will also indirectly address social themes as the main character, Ali, is a Persian-American woman living in Los Angeles. Darborg, who is half-Persian, half-Swedish and grew up in Sweden, said he always felt like an immigrant.

“This film is about… the difficulties of growing up, and about a young woman that has to try to beat extreme physical and psychological obstacles to survive,” said Darborg.

Wikström Nicastro, who has Italian origins, said he was also attracted to the social undertone of the film, even if ultimately the movie is a true “action-packed film and total page-turner.” The executive said the international distribution of the film has not yet been sorted out. “It might be STX with whom we have worked extremely well on ‘Horizon Line.'”

“Part of SF Studios’ international remit is to work with emerging and established Scandinavian talent and give them the opportunity to work on bigger international projects, so working with the hot new Swedish director Alain Darborg on ‘Don’t Move’… is a perfect example of that,” said Wikström Nicastro. SF Studios is financing, producing and will be distributing “Don’t Move” in the Nordics. Wikström Nicastro said SF Studios had the ambition to produce two English-language movies per year starting next year, notably with the remake of “A Man Called Ove” produced by SF Studios and Tom Hanks’s Playtone.

Joining the U.K. outpost of the Nordic production and distribution powerhouse are Sudie Smyth, who will be VP of U.K. and international production, and Indy Datta, who has been appointed VP of legal and business affairs for the U.K. and international. Based out of SF Studios’ London office, both executives will report to Wikström Nicastro and will work closely with Kate Myers, VP development U.K. and international.

Smyth was previously head of production at Pinewood Pictures, where she oversaw production on film and television, including “Belle,” “Dom Hemingway” and “The Shadow Line.” She was also a completion guarantor on “How to Build a Girl,” “Teen Spirit” and “Wild Rose.” Datta, meanwhile, is a lawyer who notably worked at Buccaneer Media (“Marcella”).

“Sudie and Indy are experienced and well-respected executives who bring a wealth of experience and connectivity to SF Studios,” said Wikström Nicastro, who added that the U.K. had become a perfect hub for internationally-driven companies looking to work between Europe and the U.S.

In other SF Studios-related news, the company is joining forces with Antti J. Jokinen’s leading Finnish production Cinematic Inc. to develop and produce “Comet in Moominland,” based on the cult Moomin classic, and “When the Doves Disappeared,” adapted from Sofi Oksanen’s bestseller.

“Comet in Moominland” and “When the Doves Disappeared” are being made by both companies as part of their five-picture deal. SF Studios and Cinematic Inc. are already working together on the action thriller franchise “Omerta” which comprises of two feature films represented in international markets by Reinvent Studios, and a series that will premiere on C More, the Swedish streamer.