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FRIDAY, JULY 17

Neon is releasing the Alfre Woodard prison drama “Clemency” for free streaming on most platforms through July 31.

“Clemency,” which won the 2019 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, stars Woodard as prison warden worn down by years of carrying out death-row executions. The drama is available on Apple TV, Amazon and Fandago Now, Redbox On Demand, Spectrum, Xfinity, Verizon FIOS, Dish, Cox and Altice.

Woodard will join Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter in a virtual conversation using “Clemency” as a framework for discussion on July 29 at 1 pm PT. SAG-AFTRA is hosting.

Sonoma Film Festival Goes Virtual With Some Outdoor Shows

The Sonoma International Film Festival has set its virtual festival for July 30 through Aug. 2  with 110 features, documentaries and short films.

Additionally, if allowable by state, county and city ordinances, SIFF plans to host up to 16 select films screened at various large, outdoor venues, including drive-ins. All coronavirus health orders and guidelines including social distancing, face coverings, event protocols and hygiene requirements will be implemented.

The lineup includes Agustí Villaronga’s “Born a King,” Liam Firmager’s “Suzi Q,” Elio Espana’s “Banksy & the Rise of Outlaw Art,” “The Qulit” and “Women on the Run.”

Online Platform Tongal Going Completely Remote

Online content creation studio Tongal has announced that it has gone 100% remote.

The company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., said employees will now decide if they want to stay in California or take their lives (and jobs with Tongal) elsewhere. Tongal connects above and below-the-line talent for production jobs for major brands and studios such as Lego, Sesame Workshop, Warner Media, NBC Universal, and Lululemon.

Tongal recently worked with Sesame Workshop to develop a series of social assets to celebrate Pride Month.

THURSDAY, JULY 16

HollyShorts Goes Online Due to Pandemic

The Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival will be moving online and rescheduling its edition due to COVID-19 on Nov. 9-15 on the Bitpix platform, Variety has learned exclusively.

“It’s important to us to continue showcasing the very best in short films while keeping our filmmakers safe,” said HSFF organizers Daniel Sol, Theo Dumont and Nicole Castro in a joint statement. “Our filmmakers are the most important part of this festival and to be able to stream our Sweet 16th anniversary on Bitpix assures that they can stay healthy and actively participate in the HollyShorts community that unites over 80 countries.”

This past year HollyShorts had five films and alumni nominated for Academy Awards with two winners: “Sister” for Best Animated Short and “Learning To Skateboard in A War Zone (If You’re A Girl)” for Best Documentary Short subject.

Hollywood Coalition Unveiled to Promote Independent Content

Two dozen production companies, distributors, sales agents and completion guarantors have joined forces to form the American Coalition for Independent Content Production.

The group is calling on the government to implement urgent funding and support in the face of the new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations including A24, Alcon Entertainment, Amblin Partners, Annapurna Pictures, Avalon, Bron Studios, Endeavor Content, Endless Media, Endurance Media, Film Finances, FilmNation, Gaumont, Le Grisbi, Madrona Drive, Media Guarantors Insurance Solutions, Origin Entertainment, Picturestart, Platonic Systems, Skydance Media, UniFi Completion Guarantors, Valence Media and Village Roadshow.

Political Documentary ‘Represent’ Lands at Music Box

Music Box Films has bought U.S. distribution rights to the documentary feature “Represent,” directed by Hillary Bachelder.

The three women who are the subjects include Myya Jones, a Black 22-year-old who ran for mayor of Detroit; Bryn Bird, a white woman and Democrat in the rural Ohio community of Granville who sets her sights on the upcoming township trustee election; and Julie Cho, a Korean immigrant and conservative Republican running for state representative in the Chicago suburb of Evanston.

“Represent” will receive a virtual theatrical release on Aug. 14 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed and protected women with the right to vote.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15

Drew Barrymore’s ‘The Stand-In’ Sells to Saban

Saban Films has bought North American rights to the comedy “The Stand-in,” starring Drew Barrymore in dual roles as an actress busted for tax evasion and her adoring stand-in — who she hires to do community service in her place.

The cast includes Michael Zegen, Ellie Kemper, T.J. Miller and Holland Taylor. “The Stand-in” had been set to debut at the Tribeca Film Festival before the event was scrubbed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Jamie Babbit directed from Sam Bain’s script and producers are The Exchange’s Caddy Vanasirikul and Brian O’Shea, Flower Films’ Ember Truesdell and Chris Miller and Tom McNulty.

“Drew Barrymore’s acting prowess is on full display and will keep audiences laughing as she seamlessly transforms between her two characters,” said Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley in a statement.

Just Cause’ Movie Signs ‘Stuber’ Director 

“Stuber” director Michael Dowse has signed to helm “Just Cause,” an upcoming movie adaptation of the video game series from Constantin Film and Prime Universe.

Producers hired “John Wick” creator Derek Kolstad last year to write the script. Avalanche Studios and Square Enix created the game series, which draws its name from the 1989 United States invasion of Panama, code-named Operation Just Cause.

The series has shipped more than 35 million units. The news about Dowse was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Stan Lee Universe Sets Comic Book Publishing Deal

Genius Brands International has entered into a comic book publishing agreement with Archie Comics for properties in the Stan Lee Universe.

The initial property slated for publication as a comic book in partnership with Archie will be “Superhero Kindergarten.” Genius Brands also announced that Michael E. Uslan, who has executive producer credits on the Batman movie franchise, will advise it on building global branded franchises.

Genis and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment announced on July 6 that they were collaborating to create the Stan Lee Universe for properties that were made by Lee outside of Marvel Entertainment.

TUESDAY, JULY 14

Lynn Shelton ‘Of a Certain Age” Grant Announced

Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, alongside Duplass Brothers Productions, are launching the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant to honor the late filmmaker.

The $25,000 unrestricted cash grant will be awarded each year to a U.S.-based woman or non-binary filmmaker, age 39 or older, who has yet to direct a narrative feature. Shelton often spoke of feeling inspired after seeing filmmaker Claire Denis speak at Northwest Film Forum and learning that Denis did not make her first feature until age 40.

Shelton made her own first feature film (“We Go Way Back”) at the age of 39 and went on to direct “Humpday,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “Laggies,” “Outside In” and “Sword of Trust.” She died on May 16 at the age of 54 of a blood disorder.

Gravitas Buys ‘Senior Love Triangle’ for August Release

Gravitas Ventures has acquired all North American rights to the romantic drama “Senior Love Triangle,” starring Tom Bower, Marlyn Mason, and Anne Gee Byrd, Variety has learned exclusively.
Bower portrays a charming but delusional 84-year-old man who forms romantic relationships with two elderly women, and attempts to free them from the confines of their nursing homes.  The film was directed by Kelly Blatz, and written by Blatz and Isadora Kosofsky.
Lori Tanner executive produced through Dow Jazz Films. Baron Davis and Jenna Cavelle produced through their No Label Productions and Her Pictures. Kelly Blatz, Drew Diamond and Matthew Smaglik produced through Flamingo Eyes. Gravitas will release the film digitally and on-demand on Aug. 4.

Slated Hires Veteran Executive Tim Wesley as CEO

Slated has hired veteran executive Tim Wesley,  who has worked AMC Theatres and RedBox On Demand, as its chief executive officer.

Co-founder Stephan Paternot, who led the financing-sales-packaging company as CEO for the previous six years, will continue with the company as executive chairman.

Slated also announced a trio of entertainment industry executives had joined its board: Yair Landau (former vice chairman of Sony Pictures and president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment), David Wertheimer (former president of digital at Fox Networks Group and president of Paramount Digital Entertainment) and Michael Joe (former chief operating officer of STXfilms and executive VP of Universal Pictures).

MONDAY, JULY 13

Doug Belgrad Developing Unabomber Project as Psychological Thriller 

“Bad Boys for Life” producer Doug Belgrad is developing a psychological thriller about Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist who became known as the Unabomber.

Kaczynski, in an attempt to foment revolution, conducted a bombing campaign between 1978 and 1995 that killed three people and injured 23 others before he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to 10 felony counts and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in 1998.

Belgrad and Sophie Cassidy are producing through Sony-based 2.0 Entertainment, which has hired writers Sam Chalsen and Nelson Greaves to write the script. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Philippine Documentary ‘A Thousand Cuts’ Scheduled for U.S. Release 

Frontline and PBS Distribution have set an Aug. 7 theatrical release for the documentary “A Thousand Cuts” from Ramona S. Diaz.

The film examines the crackdown on the news media in the Philippines by President Rodrigo Duterte and his targeting of journalist Maria Ressa, who was found guilty last month in a “cyber libel” case. The film premiered in January at Sundance.

“The fact that ‘A Thousand Cuts’ becomes more relevant every passing day not only in the Philippines, but globally is alarming,” said Diaz. “Right now, it is more important than ever to amplify Maria’s story because there are many Marias all over the world. Without a free press, democracy crumbles.”

Egyptian Filmmaker Sam Abbas Captures Reopening of Louvre Museum 

Filmmaker Sam Abbas has debuted a new 2.5-minute short film, “Rusted Caravaggios,” documenting the first public invitation to the Louvre Museum on July 6 following a four-month closure.

Abbas performed duties as director, cinematographer and sound recorder in showing a near-empty museum, which included a tableau with a man sitting still next to Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”

The Egyptian director’s credits include “The Wedding” and “Alla’s Birth.” The news was first reported by Deadline Hollowood.