Sandbox Films, Documentary Maker, Launches With Projects from Werner Herzog, Penny Lane, and More (EXCLUSIVE)

Toronto Intl. Film Festival

Sandbox Films, a new production company that will back documentary films about scientific inquiry, is launching at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

The company is on hand (virtually) for the world premiere of its inaugural effort, “Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds,” a new non-fiction effort from Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer the explores the science, history and mythology around meteors that fell to Earth.

In addition to “Fireball,” Sandbox Films has signed onto executive produce three upcoming documentaries with filmmakers Ondi Timoner (“Dig!,” “We Live in Public”), Penny Lane (“Hail Satan?,” “Our Nixon”) and Theo Anthony (“Rat Film”).

“There is really a hole in the documentary space in terms of commissioning films like these,” said Greg Boustead, who will serve as director and executive producer of Sandbox Films. “Outside of Nat Geo, Discovery and ‘Nova,’ there are not a lot of places where independent filmmakers can go to get resources to tell stories about science.”

The goal, Boustead said, is to “reinvent the science documentary, so that they’re less didactic and like going to school.”

The company also hopes to tell more inclusive stories and to back projects from and about women, people of color and other underrepresented groups.

Timoner’s new effort is still untitled, but it is described as an experimental look through the eyes of scientists and artists at how technology is transforming our ways of connecting and loving, given the societal trend towards increasing physical isolation, accelerated by the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In addition to directing, Timoner will produce with David Turner. Sandbox Films has partnered with Interloper Films to executive produce.

Titled “Confessions of a Good Samaritan,” Lane’s new film explores the nature of altruism when she decides to give one of her kidneys to a stranger. This look at the ethics of organ transplantation asks: Who is your neighbor, and what do you owe them? The film is being produced by Gabriel Sedgwick. Sandbox Films will executive produce with development support from Impact Partners.

In “All Light, Everywhere,” Anthony explores the shared histories of cameras and weapons, images and justice. As surveillance technologies become more and more mainstream, the film interrogates the complexity of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception and the lens. Riel Roch Decter, Sebastian Pardo and Jonna McKone are producing. Sandbox Films has partnered with Memory to executive produce.

The company says it has nearly a dozen films in some stage of production. Sandbox Films will operate as a non-profit with backing from the Simons Foundation, a 501c-3 organization dedicated to advancing the frontiers of scientific research.

“For us science is the art of asking questions,” said Jessica Harrop, Sandbox Films’ head of production. “We want to explore deep truths about the world in a way that may leave audiences with more questions than answers.”

Herzog, Effie Brown, David Byrne and Wendy Ettinger have signed on as advisors.

Herzog, who as founding advisor played a key role in shaping the company’s ethos, commented, “Sandbox Films is uniquely bold and unorthodox in its approach, and completely unafraid to ask difficult questions. This is what attracts me to Sandbox Films. This is why it’s exciting and an honor to contribute to its vision.”

Brown said, “More so than ever before, it is becoming the standard to expect audiences to be inquisitive and curious. I am excited to support Sandbox Films because I know they will push the boundaries of exploring untold stories from across the globe.”