REPORT: Frontières@Brussels 2016
by David González
A report on the projects that were pitched at Frontières 2016, the international co-production market for genre films in Europe
The Frontières International Co-Production Market, the first and only co‐production market to connect North America with Europe in an environment specifically focused on genre-film production and financing, returns to Brussels. The event marks its third edition in the Belgian capital with a record number of submissions, taking place under the wing of the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. From 30 March to 1 April, Frontières is the gathering place for teams behind 20 genre-film projects selected for the pitching sessions, hailing from both continents. This year, besides the usual panels and the Meet the Financiers networking session, the new Frontières Award will be given to one of the projects by the Producers Network of the Cannes Film Market. Market director Lindsay Peters and executive director Julie Bergeron kicked off this edition with the pitching sessions.
Evrim Ersoy's 12 (UK)
Istanbul-born, London-based filmaker Evrim Ersoy, whose short films have been selected in various genre film festivals (the Turn Your Bloody Phone Off trilogy, Tokophobia, Abdullah) and who is now serving as a head programmer for the Fantastic Fest, is behind this film project. 12, a "unique thriller, inspired by 70s cinema and Korean new thriller", as the director and writer put it, follows two veteran detectives who have only got 12 hours to collect everything needed to convict someone who has become their deepest obsession: a wealthy man who is definitely guilty, brought in to the police station on a technicality. DoP Stephen Murphy is in charge of its powerful, dark, neon-drenched look, as well as the confident decision to shoot the film in 35mm. Producer James Pearcey, for Ne'er Do Well Films, who has been backing the director, says, "domestic UK production is tricky right now - we feel proud to present it to international partners." The film, budgeted at £1,600,000, is looking for Belgian co-production partners, as well as a sales agent.
Chris W. Mitchell's Amsterdam Gothic (The Netherlands/Belgium)
A young female art historian from Australia participating in an art restoration project in Amsterdam is lured into a terrifying parallel world of darkness by the evil spirit of a 17th century painter. This is the thrilling premise of Amsterdam Gothic, a film project by English-born, Netherlands-based Chris W. Mitchell, whose feature debut The Pool, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim. The film's script is the late American-Australian screenwriter Everett de Roche's (Long Weekend, Patrick and Road Games) final work, and director and writer Mitchell has found visual inspiration in the trompe-l'oeils of Samuel van Hoogstraaten. The usual suspects of the production company House of Netherhorror, Jan Doense and Herman Slagter, are also behind the project, which has already got the backing of the Dutch Film Fund (also a supporter of Frontières). The film, budgeted at €2,400,000 and to be shot in English and Dutch, is looking for Belgian co-producers and sales agents. Update: The team has already struck its first deal in the market with Belgian producer Peter De Maegd from Belgian outfit Potemkino, turning the film into a Dutch-Belgian co-production.
Yvonne Kerékgyartó and Gary Vanisian's Bath of Blood (Hungary)
Hungarian film project Bath of Blood is Yvonne Kerékgyartó's second feature film (after her Cineuropa prize-winning Free Entry in 2014) and first directing collaboration with German filmmaker Gary Vanisian. The film, written both by Kerékgyartó and Vanisian and inspired by the atmosphere of the Turkish baths in Budapest, is a story of murder set in this exotic and sensuous place, linked to an ancient story, that Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent's wife, at the core of a ritual bloodshed. Hungarian producer Karoly Feher of Popfilm Ltd. (The Wednesday Child) is putting the elements together to give birth to this film: the weird and stylish story of tourists and locals (Hungary's Bori Peterfy and Peter Scherer will be starring) set against a bloody backdrop, taking inspiration from the work of giallo masters such as Mario Bava. The film, budgeted at €912,775 and set to be shot in Hungarian and English, is in development and looking for European co-producers and sales agents.
Elin Gronblom's Bloodsuckers (Finland)
A horror thriller in which the danger is...the mosquitos? A New York Film Academy graduate, Finnish filmmaker Elin Gronblom is preparing her first feature film around this idea. A mosquito expert travels to the middle of Finnish Lapland to study a new, fast breeding species – which she needs to fight off, right after finding out that they grow stronger, smarter and deadlier with each new generation. Finnish producer Leila Lyytikainen of Fisher King Production is accompanying Gronblom in this project, which is budgeted at €2,500,000 and has already got the support of the Finnish Film Fund and the Nordic TV Film Fund. An English-language film inspired by creature suspense and character driven stories, which the team aims to tell respecting their Scandinavian roots and adapting to anglophone entertainment narrative, that is looking for co-production partners and sales agents.
Aaron Schimberg's Chained For Life (US)
A beautiful actress agrees to play a role in which she falls in love with a disfigured sanatorium patient, but when she ultimately betrays him, there are repercussions for both her and her character. Such is the logline for the new film by American filmmaker Aaron Schimberg (Go Down Death), who is inspired now by the greatest movies about filmmaking and the creepiest, disturbing yet tender movies about disfigured characters. The project, produced by Vanessa McDonnell for Grand Motel, is the duo's most ambitious one yet, which is hoping to be an international co-production, with international cast, and possibly set in Europe, where they are looking for, in the producer's words, “a dream location – and eventually, the dream audiences”. The film, budgeted at $500,000 is looking for co-production partners and sales agents.
David Morlet's Crashed (France)
After a horrific car crash, a woman awakens in an amnesic state to find herself in the middle of the wreckage under a tunnel. French filmmaker David Morlet is basing his new film project on this high-concept story, a one-location thriller about the ordeal of the woman in the main role to find out about her own personality and how she came to find herself in a car-shaped iron coffin. Producers Vincent Brançon (La Fabrique de Films) and François Cognard (Tobina Films), working for independent collective production company To Be Continued, presented the film, in Morlet's absence, who is currently shooting a TV series for French channel TF1 as well as that of Jean-Luc Cano (Girls With Balls, videogames). The film is looking for an international cast (two actors), and is following the steps of one-location films like Daylight, Buried and Locke, and also looking back to French pulp films of the 50s and 60s and the British thrillers of the 60s. The team, who has already got the VFX partner Workshop 69 on board, is looking for co-production partners (from anywhere, given that it will be shot in a studio) for this €2,500,000 project.
Daniel Perlmutter's Demonolatry (Canada)
The film by this Canadian director is a horror comedy about a couple who spend a weekend in the country with some friends to deal with their relationship issues, planning on make up their minds about getting married right before going through with it, but end up facing off against demons after finding a frozen woman in the surroundings, who they bring home to take care of. Inspired by recent films like Babadook, It Follows and Eli Roth's gory flicks on the dark side as well as by Woody Allen's witty humour on the lighter side, Demonolatry, still in development, has already won prizes in key film events such as the Toronto International Film Festival, thus getting funding from Canadian institutions. Producer Laura Perlmutter is behind the project, which is budgeted at C$1,200,000 and looking for locations, co-production partners and sales agents.
Amanda Kramer's Drain You (US)
A stylish horror flick that, in the words of its producer, goes beyond the arthouse-horror combo to create “a new genre altogether: LGBT grunge horror.” US director Amanda Kramer is adapting her own novel (written under the pseudonym M. Beth Bloom), Drain You, after having enjoyed success with her title Don't Ever Change. A story of a 17-year-old girl that falls in lust with a sexy older girl and becomes ensnared in a feud with nihilistic slacker demons: this is the premise of the film, which is using style references ranging from recent titles It Follows and Palme d'Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour, 90s flicks Reality Bites and Clueless and masters' styles such as those of David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Gil Kenan, director of the 2015 remake of Poltergeist is executive producing the film, produced by Rebecca Rose Perkins and budgeted at $2,500,000. The team is looking for co-production partners who will support the Los Angeles or Austin shoot as well as sales agents.
Paul Urkijo's Errementari (Spain/France)
In Errementari, Spanish director Paul Urkijo is going back to his Basque roots by telling the folk legend of Patxi Errementaria, the story of a blacksmith after the First Carlist War (1840) who is harassed by a devil demanding the payment of his soul to satisfy the terms of a deal they had struck many years before and whose situation is unexpectedly challenged by a small girl who wanders into their world. A film to be set in a dark, evil, fantastic and somewhat kid-friendly atmosphere with historic roots such as Sleepy Hollow, TV series The Storyteller and Pan's Labyrinth. Spanish producer Miguel Ángel Jiménez of Kinoskopik (Ori, Seagull) and French producer Rodolphe Sanze of The Project are moving this project forward, with 80% of the €2,370,000 funding already in place, thanks to the Basque government and TV channel ETB. The Basque-language film, very well prepared regarding locations (Basque forests and castle) and visuals (comic-like fantasy, aiming to mix prosthetics and VFX) is looking for final co-producers and sales agents.
Benjamin Viré's Fracture (Belgium)
A former hip-hop star sees his hopes of staging a comeback compromised after a violent argument with his wife...and his strange discovery of a severed head on a beach. Belgian director Benjamin Viré's new feature film after his BIFFF-screened Solitaire traces the dark life events of this hip-hop star in an attempt to, in his own words, "trap the character inside of his head, as well as draw a parallel line between madness and creative process." Labelled as “a movie about loneliness” and a study of vengeance, madness and personal confinement, the movie is set to be produced by Samuel Tilman and Marie Besson of Eklektik Productions. With a budget of €1,700,000, filmmakers and producers are looking for co-production partners that will join them in the making of the movie, set to be shot in locations in Belgium such as North Sea city De Panne.
Thor Klein's Ghosts of India (Germany)
The death of Lucy's boyfriend during their holiday in India leaves her shattered and all alone until she finds out that her true love's ghost is trapped in a microchip. She has to find a way to release him, otherwise he will turn into an evil Indian spirit. A film challenging the traditional, spiritual world against the technological, modern world is what German filmmaker Thor Klein has in mind in his ode to “technology as a spiritual realm – and love as a superpower”. Dragonfly Films producer Lena Vurma is also backing the English-language film, after the two worked together on the successful 3D horror/sci-fi thriller Lost Place, the first German movie ever to be mixed in Dolby Atmos, and released by Warner Bros in its country. The film, with references to films such as Ghost and Her, is budgeted at €4,000,000 and has already received a screenwriting award from Germany's Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg, as well as support from the DFFF and other institutions. The team is looking for an executive producer and co-producers.
Glenn McQuaid's Grimes & Blake At Your Service (US)
The new film by US director Glenn McQuaid, known for his period horror comedy I Sell The Dead (starring Larry Fessenden, Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman) and his contribution to horror omnibuses V/H/S and 5 States of Fear, is another sample of his special, imaginative vision. Grimes & Blake At Your Service is the story of grave robbers Willie Grimes and Arthur Blake, who take on the biggest heist of their career, teaming up with a strange company in order to snatch some corpses: the more unusual the creature the higher the price tag. Peter Phok, alongside Larry Fessenden are producing for Glass Eye Pix, and Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman are again part of the film's cast. The film, a Terry Gilliam-like dark fantasy story with a budget of $5,000,000, is seeking for European co-production partners.
Can Evrenol's Housewife (Turkey)
Turkish filmmaker Can Evrenol's previous film Baskin was one of the most important successes in his country's film industry. The film was the first Turkish genre film to receive international acclaim, being selected in several festivals around the world, as well as the 8th Turkish film ever to be distributed theatrically in the US. Evrenol returns to the horror world with the continuation of this story in Housewife: the disintegration of a woman's sanity, in the face of the fear of society, traumatic, family history and existentialist paranoia. Evrenol wants it to be his first English-language feature film, set in Istanbul; a female-driven gothic story inspired by films like masterpieces like Safe, Repulsion or Possession, as well as the styles of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Produced by Evrenol and Muge Buyuktalas for Mo Film, the €750,000 film has already cast David Sakurai (Liza, the Fox-Fairy), has a co-producer from Los Angeles on board, and is looking for more co-production partners as well as sales agents in the US or the UK.
Pascal Trottier's In Vitro (Canada)
A grief stricken scientist implants his dead wife's clone into a surrogate and struggles with the consequences of a genetically altered fetus. In Vitro, Canadian screenwriter Pascal Trottier's first feature film as a director, is a character-driven story that explores genetic manipulation, obsession and family legacy. Produced by Casey Walker for Cave Painting Pictures, the film is labeled as a “The Fly meets Ex Machina” scenario, tinged with some Cronenbergian touches – although the film is “not a creature feature, not pregnancy horror film, but a modern twist of the Frankenstein myth", according to its director. Walker also pointed out that “Canada has more co-production treaties than any other country”, while looking for co-production, sales and distribution partners, for this relatively easy film to shoot (with a budget of C$2,000,000), that can be shot anywhere because of its lack of different locations.
Guillaume Pierret's Loyal (France)
Disabled after a burglary at his mansion, a young aristocrat and former fencing champion hires an old gangster to be his caregiver – but only to use him to complete his revenge. Loyal, by French filmmaker Guillaume Pierret, is a film that will focus on the relationship between two male characters, revenge in the countryside and a western siege through comic book visual codes and archetypes. Produced by Remi Lautier (Indemne Films), Frederic Fiore (Logical Pictures) and Alexis Perrin (Rumble Fish), the film is budgeted at €850,000. The film draws inspiration from modern westerns of the 70s, such as Sam Peckinpah's French titles like The Horse and more recent films like Blue Ruin. The film is intended to be shot at locations in the south of France, although it is open to conditions from other partners, as long as the French-looking style is kept. The team is looking for financing and casting.
Rémi Fréchette's La maison sans visage (Canada)
After his mother's death, a young man returns to his hometown, a small village in the countryside, to help his sister empty her mother's house – which reveals some disturbing bloody family secrets. Fréchette has picked this story, written by Sophie Grech, as his first feature film financed from scratch – previously he had directed short films and a webseries (Les jaunes) that was later repackaged as a feature film. Basing the story on the problems that being a hoarder can inflict on someone's life and that of those dear to them, Fréchette draws inspiration from Spanish films The Orphanage and The Others. Caroline Gaudette is producing the film, without confirmed budget so far, for Productions Version 10, which has already found a location in the South of France (Abriès) and some cast attached (Nicolas Berno, Isabelle Giroux, Emmanuel Martin, Maitre Leduc).
Alexandre O. Philippe's Monsters Within (US)
Alexandre O. Philippe's new film, Monsters Within, will recount the dramatic events and extraordinary character dynamics that led to the creation of two of the foremost literature and movie monsters – Frankenstein's monster and the modern vampire. Philippe wants to focus on “the emotions, the jealousies and dangerous minds behind the creation of the monsters, who were basically created on the very same night, in the very same house, by Mary Shelley (Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus) and Lord Byron (The Vampyre)”. Therefore, in order to have form matching content, Philippe has decided to do it through an animation documentary, a very creative and imaginative method that has resulted in stylized, multilayered films like Waltz with Bashir. With several partners already on board (such as Paul Sullivan as the art director and Smon Boswell as composer), the film, produced by Kerry Roy for Exhibit A Pictures with a budget of $2,000,000, aims to be ready for 2018, to celebrate Frankenstein's bicentennial.
Vincent Toujas' Painkillers (Belgium)
Belgian filmmaker Vincent Toujas is developing his first feature, the thriller with a hint of supernatural genre, Painkillers. The story follows a man who, after a terrible accident, starts suffering a constant unbearable pain that takes over his body, for which the only solution he discovers is to appease it with the taste of human blood. Written by Gilles Daoust, the screenplay has already received 8 awards and nominations in different festivals and pitching competitions. Produced by Toujas himself and Catherine Dumonceaux for Title Media (Starry Eyes, Fear, Inc.), with help of executive producers (Mike Macari, known for The Ring and Alain Berliner, known for My Life in Pink), the English-language film is budgeted at €500,000. Half of the budget is already in place, and the team is looking for co-producers, sales agents and distributors. The director is willing to rethink the vampire myth through post-traumatic disorder, but with the inclusion of more optimistic, beautiful human values, drawing inspiration from films The Machinist and Memento (regarding characters) and films Blue Ruin and Cheap Thrills (regarding type of production).