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PRODUCTION Finland

US screenwriters strike boosts Matila Röhr Productions

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In a historical deal for a Finnish film, producer Ilkka Matila has sold US remake rights of Joona Tena’s football comedy FC Venus [+see also:
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to Focus Features and is preparing an English-language version of Anders Engström’s Priest of Evil, due to strong demand for fresh material from US companies, paralysed by the US screenwriters strike.

“I think that FC Venus will be the first Finnish film of which remake rights have been sold to the US,” said Matila, co-managing director of MRP-Matila Röhr Productions with Marko Röhr. The established Finnish producer, who was at the American Film Market last November just as the screenwriters were starting their strike, said that his phone kept ringing with US companies asking him about remake rights and genre films in development.

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Matila is now negotiating remake rights on three other MRP productions with another US company. “The US screenwriters’ strike has obviously boosted our business,” he stressed.

The thriller Priest of Evil, originally set to be directed in Finnish by Engström, will now most certainly be shot in English with major international stars attached. The film is based on Matti Joensuu’s eponymous best-selling novel, published in several languages.

The story centres on policeman Timo who discovers that a suicide at a subway station turns out to be the work of a serial killer, a self-declared priest. The investigation suddenly gets personal when the priest threatens Timo’s wife and daughter.

Meanwhile, MRP’s much-awaited animated film Quest for a Heart, co-produced with Germany (Greenlight Media), Russia (Contact Media Group) and the UK (F&ME) is opening today in Finland through Nordisk Film on over 60 screens.

The first ever animated feature film in Finland features the favourite children’s character Rölli the troll. According to Matila, the film benefited from “the biggest ever merchandising campaign for a Finnish film”.

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