The Midway Point, Swipe NYC, Imani, Freedom Hair Castings; Burbank Film Fest Host & Presenters; Acquisitions By Gravitas, Freestyle, Buffalo 8, Film Arcade, Safier, Terror Films, Giant Pictures; More Film Briefs

EXCLUSIVE: Sean Ryan Fox (Henry Danger) and Catherine Daddario (Oak) will lead the cast of the indie high school drama The Midway Point, marking the feature directorial debut of writer-director Lucca Vieira, which has wrapped production in Los Angeles. Others in the ensemble include 2019 Honorary Academy Award winner Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans), Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Thora Birch (Ghost World) and Julie Benz (Dexter).

The coming-of-age film said to be in the vein of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade follows the introverted and highly creative high school senior Jake (Fox) as he experiences his first love with Alice (Daddario), a brash and outgoing classmate. As the two open up to one another, the seemingly opposite pair find they have more in common than meets the eye. Studi plays Jake’s teacher, with Birch as his mother, and Benz as the school’s guidance counselor who helps him with his social anxieties.

An animator and award-winning short filmmaker, Viera based The Midway Point in part on his experiences as a person on the autism spectrum. He’s looking with the feature to embolden producers to allow neurodiverse artists like himself a chance to tell their stories with creative freedom. David Guglielmo (The Standoff at Sparrow Creek) cast the film, with Daemon Hillin (Apache Junction) of Hillin Entertainment and Carolina Brasil (Maneater) of Stone Horus serving as producers.

Fox is represented by Gersh, Zero Gravity Management and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman; Daddario by Innovative Artists and Cultivate Entertainment Partners; Studi by Innovative Artists and Michael Black Management; Birch by Luber Roklin Entertainment; and Benz by Paradigm, Stride Management and Meyer & Downs.

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EXCLUSIVE: Lisa Edelstein (The Kominsky Method), Richard Schiff (The Good Doctor) and Bridget Moynahan (Blue Bloods) will lead the cast of Sue Zarco Kramer’s short film Swipe NYC, which enters production in New York later this month.

The short follows the adventures of the newly divorced empty nester, Syd (Edelstein), as she navigates the world of online dating in Brooklyn. Each “swipe” serves as a metaphoric stepping stone towards putting the pieces of her life back together. Kramer will direct from her own script and produce alongside Moynahan, Cheryl Bayer and David Kelsey. Heather Sederquist is executive producing, with Katia Koziara serving as co-producer.

Kramer is repped by Gersh and attorney André Des Rochers; Edelstein by Edelstein by Gersh and Genuine Artists; Schiff by Paradigm, Leverage Management and Nelson Davis; and Moynahan by WME, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.

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EXCLUSIVE: Actor-director Christine Lakin (The Goldbergs) has been tapped as the host for the 14th annual Burbank Film Festival Awards Gala, set to take place on September 11th.

The fest headed up by newly elected President Kurt Patino has also rounded out its lineup of presenters for the gala, which will include composer Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel), as well as actors Autumn Reeser (The O.C.), Kelly Stables (Superstore), Eric Petersen (Kevin Can F**k Himself), Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul), Maya Stojan (Hunt Club), Jes Macallan (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Bernardo Badillo (Emily the Criminal), Jim Piddock (Best in Show) and Michael Pare (Starhunter). Additional presenters include The Umbrella Academy producers Jason Neese and Jamie Neese, Here TV’s David Millbern and Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes, whose attendance had already been confirmed.

Veteran talk show scribe Brian Kiley (Conan) is writing for the awards show, which will take place in the Marriott Burbank’s Academy Ballroom. Barry Jay’s drama The Way Out, starring Mike C. Manning, Jonny Beauchamp and Ashleigh Murray, opens the festival, which runs from September 8-11 at AMC Burbank 16.

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EXCLUSIVE: Brittany S. Hall (Ballers) has found her first lead film role in the upcoming action film Imani, which Mike Ho is directing for Faith Media Distribution, in his feature debut. Others joining the ensemble include Demetrius Shipp Jr. (All Eyez on Me), Stephen Bishop (The Terminal List), Kris D. Lofton (Power Book IV: Force), Elyse Mirto (Dynasty) and Michael Monks (King Saud).

Loosely based on the novel Goddess of War by SLMN, Imani follows the story of Faith Newford (Hall), who has it all, living a seemingly normal life as a mother and wife to Bryce Newford (Shipp). A year after what Faith thinks was a car accident, she slowly recovers from amnesia, only to learn that she is a highly powerful, sought-after Army Special Ops Lieutenant who holds classified intel that would blow the lid off an international conspiracy. Amaleka McCall and Tu-Shonda Whitaker wrote the script, with Manny Halley, Rodney Turner II and Yolanda Halley of Faith Media Distribution producing the pic slated for release in late fall.

Hall is repped by APA, the UK’s Alexander White Agency, Link Entertainment and Myman Greenspan Fox; Shipp by A3 Artists Agency and Artistry Collective; Bishop by Greene Talent and Weiner Dale Management; Lofton by Stewart Talent and Cavalry Media; Mirto by Illinois’ Shirley Hamilton Talent and Georgia’s Aligned Stars Agency; Monks by Momentum Talent and Literary Agency and Bohemia Group; and Ho by Verve, Artistry Collective and Andre Des Rochers.

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EXCLUSIVE: Jean Elie (Insecure) will star alongside Lauren Lapkus in the indie Another Happy Day, from Red Squirrel Films, which Nora Fiffer wrote and is directing as her first feature.

The postpartum comedy follows artist, new mom, and hot mess Joanna (Lapkus) as she stumbles into motherhood, careens through surreal dreams and the all-too-real daily realities of parenting an infant, and tumbles into an unlikely friendship with an estranged aunt she never knew. Elie will play Joanna’s husband Lucien, who has read all the baby books she missed. Lucien thinks he’s doing everything he can to support Joanna and be a fantastic new father, but he just doesn’t seem to get her anymore, and all his advice is landing all wrong.

Another Happy Day has obtained fiscal sponsorship from Chicago’s Full Spectrum Features, and continues to accept tax-deductible donations. Tourtellotte appears in the pic alongside Lapkus, Elie and Fiffer, and is producing with Fiffer and UPM Quinn Nicholson. Lapkus and Eugene Sun Park (The Year Between) are serving as EPs. Elie is represented by 3 Arts Entertainment and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.

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EXCLUSIVE: Simona Brown (Behind Her Eyes) has been tapped to lead the drama Freedom Hair, from Oscar-nominated writer-director Dianne Houston, which enters production in Atlanta this month.

Produced by MPI, Freedom Hair is based on the true story of Melony Armstrong (Brown), a determined mother who sets out to start a natural hair braiding business to achieve financial independence but must overcome unexpected obstacles imposed by a powerful cosmetology cartel and the state of Mississippi. Melony’s efforts led to thousands of African American women in the state of Mississippi following in her footsteps and realizing their own entrepreneurial dreams.

Freedom Hair‘s ensemble will also include Lynda Gravatt (Broadway’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Sharon Conley (The Hunger Games), Marquita Goings (Woke) and Erica Tazel (Truth Be Told). Stacey Parks, Lana Link, and Rob Pfaltzgraff are producing, with Melony Armstrong, Kim Coleman and Nick Reid serving as executive producers. Brown is represented by the UK’s IAG, CAA and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller; Gravatt by BRS/Gage; Conley by Georgia’s Houghton Talent; Goings by Atlanta Models and Talent, Pantheon Talent, CGEM Talent and attorney Mark S. Temple; Tazel by Buchwald and John Carrabino Management; and Houston by APA and Weintraub Tobin Chediak.

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EXCLUSIVE: Blu Hunt (The New Mutants), Ben Smith-Petersen (Mad Max: Fury Road), John Karna (Lady Bird) and Katherine Hughes (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) lead the cast of the indie horror The Dead Thing, which has wrapped production in Los Angeles.

Billed as a neo-realist take on an Invisible Man story and a modern urban legend for the online dating era, the film follows a young woman (Hunt) who, lost in a string of meaningless hookups, falls in love with a sensitive and charismatic man (Petersen) who she soon discovers harbors a dark secret that turns their affair into a twisted obsession.

Elric Kane directed from his script written with Webb Wilcoxen (The Frontier), in his feature debut. David Guglielmo (The Standoff at Sparrow Creek) cast the film, with Monte Yazzie and Matt Mercer (Bliss, Contracted) producing, and Rebekah McKendry (Glorious) serving as exec producer.

Hunt is represented by A3 Artists Agency, Luber Roklin Entertainment and Jackoway Austen Tyerman; Smith-Petersen by Insurge-Ent; Karna by Buchwald and Coronel Group; and Hughes by Innovative Artists and Ethos Entertainment.

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EXCLUSIVE: Leslie Black (Doom Patrol) has joined the ensemble of John Stalberg Jr.’s thriller Muzzle, fronted by Aaron Eckhart.

The film follows LAPD K-9 officer Jake Rosser (Eckhart), who has just witnessed the shocking murder of his dedicated partner by a mysterious assailant. As he investigates the shooter’s identity, he uncovers a vast conspiracy that has a chokehold on the city in this thrilling journey through the tangled streets of Los Angeles and the corrupt bureaucracy of the LAPD.

Carlyle Eubank (The Signal) wrote the script, from her and Stalberg’s story, with Highland Film Group co-financing and handling worldwide rights. Stahlberg, David Frigerio and Ford Corbett are producing, with Dallas Sonnier and Michael J. Weiss exec producing alongside Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier of Highland Film Group. Black is represented by Eris Talent Agency, Illinois’ Promote Talent Agency, Georgia’s Jana VanDyke Agency and MLU Management.

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EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to the drama The Falconer — the first feature in history to have been filmed entirely in the Arabian country of Oman — slating it for release in theaters and on VOD on September 16.

The award-winning film from writer-directors Adam Sjoberg and Seanne Winslow is inspired by true events, following best friends Tariq (Rami Zahar) and Cai (Rupert Fennessy). Tariq, an Omani teenager, and Cai, a Westerner, decide to steal animals from the zoo where they work and sell them on the black market, in order to raise money for Tariq’s sister’s divorce from an abusive marriage.

At its core, The Falconer is a story of friendship between two boys from very different worlds. Noor Al Huda also stars in the film, which David Jacobson produced alongside Sjoberg and Winslow. David Kiersznowksi, Sarah Ansari, Larry & Dulcie Kugelman, David Rosten and Manee S. exec produced, with Dana Ballout and Mohammed J. Balushi serving as co-producers, and Tarim Contin-Kennedy, Muzna Al Musafer and Andrew Hummel as associate producers. The Dubai-based Front Row Entertainment has taken rights to territories throughout the Middle East & North Africa.

Sjoberg, Winslow and Jacobson negotiated the deal for The Falconer on behalf of their company Required Reading, with Gravitas Ventures’ Senior Director of Acquisitions Bill Guentzler on behalf of the distributor. Watch the film’s trailer below.

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EXCLUSIVE: Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the drama I Am Like You, and to the coming-of-age comedy Shellfish, slating both for release across VOD platforms on September 20.

I Am Like You is a story of the friendship between the teenage boy Sean (Curtis Butterfield) and a wolfdog. When the two are forcefully separated, we follow the journey of the animal in search of his friend. Haik Kocharian wrote and directed the film, which also stars Stacy Edwards, Terra Mackintosh, Gwen Massey Tietz and Johnathan Hyett. Kocharian also produced alongside Karine Kocharian and Shawna Lea. Exec producers are Jeff Kozlowski, Amy Napierala, Rondi Charleston, Steven Ruchefsky, Armen Baloyan and Tigran Sahakyan.

Integrating live-action with animation, Shellfish tells the story of Keller (Hunter Hopewell), a stop-motion animator who has a week to make a film with his dumbstruck brother and the girl of his dreams without his parents finding out. As the film shoot unravels, tensions boil to the surface. Confronted with his chronic selfishness, Keller must balance pursuit of his filmmaking dreams with the care and feeding of his close relationships in this quirky indie comedy with a twist of stop motion.

Hopewell wrote and directed the festival favorite, which also stars Savanah Joeckel, Mackenzie Amar, Perry Bruno and Serenity Garcia. Its producers are Johnny Brenden, James & Hunter Hopewell, Michael & Karla Buhlman, Francisco Menendez and Phebe McCorkle.

Freestyle Digital Media negotiated the deal to acquire I Am Like You directly with Kocharian, negotiating the deal for Shellfish directly with Hunter Hopewell. Watch the trailers for both films below.


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EXCLUSIVE: Buffalo 8 has announced that it will release the thriller Hunther exclusively on Prime Video on September 23, with the film subsequently becoming available on Tubi (October), cable on demand (November) and iTunes (January 2023).

In the film from Eyeam Cinema, April Parker Jones (Bel-Air) and Hassan Johnson (Flatbush Misdemeanors) star as newlyweds Morgan and Charlie Westbrook, who set off to Birmingham to begin their life together. Morgan’s preteen daughter Lauren (Jasmyn T. Curry) takes to Charlie, and the two develop a special bond. But when that bond goes beyond boundaries, residue from Charlie’s past surfaces and Morgan realizes she must fight through the virtual and literal prisons that her once-upon-a-time prince charming has built around her.

Hunther also stars Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Ivan Mbakop (Hawkeye) and Roxzane T. Mims (Greenleaf). Aleshia Cowser Jackson directed from her script written with Mbakop, and exec produced alongside Mbakop, Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Sharna L. Brown, Breyuna Williams, Deanthony Bateman, Quinanthony Bateman and Aaron Tyson.

The deal for Hunther was negotiated by Buffalo 8’s Head of Distribution Nikki Stier Justice, in conjunction with Eyeam Cinema’s CEO, Jackson and its President, Brown.

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EXCLUSIVE: Independent film distributor The Film Arcade has acquired Wooden Finger Studios’ latest thriller Never Forgotten, slating it for release on VOD on September 30.

Never Forgotten follows three best friends struggling to cope with reality as the darkness from their past threatens to destroy them. As their 10-year high school reunion approaches, a long-buried secret from their past returns to haunt them, challenging their friendship and their sanity.

Ty Gordon (Obscura) directed from his own script and stars alongside Robert Thomas Preston (Stepen King’s Rose Red) and Andrew John (Obscura). Preston, Rodes Phire and Stephen Gibler served as producers. Watch the trailer for Never Forgotten by clicking below.

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EXCLUSIVESafier Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Jimmy Drain’s film Realm of Shadows, starring Drain, Tony Todd, Vernon Wells, Richard Tyson, Lauren Mayhew, Vida Ghaffari, Harley Wallen and Erika Monet, with plans for a multi-platform release at a date which has not yet been disclosed.

In the horror-thriller anthology, the young man Robby (Drain) obtains an archaic dagger with mysterious occult powers. After infiltrating a dangerously lethal satanic cult, he fights fire with fire, facing the challenge of either keeping his faith, or giving into the temptations of the world and losing his soul.

Drain directed from his script, with Mel Novak, CJ Dunning, Marc Bilker and Gregg Stone rounding out the cast. Joseph Kelbie Williamson produced for The Williamson Management, along with Drain and Gloria Tait of ThunderKnight Entertainment LTD. Jared Safier of Safier Entertainment negotiated the acquisition.

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EXCLUSIVEGiant Pictures has acquired writer-director Jenny Waldo’s first feature Acid Test, slating it for release on digital platforms on October 4.

Set in 1992, against the backdrop of the presidential election between Bush, Clinton and Perot, the film follows a Latina teen who enters her senior year with life-long plans to attend Harvard. On a night out with her best friend, she discovers Riot Grrrl, an aggressive feminist punk music, and impulsively drops acid. As she drifts farther and farther from “the plan,” she dives into new experiences, exploring her Mexican heritage, defining herself on her own terms, and rebelling against her father’s control.

Based on Waldo’s semi-autobiographical, award-winning short of the same name, Acid Test stars Juliana DeStefano, Brian Thornton, Mia Ruiz, Reece Everett Ryan, Mai Le and Sara Gaston. The film was fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions and Fresh Art, and received the ReFrame Stamp for being a gender-balanced production. Waldo, Anna Tran, Eddie Rodriguez, Hillary Felice and Kerianne Parker produced the pic, which made its world premiere at the 2021 Austin Film Festival and has also screened at Dances With Films, among other notable festivals.

Emma Manfredi negotiated the Acid Test acquisition on behalf of Giant Pictures, with Glen Reynolds of Circus Road Films.

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EXCLUSIVE: Terror Films has acquired the indie drama The Way Out from writer-director Barry Jay, which will be premiering at the 14th annual Burbank Film Festival at Burbank’s AMC 16 on September 8th, going on screen at the FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival later that same weekend. The distribution company, specializing in horror, has slated the pic for release in 2023.

The film centers on Alex Romero (Jonny Beauchamp), a struggling addict who takes unconventional advice from manipulative boxer Shane Collins (Mike Manning). As Shane takes Alex under his wing, Alex confronts demons from his past while attempting to regain control of his life. Despite being cautioned by his sponsor (Sherri Shepherd) and best friend (Ashleigh Murray), Alex follows Shane’s guidance and finds himself walking a dark path that jeopardizes not only his sobriety, but his life.

Mitch Silpa also stars in the pic produced by Carl Rumbaugh, Nick Theurer and Artisha Mann-Cooper. Shepherd and Manning served as its executive producers.

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EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has an exclusive trailer for the Michael Pare-starring Bigfoot horror movie The Wild Man, which Terror Films has acquired for distribution in North America. The film will premiere on digital platforms on September 30, then becoming available for viewing on the Terror Films and Kings of Horror YouTube Channels.

In the film directed by Ryan Justice (Followers), young women have been going missing in Ochopee, FL, without a single suspect in custody. A young journalist, Sara, convinces her crew to join her investigation as she travels to Ochopee to document her discoveries, but they soon realize their presence in this town is not welcome. Determined to find her story, Sara convinces her friends to stick with her, because they’re onto something big. Upon meeting Dale, the town’s notorious conspiracy theorist, she’s convinced he knows more than he is willing to share. The crew humors Dale’s ridiculous theories, even accompanying him into the Florida swamps on his quest to show them “The Wild Man”, hoping he’ll somehow reveal his guilt. But what the crew discovers is a secret much deeper than fairy tales and legends. What they discover is much darker and more sinister than they bargained for.

The Wild Man also stars Lauren Crandall, Julian Green and Mike Reed. Watch the film’s trailer below.

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