EMG hails Caesar, 'Machine'

Company, new acquisitions ramp slate, push integration

CANNES -- Exclusive Media Group is partnering with producers Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari on a film about Julius Caesar, written by William Broyles Jr. and based on Conn Iggulden's "Emperor Series," with hopes of launching a projected trilogy.

And as it ramps up to release six-to-eight films per year stateside, Newmarket Films, which EMG acquired in November, has picked up U.S. distribution rights to the 3D, live-action/stop-motion movie "The Flying Machine," which Exclusive Film Distribution is selling in territories outside Asia.

The moves are emblematic of EMG's push to become a vertically integrated film development, production, distribution and marketing business, with production labels Exclusive Films, Hammer Films and Spitfire Pictures, U.S. distributor Newmarket, sales arm Exclusive Film Distribution and Exclusive Labs, which will turn out new media fare.

At their terrace suite at La Lerina on the Croisette, exclusive principals Nigel Sinclair, Guy East and Chris Ball offered up a progress report on the new company, created in May 2008 when Cryte Investments acquired both Hammer, the venerable British production company, and Sinclair and East's Spitfire.

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As part of a three-pronged production strategy, Exclusive will lend its name to high-end pictures like "The Way Back," its Peter Weir-directed tale of an escape from a Soviet labor camp, starring Colin Farrell; Hammer will be reserved for genre fare, such as the upcoming "The Resident," starring Hilary Swank, and "Let Me In," directed by "Cloverfield's" Matt Reeves; and Spitfire will focus on docs, many with a music background, like "The Last Play at Shea," a look at the last days of New York's Shea Stadium produced in cooperation with Billy Joel's Maritime Pictures, and a new documentary about George Harrison, which Martin Scorsese will direct.

"The missing piece of the puzzle was distribution," Sinclair explained of the decision to acquire Newmarket, which Ball and William Tyre founded in 1994. "You can't rely on U.S. studios to pick up films, so the next evolution in our business was to have our own U.S. distribution."

In December, "Machine" will become the first EMG title to go out through Newmarket, whose 2010 slate also includes Alejandro Amenabar's "Agora," opening in May, and the Sundance pickup "Hesher," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which is set for October. Lionsgate will handle home entertainment distribution for Newmarket, under a deal announced earlier this month.

From Polish animation studio Breakthru Films -- an Oscar winner for the animated short "Peter and the Wolf" -- and Beijing-based Bona Internation Film Group, "Machine" celebrates the music of Frederic Chopin. Pianist Lang Lang appears in the live-action portion of the film, performing the composer's music, which inspires a young girl's flight of fancy, which takes her to stops around the world. Heather Graham, who plays the young girl's mom, is currently shoot live-action scenes as well.

The movie's multiplatform release will also employ 24 short films based on Chopin's "24 Etudes" as well as an online game.

U.S. distribution rights to two of Exclusive's first three productions -- "The Resident" and "The Way Back" -- are still up for grabs. EMG is likely to unveil "Back" at either Venice or Toronto.

"Let Me In" will be released by Overture, which co-produced, in October and the EMG execs said they were confident tha,t despite the uncertainty surrounding Overture's future, the distributor was commited to the roll out.

At Cannes, EMG is offering new title "The Woman in Black" for sale. Project is based on Susan Hill's ghost novel, "The Woman in Black," which also gave rise to the long-running British stage play.

The 3D film adaptation is being directed by James Watkins ("Eden Lake") from a screenplay by "Kick-Ass" writer Jane Goldman.

Meanwhile, EMG has shifted the focus of its Spitfire Pictures label so that it will house all of the company's documentaries, such as "Shea," which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, "Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who" and the Bob Dylan doc "No Direction Home," directed by Martin Scorsese.

Sinclair hopes to makes one documentary per year, almost exclusively music-based, and has Scorsese finishing up the editing on Spitfire's latest, "Living in the Material World: George Harrison." Scorsese and Harrison's widow, Olivia, trekked to Antibes on Saturday to discuss the process of delivering a comprehensive "exploration" of the Beatle's life and his "search for serenity," as Scorsese put it.

Spitfire also is preparing a Formula One project about the evolution of safety in the races that is shooting at the Grand Prix down the road in Monaco on Sunday.