F&ME, Murphy team for MASS prod'n

Company aims to produce two movies per year

LONDON -- Upcoming British director Dominic Murphy is teaming with veteran finance and production house Film & Music Entertainment, headed by Mike Downey and Sam Taylor, on a slate of projects under the resurrected banner MASS Prods.

Murphy previously partnered with F&ME's Downey and Taylor on his debut feature, "White Lightnin'," which is due to unspool at Sundance in January, and the pact marks an extension to that relationship.

The deal is for "a slate of projects" and will kick off with "Jesus Christ Airlines," which is being written by Kit Peel. Downey said F&ME and Murphy have taken a 50-50 stake in the company and will aim to produce two movies a year initially.

Peel, a former journalist, is set to deliver his version of the events in the lives of one family set against the backdrop of the Biafra Airlift. For nearly two years, the pilots of Joint Church Aid flew in arms and food to Biafra over Nigerian air space, keeping the small, breakaway West African state alive. Murphy spent part of his childhood in Nigeria with his family. Murphy will direct.

MASS Productions' previous incarnation in the 1990s produced Milcho Manchevski's "Before the Rain" and Benjamin Ross' "The Young Poisoner's Handbook."

Murphy's "Lightnin' " tells the story of mountain dancer Jesco White and his uphill battle against abject poverty, drug abuse, petty crime and mental instability in rural West Virginia.

"We will have a solid draft of 'Jesus Christ Airlines' by the time we get to Sundance," said Downey, "and it will mark a complete change of direction for Dominic."
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