Johnson draws up 'Blackline'


In a series of films torn from the headlines, Christian Johnson will write and direct the three-feature "Blackline International Trilogy," inspired by the recent Blackwater incidents resulting in the death of Iraq civilians.

The first film will be "Blackline: The Beirut Contract," produced by Nabil Issa, Kirk Hassig ("Manic") and Johnson. Issa also is producing the upcoming Pepsi-financed $10 million musical "Bahr Al Nujoom," said to be the most expensive Arab musical ever made.

Each film centers on Blackline International, a fictional private military corporation. "Contract" revolves around three of its soldiers for hire and their mission to rescue a man taken hostage in Beirut after negotiating for peace among warring factions. The filmmakers plan a same-day release of a video game and interactive DVD allowing users to duplicate the experiences of the main characters and explore alternate versions of the story line.

Issa's Signature Prods., based in Dubai and Beirut, Lebanon, will finance the films with Los Angeles-based indie production outfit Big Deal Pictures. Principal photography on "Contract" begins this month in Beirut, with additional photography in Paris and Morocco. The subsequent two films in the trilogy will film in first-half 2008 in Russia, Poland and Venezuela.

Johnson wrote and directed the First Look/ThinkFilm feature "September Tapes," a thriller about a journalist's trip to Afghanistan to search for Osama bin Laden, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.