All posts by William Tobias

Christopher Levy takes charge with his new film company CineMonte Productions 

The film industry and the business of movie making are quickly changing thanks to the demand for streaming services. The new releases from big production companies are dominated by superhero franchises, remakes, sequels, and when we get tired of sequels, here comes the prequels. Now is the time we start producing films that engage audiences with real stories and original screenplays. 

Christopher Levy has worked for powerhouses like Goldstein Films and Lionsgate. He has produced films with James Wan and worked amongst A-list talents such as Drew Barrymore, Penelope Cruz, and Keanu Reeves. He is a Los Angeles native and his dedication to film production would lead to, building up skills, relationships, and knowledge in the film industry. When he met his former girlfriend Vanessa Paradis, he took his journey to France, producing miniseries and the feature film Fanfan, written by the talented Luc Besson (Director of the Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita). His 20 years in LA and valuable experience in the film industry have helped shape his vision of what CineMonte Productions should be. 

Christopher is now based in Las Vegas. With his newly formed film company, he aims to look for feature films for worldwide distribution, selecting films to be seen at the largest Film Markets such as Cannes and Berlin. Christopher has been involved with Cannes since 1997, whilst representing his former companies. 

These past years have certainly been incredibly busy for Mr. Levy, as he also founded The Las Vegas International Horror Film Festival (LVIHFF) in 2019 and started a new streaming site CINEFLIK. The LVIHFF is an international film festival that accepts films and screenplays from around the globe. The festival was created as a platform to showcase the established and up-and-coming filmmakers who pour their talents into short and feature films. The majority of the films that show at the festival have scored distribution deals and are being seen by hundreds of thousands of horror genre enthusiasts. 

The streaming site CINEFLIK is an outlet for all the creators who struggle to get their material seen and heard. Christopher understands how competitive is it to sell a film or script, in an industry that will consider money over the content. Streaming sites are a growing platform, easy and accessible it is the future of media. What better way to make sure that talented filmmakers can produce their stories and ideas and make sure it will be seen? 

CineMonte Productions has been the culmination of years of experience in the film industry and seeing rooms full of unread and neglected scripts. Hundreds of tapes and DVDs would be discarded as trash and not given a single chance, as they were labelled as unsolicited movies. Chris sees the incredible potential of these struggling artists and what their ideas can offer. He is tired of Hollywood producing the same storylines, they are running out of ideas. It is time that we take interest in Indie filmmakers and give them a chance to express their passions. His film company is all about originality, making films with actual stories.  

 

 

Multi Award Winner Short Film Suvahhdan’s “Blind Folders”

Mumbai: Indian Short film “Blind Folders” wins a Gold Medal at the prestigious UK Seasonal Short film Festival Held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK in Best Drama Short film Category. The film has been Written/ Directed By Suvahhdan and Produced by Deepali Angre (Deep Sea Movies).


The Film “Blind folders” is a Mumbai base story of 3 blind children’s and 3 prostitutes’ earning their livelihood in the big bad city. In aligned to their work, how they come across various situations of materials rang? And, in those situations how they lose themselves and their humanity. Mumbai is said to be the city which never stops and is a dream city, but in saying that Mumbai is also losing its emotions and human values, said the director Mr Suvahhdan angre.
Film “Blind Folders” Has Been in Finals at the Lisbon Film Rendezvous and was premiered at Lisbon, Portugal on 4th Oct 2019. Apart from that the film has been Official Selected in 14 International Short film Film across the world in Los Angeles, Portugal, London, Global Sessions, Edinburgh, etc

Mr Suvahhdan, The writer/ Director of the film has Directed Film Aadesh-Power of law, A film on Famous adv Ujjwal nikam and Has Made India’s first film on Child terrorism called “Billu ustaad”. Both feature film released in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Now, Mr Angre is working on a Teenage Romantic Musical Feature film “Campus” Which will feature Actors Manoj Bajpai and Johnny Lever.
Main Cast Includes Mithila Naik, Leena Nandi, Dr Shrawani Mahind, Guarang Tade, Hansraj Manjre, Shubham Sakhre, Vaidehi Karche, Ankeet Jadhav, DOP Gurpreet Singh Johar.

Shefik (Virtually) Travels to South Africa to Host New Video Series for Hip Hop Film Festival

JOHANNESBURG — Out of over 5,000 festivals in the world, Hip Hop Film Festival (https://hiphopfilmfestival.org) is the only festival to focus on writers, directors, and producers who grew up in the global culture of hip-hop. While the main festival is headquartered in New York City during the first week of August every year, the world tour is currently underway. From Saturday, May 30, 2020 to Sunday, May 31, 2020, the festival will be held in South Africa, highlighting filmmakers from that area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, this year’s festival will be held online. Free all access passes are available via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hip-hop-film-festival-south-africa-tickets-106509001290, upon donation to Harlem Film House, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Harlem Film House is the production arm of Hip Hop Film Festival, operating year round workshops, theatre productions, and live events. While also offering business consulting to filmmakers and content creators in underserved communities around the world, Harlem Film House creates an economic ecosystem, by providing filmmakers various services and resources to ensure career longevity in film, theatre, and related entrepreneurial pursuits.

Founded by filmmaker and philanthropist C R Capers, Hip Hop Film Festival features every genre (mystery, sci-fi, horror, action, romance, etc.), from filmmakers throughout the world. It is also the only film festival that shares the profits from the festival with the filmmakers selected to participate. Although the festival is titled “Hip Hop”, that does not necessarily mean all films will be about hip-hop. Rather, the term is used in reference to the filmmakers who grew up in the elemental culture of hip-hop and the wide-ranging narratives they project to the screen, as a result of being incubated by such culture.

“As Hip Hop Film Festival branches into South Africa, the festival continues its commitment to empowering filmmakers and movie lovers that grew up in the universal culture of hip-hop,” says C R Capers.

Media personality Shefik (http://shefik.info) of the syndicated radio show “Shefik presents Invocation” (https://invocation.co) is hosting a new video series titled “Conversations from the Culture” for Hip Hop Film Festival in South Africa. Although episodes of the series are available for viewing on-demand via exclusive broadcast on 24/7 Films (https://247films.vhx.tv/conversations-from-the-culture), the series itself will make its official debut during the festival, on Sunday, May 31, 2020, starting at 2 p.m. SAST (8 a.m. EDT). Selected South African filmmakers sit down with Shefik to discuss film, South African politics, and more. The complete festival schedule can be viewed at https://hiphopfilmfestival.org/southafrica/.

Comprised of key selections and finalists of Hip Hop Film Festival in South Africa, Season 1 of “Conversations from the Culture” highlights the following filmmakers based in South Africa and its surrounding areas: Lwazi Nonyukela (The Chronicles of African Battle Rap); Gugulethu (Zulu Return); Richard Fontaine (Zulu Return); Madu Dube (Conversations with Millennials); Refilwe Moseamedi (The Pursuit of Achaz); Megan-Leigh Heilig (It’s Where You Find Yourself); Reinier Smit (The Fighter); Brendon Groenewald (Original Royals); SPeeKa (Slaghuis Joint Elements); Khalid Kader (The New Wave, The Message); Cole Gallant (The New Wave); Nic Botha (The Message); Mzwakhe Dhlamini (Tales from the Fisch); Abongile Ntsatha (Sipho Dlamini); and Thanky L. Hamutenya (Ntombezulu).

“South Africa has some of the most compelling filmmakers I have ever engaged with,” says Shefik. “Their stories are thoughtful, compelling, and vibrant with amazing energy.”

Shefik is a Professional Member at the New York Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (New York Emmys), as well as a National Associate Member at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Primetime Emmy Awards). The organizations are dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational, and technical achievements within the television industry. They recognize excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award.

As a multiple award wining videographer and producer, Shefik’s work has been featured in television broadcasts and video productions for TIME magazine, The Washington Center, “Unsung” (TV One), Broadway World, and a major news station in New York City. Additionally, his photography has been featured in print and online publications, such as Daily Mail, Harvard Kennedy School Magazine, Playbill, and China Press. Shefik currently serves as a Technical Lead at NBCUniversal, where he is leading the development of business critical applications and web-based technology for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan; the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China; as well as other major sporting events throughout the world for NBC Sports.

AMERICAN WISPER: THE FILM HOLLYWOOD HOPED WOULD NEVER GET MADE

AMERICAN WISPER:
THE FILM HOLLYWOOD HOPED WOULD NEVER GET MADE
NOW STREAMING AFTER NINE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL WINS

  ‘American Wisper’ is the true story of the unsolved
murders of an African American family.
In the summer of 2016, three children and their mother were found
shot to death in their large, N.J. suburban home.
They were discovered by father and husband Josiah Wisper

 

– A brash businessman who owned bars, restaurants, stores and real estate in Harlem, New York. Wisper quickly became a pariah in the Harlem community – and was viewed with suspicion by friends, relatives, and people he had known for nearly half his life.
The film is based on true events, and based on withheld police reports issued at the time of the murders.
And, according to producer Howard Nash, the ending will leave you speechless.


The producers want it known that they are seeking to have the original case re-opened, and feel that a film in wide release is the only way to make that happen.
But, a clarion “Call to Action” isn’t as easy as it sounds: according to writer/producer Howard Nash, “I’ve noticed a fair amount of bias when it comes to smaller, independent films with African American leads.


The smaller movie sites and platforms are not even selecting them. So it becomes even more important to get the word out, so that people can see things for themselves.” Nash raised his funding independently, and today remains gratified that he ignored Hollywood’s “professional” advice while he was developing the project.
Indeed, Nash says American Wisper is the movie that Hollywood hoped would never get made. When presenting the project to major studios, he was repeatedly told that “no one will ever come and see it”.. and one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood once told Nash to “make the family white”, as doing so would make the project “a lot more marketable”. It has now played at festivals all over the world, won nine International Film Festival awards, and is currently nominated for seven more. But, more importantly, it continues to expand its audience, having clocked more than 57,000 views on Amazon since its release in March.

“Wisper.. a very tight thriller without clear heroes or victims—thanks to a tight directorial effort, a tense
script and strong performances by all involved.. it’s a genre movie that shouldn’t be missed.”
Mike Haberfelner / SMT News & Reviews

Now streaming:
Amazon Prime: bit.ly/american-wisper

Watch for Free: https://tubitv.com/movies/520032/american_wisper
Visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wisperproject/

“As the Earth Turns” – 80 years-in-the-making award-winning silent Sci-Fi film!

The stock market has crashed, the economy is failing, there is political turmoil around the world.  As much as this sounds like today’s news headlines, this is the the world of a young man in the Pacific Northwest over 80 years ago.


In 1937, in Seattle, a twenty-year old budding filmmaker using his own equipment, had already created 58 plays and 9 never released, award-winning films. This director would go on to work for Disney Studios, and direct and edit a 1950 Academy Award Documentary. Richard H. Lyford’s films have developed a following among film historians since his early “amateur” films are some of the first “indie” films ever created outside of Hollywood. Lyford experimented with special effects, and models, and was becoming an excellent director. His final and most challenging film of this era was “As the Earth Turns”, with a screenplay based on “The Man Who Rocked the Earth” by Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood, 1915. It was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, in and around Seattle. “As the Earth Turns”, is presented for the first time after 80 years of development! To finish his vision, a professionally mixed orchestral soundtrack, by Pacific Northwest film composer, Ed Hartman has been added to the presentation.

“As the Earth Turns” is a 45 minute, sci-fi film that foresaw WWII, future- technology, climate change, and the extreme need for peace, as the world was drifting back into world war again.   The film has been in 121 festivals, and won 135 awards/nominations.
The main character, “PAX” (“Peace” in Latin), is played by Lyford, himself, a scientist who desperately wants peace. He uses climate-changing science to keep mankind from war. The lead actors are both male and female. The lead actress, Barbara Berger (AKA Barbara Berjer) portrays a hard-working newspaper reporter. Her strong character, “Julie Weston” leads the hunt for the villain all the way to the end of the film. Berger had a long career on Broadway and television (ironically including “As the World Turns”).

The acting is dramatic, professional and realistic. Lyford used early homemade FX including controlled dynamite explosions and miniature models similar to those used in “Flash Gordon” (1936 Serial). His make-up work was excellent (he loved Lugosi and horror films) and his framing of the picture is mature and developed. Lyford was very capable of directing his acting troupe, as well. A legendary location in Seattle, “Gasworks” was used for PAX’s lair. The film has similar themes to “Things to Come”(1936), “In Like Flint” (1967), and even a little “Austin Powers” (1997). Some of the dialogue seems to come out of the TV series “Star Trek” (1966), and even “Dr. Strangelove”(1964). The film was shot in B&W, but the last scene was shot color for dramatic purpose, foreshadowing “Wizard of Oz” in 1939.

“As the Earth Turns” is an example of a true “indie” film, completely shot outside of Hollywood. It is an amazing educational film for any filmmaker to learn from. This filmmaking had no sophisticated technology available. It has multiple- exposure
sequences (including a very professional title sequence), “day for night” shooting, simple transitions, and intense editing between live-action and miniature model sequences. Richard Lyford did his best with very limited resources. This film is a great lesson for anyone in media creation, today.

“As the Earth Turns” now available on Amazon.  Coming to Turner Classic Movies in the fall of 2020.  Other distribution TBA.
https://www.amazon.com/As-Earth-Turns-Barbara-Berger/dp/B088P7TH37/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=indie+rights&qid=1589918776&s=instant-video&sr=1-5

PHILIP MANTLE INTERVIEWS FILM DIRECTOR FRANCIS XAVIER

A NEW ALIEN ABDUCTION MOVIE COMING IN 2019.

Philip Mantle interviews Film Director Francis Xavier.

I’ve been in contact with movie director Francis Xavier for several years now and I was interested to hear that he now had in development a new alien abduction movie. I contacted Francis to see if he was able to talk about his new project and was pleased to hear that he was. Francis was only too happy to give me a few minutes of his time for a quick Q and A session.

 

Q: Who is Francis Xavier, please tell us something about yourself ?

A: Known for his unpredictable, violent films, Writer, Producer, Director Francis Xavier first earned widespread fame for his directorial feature film ‘Barry’s Gift’ before going on to direct the controversial Johnny Come Lately.

 

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, Xavier moved to California in 2008 to continue his love of making movies during which time he wrote and directed both the psychological thriller Never On Sunday and the award winning horror film Poe. Xavier’s directorial debut came with the award winning feature film Barry’s Gift (2000), for which he won awards for best screenplay and best director at The Greenbelt Film Festival in Maryland, the film was also an official selection at the 2000 Maryland Film Festival in which he was in competition with Oscar winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and director Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project). Next he would receive widespread critical and commercial acclaim with the controversial psychological thriller Johnny Come Lately (2004). Subsequent features include the trilogy Night Cry (2005), the thriller The Tango Dancer (2006), the award winning urban drama Dodge City (2007), directing Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winning actress Sally Kirkland (Anna/JFK) in the film, The Ear of the Beholder (2008) and writings and directing the psychological thriller Never On Sunday (2009). Xavier earned several awards for the horror film Poe (2012) including best screenplay at the Los Angeles Feature Film and Screenplay Film Festival and winner of the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Roll Film Festival and soon after writing and directing the supernatural thriller Less Than A Whisper (2015), the latter being the director’s latest effort and was an official selection at the 2015 Film-Com event in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, the filmmaker has directed over 50 commercials including Budweiser and Nestle, 4 short films and 10 music videos including 2 music videos for Taylor Swift’s Cray Cray for Tay Tay merchandise company.

Q: So when did you first get into movies ?

A: Back in the 60’s and 70’s my mother owned a movie theatre in my hometown of Baltimore City, Maryland called The Tower Theatre and from the time I was born I was watching movies because my mother would take me to work with her everyday. I grew up watching many great films there and they loomed larger than life on the big screen for me. Then in 1973 a film would premiere at my mother’s theatre that would change my life forever and would put me on course to make my own. That movie was William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.

Q: How many movies have you worked on so far and in what capacity ?

A: I have written, produced, edited and directed eight feature films, my latest being the supernatural thriller ‘Less Than A Whisper’. I actually play the lead role in the film.

Q: You now have a movie in development with Lark Entertainment based on Robert E. Dunn’s book BEHIND THE DARKNESS. Can you tell us about this project please ?

 

A: I met Robert E. Dunn about 2 years ago when we first discussed his alien abduction novel Behind The Darkness and me possibly writing the screenplay from the novel.  I read the novel and loved it and thought to myself Behind The Darkness would make a great scary film.  Through one seemingly endless night four friends find themselves surrounded, and at the mercy of nameless, unseen aliens. Desperation makes for difficult choices and even more difficult actions as two men learn just who they must be to fight the creatures behind the darkness.

 

What follows is a violent battle for survival that will change everyone forever. Imagine Behind The Darkness as Night of the Living dead with aliens rather than zombies. Behind The Darkness is a survivor story of resistance against impossible odds. I wrote the screenplay and took it to the American Film Market last November. The screenplay is currently in the development department at Lakeshore International.

Q: Have you always been interested in the UFO subject or is this
something new for you ?

 

A: I’ve always been interested in UFOs and aliens. I’m a true believer in the subject and have a missing time story of my own to tell. But that’s a whole different interview. Trust me, it’s my true alien abduction story I will tell someday.

Q: How do you think the UFO community will react to this movie ?

A: I think the community would react rather well with the story and the movie. It’s no secret that the government has been hiding UFO and alien disclosure from us for decades. We are not alone, and I’m living proof of that. Maybe we can do a follow-up interview soon so we can talk about my missing times. Thanks to organizations like MUFON, and people like Dr. Steven Greer, Linda Moulton Howe and also you Philip, to get the word out to the community that we are not alone. I think people would be able to relate to Behind The Darkness because the characters are everyday real people put in a situation unlike any human beings would want to experience. These are not dumb characters. It’s very hard for the government and filmmakers to fool people and an audience these days.

 

Q: Now I know this movie is still in development but when can we
expect to see it released ?

 

A: If everything goes well for the studio development of Behind The Darkness, I can see a release date of late 2019.

Q; Do you have a favorite UFO movie at all ?

 

A: My all time favorite UFO movies are John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and ‘Alien 1 and 2’.

Q: I have to ask this, have you ever had a UFO sighting yourself ?

 

A: Absolutely, many to be exact. My last sighting, witnessing a cluster of UFOs in the daytime in Van Nuys, California in 2009 and I wasn’t alone. They were right over my house until fighter jets appeared and the UFOs just simply disappeared right before our eyes. My 2001 missing time experience was scary enough. But that’s a whole different interview lol.

 

TRAILERS

 

Behind The Darkness Billboard Trailer

I would like to thank Francis Xavier for giving up his time for this Q and A session and would like to take this opportunity to wish him well with all of his new projects.

 

About the author:

Philip Mantle is a long standing UFO researcher and author from the UK. He was formerly the Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association and the MUFON Representative for England. He is the founder of FLYING DISK PRESS

NETFLIX PULLS OUT OF CANNES FOLLOWING RULE CHANGE

Netflix Pulls Out of Cannes Following Rule Change

Ted Sarandos says Netflix won’t be going to Cannes this year.

Netflix’s chief content officer says that the festival sent a clear message with a new rule that bans any films without theatrical distribution in France from playing in competition. Netflix could screen some of its upcoming movies out of competition, but Sarandos says that doesn’t make sense for the streaming service.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Sarandos says. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”

Netflix made a big splash at the prestigious film festival last year with two movies that showed in competition: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.” But after the 2017 announcement, French theaters owners and unions protested the inclusion of these films to Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of Cannes. Netflix was amenable to having their movies play on big screens in France, but a law in the country requires movies to not appear in home platforms for 36 months after their theatrical release.

Netflix has had day-and-date theatrical releases for such titles as “Mudbound,” Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father,” “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.”

Sarandos will not personally be attending Cannes in May, but some of his executives will be there. “It is not a coincidence that Thierry also banned selfies this year,” Sarandos says, of another new rule that doesn’t allow guests to snap pictures on the red carpet. “I don’t know what other advances in media Thierry would like to address.”

Here, Sarandos spoke with Variety about the Netflix rule change.

Are you deciding not to participate in Cannes this year?
Well, it was not our decision to make. Thierry announced the change in their qualification rules [that] requires a film to have distribution in France to get in, which is completely contrary to the spirit of any film festival in the world. Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution. Under those rules, we could not release our films day-and-date to the world like we’ve released nearly 100 films over the last couples of years. And if we did that, we’d have to hold back that film from French subscribers for three years under French law. Therefore, our films they are not qualified for the Cannes Film Festival competition.

And you aren’t taking movies to the festival out of competition?
No. I don’t think there would be any reason to go out of competition. The rule was implicitly about Netflix, and Thierry made it explicitly about Netflix when he announced the rule.

Were you surprised by the rule? Netflix had the two biggest English-language releases at last year’s Cannes.
I would say not just on the English-language side. I think they were the biggest films in the world last year with Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach and the star power we were able to bring — Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, it goes on and on. We loved the festival. We love the experience for our filmmakers and for film lovers. It’s just that the festival has chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema. We are 100% about the art of cinema. And by the way, every other festival in the world is too.

Did you talk to Thierry before he made the rule change?
I believe it was not just Thierry’s decision. I think it was the decision of his board, which is made up of several exhibitors. I know we didn’t have any conversation with Thierry. I read about it in the press.

In interviews, Thierry said that “the Netflix people loved the red carpet,” but your “model is now the opposite” of what Cannes does. Do you agree with that?
No, obviously not. Do we love the red carpet? I love our filmmakers being on those red carpets. Of course. It’s a very glamorous, very fun event for filmmakers. That is beside the point. That is true of every festival. Last year we were jointly celebrating the art of cinema at Cannes. The divergence is this decision to define art by the business model. In that way, yes, we have diverged.

Will you or other Netflix employees be attending Cannes?
I personally won’t be attending myself. But we will have people there who are in the business of acquiring films, because many films will be there without distribution.

So you could end up buying a movie that’s in competition?
Yes 100%. We don’t discriminate that way.

Netflix acquires movies from film festivals all the time. Ultimately, this rule seems to be about preventing a movie from entering Cannes as a Netflix release.
It was a puzzle to me. Keep in mind last year at Sundance, we produced the film that won the jury prize [“I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore”], and we acquired “Mudbound” in the biggest acquisition of the festival.

Have you had conversations with your filmmakers about Cannes?
We’ve talked to a lot of our filmmakers after the rule change. When we went into making these films and acquiring these films, that rule wasn’t in place. That was a change in dynamics.

Do you think Cannes might change its mind in the future?
Yeah. I do have faith that Thierry shares my love for cinema and would be a champion of changing that when he realizes how punitive this rule is to filmmakers and film lovers.

What is your message for the international film community?
We hope that they do change the rules. We hope that they modernize. But we will continue to support all films and all filmmakers. We encourage Cannes to rejoin the world cinema community and welcome them back. Thierry had said in his comments when he announced his change that the history of the Internet and the history of Cannes are two different things. Of course they are two different things. But we are choosing to be about the future of cinema. If Cannes is choosing to be stuck in the history of cinema, that’s fine.

NORWAY’S MAIPO PREPARES DYSTOPIAN THRILLER ‘FORTRESS,’ SEASON 2 OF ‘STATE OF HAPPINESS’

Norway’s Maipo Prepares Dystopian Thriller ‘Fortress,’ Season 2 of ‘State of Happiness’

Leading Norwegian company Maipo is developing “Fortress,” an ambitious dystopian thriller, and is preparing the second season of “State of Happiness” (“Lykkeland”), the historical series which is competing this week at Canneseries.

“Fortress” is created and penned by two high-profile Norwegian screenwriters: John Kåre Raake, whose track record includes Nordic blockbusters such as “The Wave,” Roar Uthaug’s disaster movie, and “Ragnarok, a family film based on Viking mythology;” and Linn-Jeanethe Kyed, who notably co-wrote “Børning” and “Børning 2,” a action-comedy movie franchise set in the world of illegal sports car racing, and Benjamin Ree’s critically acclaimed documentary feature about the Norwegian chess prodigy, Magnus Carlsen.

“Fortress” takes place in a near future in Norway which is now secluded from the rest of the world by a wall built by the nationalistic government. Norwegians live in absolute sovereignty, relying only on their own homegrown resources and caring solely about national affairs. But when a malicious epidemic starts spreading in the country, officials embark on a race against time to find who is behind the epidemic and seek help to find a cure from foreign organizations which are reluctant to provide any support.

Synnøve Hørsdal, who is producing “Fortress” with Ales Ree at Maipo, said the concept of the series echoes some tendencies of the politics happening in the western world today.

The producer said that in addition to examining the consequences of political decisions that have been made, it will mostly be a suspenseful character driven thriller.

Meanwhile, Maipo is also developing the second season of “State of Happiness” with Mette M. Bølstad (“Nobel”) back on board to write the show. Set to world premiere in competition at Canneseries on Tuesday, the first season of “State of Happiness” takes place in the summer of 1969 in the coastal town of Stavanger and follows four young characters who come from different backgrounds and are thrown into a whirlwind of opportunity during the oil boom which turned Norway into one of the world’s most prosperous countries.

“State of Happiness”‘s second season which will set the action five years later years afterwill also bring back the cast, including British actor Bart Edwards (“UnREAL”), as well as newcomers Anne Regine Ellingsæter Malene Wadel and Amund Harboe.

Hørsdal said one of the biggest challenges Maipo faced to make “State of Happiness” was raising the financing for the 10 million euros series. “Everybody says ‘we want to make different shows that are not Nordic Noir but the reality is that it’s difficult to raise financing for ambitious drama series that are not crime-based.”

Maipo is behind some of Norway’s biggest films, such as “The Ash Lad: In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and Anne Sewitsky’s anticipated “Sonja – The White Swan” about Sonja Henie, the famous ice skater-turned-Hollywood star.

ALEXA & KATIE’ RENEWED FOR SEASON 2 AT NETFLIX

Alexa & Katie’ Renewed for Season 2 at Netflix

Alexa & Katie

Netflix has renewed Alexa $ Katie for a second season, the streaming giant announced Monday.

The first season of the series launched on March 23. The multi-camera sitcom follows the titular best friends through their freshman year of high school. Alexa (Paris Berelc) is undergoing cancer treatment, but makes it through thanks to her outgoing personality and the help of her best friend Katie (Isabel May). At times they’re left feeling like outsiders, during a period when what seems to matter most is fitting in. Tiffani Thiessen stars as Lori, Alexa’s determined and protective mother. The series also stars Emery Kelly, Eddie Shin, Jolie Jenkins, and Finn Carr.

Heather Wordham created the series and will take over as showrunner on Season 2. Her previous credits include “Hannah Montana” and “Reba.” Matthew Carlson was the showrunner on Season 1.

That show, which debuted its first season on Feb. 16, followed two groups of high school misfits from the A/V club and a Drama club who collide in 1996 Oregon. It starred Peyton Kennedy, Jahi Winston, Patch Darragh, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Sydney Sweeney, Elijah Stevenson, Quinn Liebling, and Rio Mangini.

‘VIOLETA AT LAST’ SELLS TO STARZ

‘Violeta at Last’ Sells to Starz (EXCLUSIVE)

Hilda Hidalgo’s second film screens in Mexico on May 11

Underscoring the growing interest in Latino fare among pay TV and SVOD companies, premium pay TV outlet Starz has snapped up Hilda Hidalgo’s  “Violeta at Last”

Starz will start airing “Violeta” in August, according to its sales agent Alfredo Calviño of Habanero Film Sales. Inspired by Hidalgo’s mother, “Violeta at Last” turns on a woman in her seventies who finds new freedom in her winter years. “Violeta” is co-produced by Mexico’s Laura Imperiale of Cacerola Films who also co-produced Hidalgo’s first film, “Of Love and Other Demons,”

“Violeta” is slated to premiere in Mexico on May 11 at the Cineteca Nacional of México City and in five other cities, said Hidalgo. “Laura, myself and my lead Eugenia Chaverri will be there to present it,” said Hidalgo, who concedes that oftentimes co-producing with other territories is the most viable way of seeing your film released in other Latino countries.

It’s probable that “Violeta” boards Amazon Prime Video Direct in Mexico after October, according to Calviño. Amazon Prime’s self-service program for filmmakers, distributors and content creators, took its Film Festival Stars program (FFS) to the Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival (FICG) in March, marking its first foray into the Latin American marketplace. Launched at Sundance 2017, the FFS program offers cash bonuses and royalties to festival films seeking to self-distribute on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Video recently snapped up the exclusive Latin American streaming rights to Spiral Int’l and Dynamo co-production, “Falco,” the Mexican adaptation of German high-concept crime series, “The Last Cop” (“Der Letzte Bulle”) by Ernesto Contreras. Red Arrow Studios International has launched international sales of “Falco” at MipTV.

In other sales news, Habanero Film Sales sold Uruguayan film “Mi Mundial” to Spain’s Cada Films/EDreams Factory and to Arcadia Films in Chile. Primer Plano releases the film in Argentina this month.

Carlos Morelli’s debut feature, “Mi Mundial” topped Guadalajara’s works in progress sidebar last year. The teen morality tale turns on a talented soccer player who has the skills but not the maturity to deal with the challenges of youth pro soccer and discovers other things – family, for instance – matter more than the beautiful game.