Monday, November 30, 2009


Hollywood in Panic Over New Helmer

By: Mike Fleming
Published: Sun, November 29, 2009,

In an exceptional deal for a director to make his feature helming debut, Ghost House Pictures has made a seven-figure deal with a Uruguayan commercials director to direct his pitch for an alien invasion film.

How did Fede Alvarez score such a million dollar deal when most first-time helmers make $250,000? The heat is based on “Ataque de Panico!” (Panic Attack), a four minute 48 second short film about an apocalyptic robot attack that Alvarez directed through his commercial production house at a cost between $300-$500. Watch for yourself:

After the short found its way to the internet and Kanye West featured a link to the film on his blog, a 30-year old who was not on anyone’s radar outside the Uruguayan blurb market suddenly found the biggest agencies in Hollywood in a collective panic attack to sign him. That created a chain reaction of activity over two weeks that led to a trip to Hollywood, where he met with every major agency, management firm and law firm that responded to the short--and a big deal.

After he signed with CAA, Anonymous Content and attorney Karl Austen, Alvarez made a pre-emptive deal with Ghost House that sets the helmer up to make his first film under the guidance of one of his directing heroes, Sam Raimi, who formed the genre label Ghost House within Mandate Pictures with Rob Tapert, Nathan Kahane and Joe Drake.

Raimi sparked to Alvarez’s short film—which offers a stylized vision of apocalyptic destruction that appears to have been made for far more than Alvarez spent. After Alvarez pitched an original idea for an alien invasion idea to the “Spider-Man 4” director, Ghost House closed a deal with Alvarez’s new reps that guarantees him a six-figure holding deal to wait while Ghost House hires a high-end scribe to turn the idea into a feature. The six-figure deal will be applied against a seven-figure fee if Ghost House
makes the film.

Raimi will produce with Ghost House partner Tapert, with Vertigo’s Roy Lee and Doug Davison also be involved in producing capacities. Kahane will be exec producer.

The idea that an unknown could put himself on the map by placing his film on the internet shows how much the Hollywood landscape is changing and how hungry financiers and studios are to find a filmmaker who might deliver the next “Paranormal Activity,” “District 9” or “Twilight.”

While the Thanksgiving weekend showed that stars can still perform—Sandra Bullock has carried the $30 million “The Blind Side” to a $100 million gross in just over one week—Alvarez’s short conjured up a high concept, visually-intriguing film that can be made for a small budget with no gross players by a filmmaker who can plug into a youthful demographic.

The Ghost House deal gives Alvarez the opportunity to make his Hollywood debut that is godfathered by Raimi in a mentoring role similar to the one that Peter Jackson served in Neill Blomkamp’s directing debut on “District 9,” an under $30 million film which has grossed over $180 million worldwide.

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