Toronto: The Black List, Martin Katz Name Fellow (Exclusive)

Nadeem Siddiqui gets an all-expense paid trip to the festival as prize-giving in Toronto gets underway.

The Black List is best known for releasing an annual survey that highlights Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays, as voted on by hundreds of film executives.

Now the service is also honoring screenwriters at the Toronto Film Festival as the prizing-giving there got underway Thursday. The Black List and David Cronenberg’s producer Martin Katz teamed up to award Nadeem Siddiqui their 2017 TIFF/Martin Katz Independent Screenwriting Fellowship.

As part of the fellowship, Siddiqui receives an all-expense paid trip to TIFF, which runs through Sept. 17. Siddiqui’s dark romantic comedy script Slut made the cut on The Black List, whose ranked screenplays have gone on to be produced and earned 50 Oscars and more than $26 billion in box office worldwide.

“Nadeem’s writing is assured, funny and in-your-face sexy. He has written a romp of a romantic comedy, and I’m excited to be able to introduce him to the industry at TIFF,” Katz said Thursday. Katz via his Prospero Pictures shingle has produced Cronenberg films like Spider, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, which earned Julianne Moore the best actress Palme d’Or in Cannes.

Katz is also chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Siddiqui is represented by Woolf + Lapin Agency.

Why Martin Katz and Lee Kim saw opportunity in ‘Our House’

Production is underway in Toronto and Port Hope, ON on the horror thriller, Our House, the first feature film from director Anthony Scott Burns.

The Canada-Germany coproduction is produced by Prospero Pictures, Resolute Films and Entertainment and Senator Film Produktion.

The film, a remake of the 2010 sci-fi film Ghost from the Machine, is written by Moon screenwriter Nathan Parker. It follows Ethan (played by Me and Earl and the Dying Girl‘s Thomas Mann), a young genius who accidentally creates a device that can potentially bring spirits back from the dead.

Prospero’s Martin Katz and Resolute Films’ Lee Kim were brought together by mutual friend and Elevation Pictures co-president Noah Segal, who encouraged them to pursue a coproduction. They then approached Ulf Israel of Senator to come on board.

“Here you have an exciting well-known British writer who did Moon and Equals, with a hot new young director who is Canadian. It just was right for a coproduction structure,” said Resolute’s Kim in an interview with Playback Daily.

“Lee’s done a lot of lower-budget really commercial-oriented films, and I’ve done a lot of international coproductions,” added Katz. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

For Katz, a frequent David Cronenberg collaborator, the project offered him the opportunity to work with an up-and-coming auteur director on an “old-fashioned horror film for the whole family” with wide commercial appeal.

“One area of the market that seems to be stronger than ever is the elevated genre [film],” he says. “Usually it’s either high-concept or it’s the artistry with which the filmmaker is going to deal with the subject matter. I think that’s really what we’ve got here – an auteur director who is going to deliver a film which works the genre level but is also seen as artful cinema. That’s the home run when you’re working in the business,” he said.

Burns, who has previously directed short films and commercials and worked as a VFX artist, has big fans in Lee and Katz, who call the first-time feature director “amazingly talented.”

The producers are targeting Sundance for the film’s premiere and sales at the Berlin market. Our House has already been pre-sold in a number of territories including Elevation Pictures in Canada, Wild Bunch in Germany, Sun Distribution in Latin America and Spain, Abbolita for multiple territories and Falcon Films in the Middle East. XYZ Films are handling foreign sales and co-repping domestic sales with WME.

Our House is produced by Lee Kim, Martin Katz, Karen Wookey and Ulf Israel. Executive producers are Derek Dauchy, John Davis, Kyle Franke, David Kehrl, Adrian Love, Reik Möller, Noah Segal and Nick Spicer.

Cannes: Brandon Cronenberg Sets Sci-Fi Epic ‘Dragon’ as Sophomore Feature

Canadian director Brandon Cronenberg is teaming up with Marvel Comics writer Dan Abnett on epic sci-fi thriller “Dragon.” Cronenberg’s sophomore feature, “Dragon” will be produced by Luc Roeg’s Independent and Martin Katz’s Prospero Pictures, with Independent already exploring the story’s potential beyond film.

“‘Dragon’ connects to a certain kind of hallucinogenic sci-fi tradition, like an adaptation of an imagined Philip K. Dick novel,” said Cronenberg, who is son of veteran director David Cronenberg. “I’m thrilled to be working with Dan Abnett on this, exploring the pleasures of space horror in a satirical and at times psychotic universe.”

Set in the near future, “Dragon” envisions a society radically changed as a result of discovering ancient organic lifeforms drifting through the cosmos, whose alien biochemistry has been processed to create a hugely profitable drug that acts as an “opiate of the masses.” The film follows a captain and her crew as they hunt these “dragons” in deep space, seeking to secure a comfortable future.

Cronenberg will co-write the project with Abnett, who co-created Marvel’s new iteration of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2008, which became the source material for James Gunn’s hit movie franchise.

Producer Philip Herd said that Independent is already in discussions with VR companies for related content. “The world that Brandon and Dan are creating is incredibly rich,” says Herd. “There are immense opportunities to continue exploring it. While storytelling for the cinema is our focus, we are considering how we can work in complementary media to support the core cinematic work.”

The U.K.-Canada co-production is being developed with support from Telefilm Canada and is expected to start shooting in mid-2018.

Cronenberg’s debut feature, “Antiviral,” saw its world premiere in 2012’s Un Certain Regard at Cannes.