January 31, 2023

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WTFilms chief ‘Criminal’, moving into production with ‘Farang’

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In the past 12 months, Paris-based sales agent WTFilms has developed two features: “Criminal” by Jennifer Reeder (“Knife and Skin”), which will have its world premiere in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, and Xavier Jens’ thriller “Farang,” which co-financed and replaced by StudioCanal.

“Criminal,” starring Kiah McKiernan (“Mare of Easttown”) and Alicia Silverstone, is about an emotional teenage girl living in a town where young women are being kidnapped. It was produced by WTFilms helmer Gregory Chambet and Derek Bisshe for Divide/Conquer.

In December, Shader, AMC Network’s horror/thriller streaming service, acquired US rights.

Reeder called it “dark but feminine, a subtle noir, a powerful take on modern horror”. Chambet says audiences have a strong interest in feminine horror films, with strong female leads and highlights the performances of Alicia Silverstone as Aunt Hildy and Kiah McKiernan as wild child Johnny, who gains shape-shifting powers at 18.

“We completely developed and produced ‘Criminal,’ and we’re really excited about its world premiere in Berlin,” he says. “From now on, we aim to produce at least one in-house a year, which we can sell ourselves or sell through other companies.”

WTFilms moved into production to leverage its vertical expertise – from script development to sales – but above all to ensure access to quality projects.

“Streamers are developing their own projects and increasingly working directly with producers and buying less from international sales agents,” Chambet said.

Access to strong English-language titles is another key reason for this move. “I always try to have a balanced lineup with English-language titles,” he said, citing the example of Diego Halevis’ “American Murder,” starring Jenna Ortega. “The market has changed so much that it is much more difficult for sales agents to direct English-language films these days. So that’s definitely why production is important to us – to guarantee access to strong titles.”

Set in Thailand, “Farang” is about an ex-con, a professional boxer, whose past haunts him. The film is produced by WTFilms’ Dimitri Stephanides and Same Player’s Vincent Roget. StudioCanal sold the film in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe.

During the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, WTFilms will host market premieres for five films: Hugo Thomas’ teen drama “Juniors,” Romain Queirot’s sophomore feature “Apaches: Gang of Paris,” which will be released in France in February, Locarno Fest player “Stella in Love,” by Sylvie Verheide, the contemporary western “White Paradise,” by Guillaume Renusson, and Jerome Desier’s thriller “Let Her Kill You,” starring Asia Argento.

“Juniors” is a teen comedy about two kids who invent a fake illness to escape their boredom, but run into trouble. Chambet said the film is in the vein of Riyad Sattouf’s 2009 film “Les Beaux Gosses” (“The French Kissers”), adding that it’s important to have films that appeal to younger audiences, who have quickly returned to cinema, worldwide.

“White Paradise” has just been released in France by Ad Vitam. “It’s a perfect example of a project that appeals to audiences today,” he suggests. “This is a high-quality production, starring Zar Amir Ibrahimi, who won the best actress award at Cannes. At first it looks like a traditional French drama: it’s a compelling contemporary story about immigrants, capturing the zeitgeist. But above all, it’s an action-survival thriller with a top-notch cast, which broadens its appeal to a younger audience.”

WTFilms is looking for genre movies with innovative directors and strong concepts.

“Apaches” will have its market premiere at the Unifrance Rendez-Vous. It’s a revenge film set in Paris in the early 20th century, when rival gangs are wreaking havoc.

“The director has really created a perfect blend between a period story and a modern style,” says Chambet “It has a very modern feel in terms of the music, the neon lights, the streetwear, and it revolves around a strong female revenge story.”

He’s also very pleased with “Stella in Love,” which he says is “a great recreation of Paris in the 1980s — the epic era of Parisian nightclubs.”

To strengthen the company’s production muscle, Chambet is in talks with other sales agents to handle joint sales on ambitious projects and says he will announce two major projects at Cannes this year.

WTFilms previously agreed to a joint sales deal with Wild Bunch in 2020 for Quentin Dupieux’s comedy “Mandibles,” which was sold in multiple territories including the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Scandinavia and Brazil.

“The big ambition for this year is to make fewer but bigger movies and take bigger risks,” concludes Chambet. “This is also one of the main trends in the market. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to sell low-budget movies these days.”

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