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Gravitas Ventures Buys Documentary ‘Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web’

Internet entrepreneur and political party backer

MAY 16, 2017 | 06:00AM PT
Gravitas Ventures has secured U.S. as well as the foreign sales rights to territories outside North America for the documentary “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web,” which follows the notorious internet hacker, Variety has learned exclusively.

Gravitas announced the deal on Tuesday on the eve of the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, where it will be selling international rights.

Dotcom was born Kim Schmitz in Germany and moved to New Zealand with his family in 2012. Dotcom was raided and arrested by the New Zealand police that year and has been fighting extradition to the U.S. ever since. Charges against him include copyright infringement, racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering as he and three co-defendants could face up to 80 years in prison.

Dotcom maintains that his Megaupload platform was merely providing a service, and under current copyright law, he is not responsible for the actions of its millions of users. The documentary includes interviews with Dotcom and his ex-wife Mona Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, Dotcom’s chief global counsel Ira Rothken, Larry Lessig, Gabriella Coleman, Jonathan Taplin, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Jimmy Wales, MPAA’s Steve Fabrizio, and Moby.

The film had its world premiere at SXSW in March. Gravitas is working with the producers to align the film for an Aug. 22 release in the U.S. and other markets. “We were drawn to this fascinating documentary because love or hate Kim Dotcom, it is hard to take your eyes off this iconoclastic renegade,” said Gravitas CEO and founder Nolan Gallagher.

“Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web” was written and directed by Annie Goldson (“Brother Number One”). Alexander Behse produced. Gallagher negotiated the deal for Gravitas with Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films on behalf of Behse.

Josh Spector, Zach Hamby Join Gravitas Ventures As Acquisitions Executives


Josh Spector has joined distributor Gravitas Ventures as its new director of acquisitions moving from MGM where he was manager of acquisitions. Zach Hammy has also joined the company as acquisitions manager, coming from RLJ Entertainment. Spector will report to Gravitas Founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher and will oversee Hamby.

In his new role Spector will set a yearly strategy for identifying and tracking more than 30 theatrical releases and 300 direct-to-VOD films. He will also oversee the company’s film festival and market coverage program. Spector will be attending the Tribeca Film Festival this year, but will forego Cannes.

While at MGM Spector was responsible for licensing content for MGM’s domestic theatrical and international TV distribution. He began at the studio in 2013 after working with the team at Entertainment One. His experience extends to development, production and finance as well as sales.

Hamby previously served as the acquisitions coordinator for RLJ Entertainment assisting in the acquisition and distribution of titles such as: Bone TomahawkBushwickThe CobblerThe RewriteDog Eat Dog, and The Phenom.

Prior to moving to Los Angeles, he served as the Marketing Coordinator for Acorn TV, assisting in the development and management of the streaming service. His experience extends to digital distribution, film packaging, financing, marketing, and production.

Gravitas Ventures Hires Scott Kaplan As SVP Global Sales


EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures has hired Gunpowder & Sky exec Scott Kaplan as SVP Global Sales, a newly created post. He will launch Gravitas’ new New York office, and the plan is to boost the indie distributor’s international presence selling and licensing new releases and library titles worldwide. He exited G&S on Tuesday and will be on the ground in his new role for the Cannes film market which kicks off next month.

It’s the latest ramp-up for Gravitas, which recently tapped Josh Spector as director of acquisitions and Zach Hamby as acquisitions manager.

At Gunpowder & Sky Distribution, where he held the same title, he oversaw all aspects of domestic and international sales for more than 400 releases including The Little Hours, the Sundance pic that bows in theaters June 30 that will mark G&S’ biggest distribution play to date. He also worked on acquisitions, corporate strategy and business development.

Before that he held the same position at FilmBuff, which G&S acquired last fall. While at FilmBuff he helped shape the global distributor/foreign sales agent hybrid. He sourced and negotiated hundreds of deals for a library of more than 1000 films.

“In addition to having great sales acumen, Scott brings a critical expertise to our team,” Gravitas president Michael Murphy said. “He has a great eye for global acquisitions. In the last few years we’ve seen strong international growth and with the addition of Scott we’re going to step on the gas to further increase global awareness.”



Slamdance Winner ‘Dave Made a Maze’ Lands at Gravitas (EXCLUSIVE)


Sundance Winner 'Dave Made a Maze'


Gravitas Ventures has bought all North American rights to offbeat Slamdance Winner “Dave Made a Maze” in the wake of the film winning an Audience Award for Best Narrative at the Slamdance Film Festival.

Starring Nick Thune, the movie merges fantasy with reality from the confines of a living room chock-full of cut-up cardboard boxes. Meera Rohit Kumbhani, James Urbaniak (“Difficult People”), Stephanie Allynne (“In a World”) and Kirsten Vangsness (“Criminal Minds”) also star.

Dave is portrayed by Thune as an artist who has yet to complete anything significant in his career. He builds a fort in his living room out of pure frustration, only to wind up trapped by the fantastical pitfalls, booby traps, and critters of his own creation. His girlfriend Annie leads a band of oddball explorers on a rescue mission — but find themselves trapped in an ever-changing supernatural world, threatened by booby traps and pursued by a bloodthirsty Minotaur.

“We wanted to re-imagine classic 80s adventure films with a comedic edge and a higher body count,” said director Bill Waterson. “To reignite that tactile sense of wonder triggered by those films, we played in the sandbox of old-school practical effects – puppetry, miniatures, stop motion animation, and in-camera optical illusions.”

The deal for “Dave Made a Maze” was negotiated by Nolan Gallagher on behalf of Gravitas and by Matt Burke of Submarine on behalf of the filmmakers.


Tribeca Film Festival Isn’t Really a Film Festival: How the New York Event Has Sought a 21st Century Identity


Now in its 16th year, Tribeca is still carving out a niche within the film festival ecosystem.

Tribeca Film Festival

And Then There’s The Movies

As to the vision behind what they’re offering, in 2010 Rosenthal could only describe it as “a diverse group of films to a wide group of audiences.” That’s a good-enough intention, but it also suggests trying to be something for everyone. In recent years, it has branded itself as a showcase for the future of storytelling, as well as an early adopter of virtual reality, immersive storytelling, and television programming.

In 2016 the festival launched Tribeca TV with shows including HBO’s “The Night Of” and AMC’s “The Night Manager;” the closing night film was “The Bomb,” a “multimedia experience” about nuclear weapons. This year’s Tribeca Immersive program will feature 29 VR and interactive exhibits, including the world premiere of Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s first VR project, “The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes” about African rangers protecting elephants from ivory poachers. Bigelow co-directed the short with visual artist Imraan Ismail in partnership with African Parks, National Geographic, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

At different points it’s opened with premieres for anonymous blockbusters like “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Mission Impossible III.” Recent years have favored the movie-and-a-concert model like this year’s “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives,” which will feature after-film performances by Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind & Fire. In 2013 it was The National documentary “Mistaken For Strangers,” with the band at the afterparty, and in 2015 it was Bao Nguyen’s “Saturday Night Live” documentary, “Live From New York,” which was followed, somewhat incongruously, with a performance by Ludacris.

The festival also continues to lean heavily on De Niro’s legacy: Last year’s edition closed with a screening of “Taxi Driver” and this year’s finale will involve back-to-back screenings of “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II.”

Tribeca has also successfully positioned itself as one of the best documentary forums on the festival circuit. While most of its A-list docs premiere elsewhere, Alex Gibney’s 2007 “Taxi to the Dark Side” had its world premiere at Tribeca before going on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. “Jesus Camp” (2006) and “Street Fight” (2005) both earned Oscar nominations; other critically acclaimed docs that premiered at Tribeca include “The War Tapes” (2006), “My Winnipeg” (2007), “Racing Dreams” (2009) and “Bombay Beach” (2011).

Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Dark Side”


On the other hand, the 2016 festival came under fire for accepting the controversial anti-vaccination film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.” De Niro initially defended the decision to program the film, then changed his position and pulled the title from the festival’s lineup.

The festival’s narrative competition doesn’t spark major bidding wars, but films do sell. Recent acquisitions include “Adderall Diaries” (A24), “Always Shine” (Oscilloscope Laboratories), “Freakonomics” (Magnolia Pictures), and “Virunga” (Netflix). However, Tribeca has become an especially vital source for smaller distributors like VOD-driven provider Gravitas Ventures.

“It is a must-stop for Gravitas,” said founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher, who comes to this year’s festival having purchased the Elián González documentary “Elián,” a Tribeca premiere. Last year, Gravitas Ventures acquired the Leonard Nimoy documentary “For the Love of Spock” and Katie Holmes’ directorial debut “All We Had.”

“Tribeca is clearly an audience-facing rather than industry-facing festival, but it has gathered heightened prestige and curatorial credibility over the last few years,” said Kino Lorber president and CEO Richard Lorber. “We do business at Tribeca.”

Tribeca has also consistently succeeded in landing major sponsorships, particularly from AT&T and American Express. However, one would-be moneymaking endeavor, Tribeca Film, released a string of well-reviewed but underperforming titles before quietly folding last year. “That’s a really tough business,” said one former Tribeca executive. “I suspect it was just a lot of work and not a lot of financial gain.”

Launched in 2010, Tribeca Film released a few movies that broke $1 million at the box office, including 2014’s “Palo Alto,” starring James Franco and Emma Roberts and directed by Francis Ford Coppola’s granddaughter Gia Coppola, but the vast majority of the shingle’s more than 100 releases were commercial duds. Despite releasing well-reviewed films like Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up Philip” and the documentary “I Am Big Bird” in 2014, Tribeca Film’s output dropped sharply in the past couple years, releasing just five titles in 2015 and none in 2016.

Emma Roberts in “Palo Alto”

Tribeca Film

Rosenthal insisted that the company’s internal team members are its “harshest critics at how to improve the festival,” adding that they refine aspects of the fest every year. “We have always been passionate about new ways to tell stories and support artists and filmmakers as they test the boundaries of what film storytelling is,” she said. “There is always room for improvement.”

The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 19 – 30.


Vudu Among Six New EMA Members


Walmart’s Vudu streaming service has joined the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), along with other new members ANG Digital, City National Bank, Cognizant, Gravitas Ventures and MarkMonitor, according to an April 11 announcement from the trade group.

ANG Digital (www.angdigital.com) helps media and entertainment companies navigate the digital and mobile shift by easing transitions from legacy systems to newer platforms. Customers can use ANG’s proprietary Generat.IO platform to conform to industry standards for Avails, and unlock consumer value by simplifying workflow for digital extras.

With $45.1 billion in assets, City National Bank provides banking, investment and trust services through 72 offices, including 16 full-service regional centers, in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Nevada, New York City, Nashville and Atlanta. In addition, the company and its investment affiliates manage or administer $55.5 billion in client investment assets. City National has provided financial services to the entertainment industry for more than 60 years.

Cognizant (www.cognizant.com) uses an industry-based consultative approach to help clients envision, build and run more-innovative and efficient businesses.

Gravitas Ventures (www.gravitasventures.com) is a leading all-rights distributor of independent cinema. Founded in 2006, Gravitas connects independent filmmakers and producers with distribution opportunities across the globe. Working with more than 500 content partners, Gravitas Ventures has distributed thousands of films into more than 100 million homes. Recent releases include Katie Holmes’ feature directorial debut, All We Had, and For the Love of Spock, directed by Adam Nimoy, son of “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy.

MarkMonitor (markmonitor.com) provides advanced technology and expertise to protect the revenue and reputations of the world's leading brands.

Vudu (www.vudu.com) offers more than 100,000 film and TV titles for streaming or download, including 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos Cinema Sound.


‘The Reagan Show’ Docu Picked Up By Gravitas Ventures & CNN Films – Tribeca


The Reagan Show

The pic will hit theaters June 30, with a July 4 VOD bow to follow. CNN will air the docu after those windows.

The Reagan Show centers on how Reagan redefined the look and feel of what it meant to be the President of the United States in the late 20th century. Using archival video and filmed footage, the movie demonstrates how he governed and used his Hollywood-powered, public-image savvy as film crews trailed him in a constant state of self-documentation — all while global threats loomed during what would be the turbulent, final years of the Cold War. Some pundits accused Reagan of majoring in public relations more so than serious presidential affairs.

“In The Reagan Show, these talented filmmakers present a fascinating look at what set Reagan apart and made his time in office iconic, no matter which side of the fence you fall on,” Gravitas CEO Nolan Gallagher said. “He knew better than most what the true power of the press is.”

Pettengill produced from a script by Velez, Josh Alexander and Francisco Bello. Dan Cogan, Amy Entelis of CNN Films, and Houston King are the executive producers. Gallagher negotiated the deal for Gravitas with Ben Braun and Josh Braun of Submarine for the filmmakers.

‘Elian’ Documentary Acquired By Gravitas Ventures Before Tribeca Film Festival Premiere


EXCLUSIVE: Prior to its April 21 premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Elian, the documentary about the five-year old boy who became embroiled in a United States-Cuban immigration controversy and custody battle 17 years ago, has been picked up by Gravitas Ventures for U.S. theatrical, digital, and video distribution. Pic will roll out in New York and Los Angeles on May 19.

While the pic recounts the remarkable survival story of Elian Gonzalez, directors Ross McDonnell and Tim Golden gained unprecedented access to a now articulate 23-year-old Gonzalez, who lives in a post-Castro era Cuba.

Elian is co-produced by Fine Point Films and Jigsaw Productions and previously was acquired by CNN Films, which will be the worldwide broadcast and mobile premiere presenter, is the exclusive presenter for U.S. television and also holds rights to broadcast the film in Canada. Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive streaming video home for the doc in the U.S.

Elian is narrated by Tony Award-nominee Raúl Esparza. Pic was executive-produced by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney and his Jigsaw Productions. Amy Entelis of CNN Films also serves as EP and Courtney Sexton is the supervising producer. Elian was conceived and produced by Trevor Birney of Fine Point Films Ltd. The deal was negotiated by Nolan Gallagher for Gravitas Ventures, and by Jonathan Ford with Content Media Corporation on behalf of the filmmakers.


‘California Typewriter’: Documentary Featuring Tom Hanks, John Mayer Gets Late Summer Release



Gravitas Ventures has bought U.S. rights to the documentary “California Typewriter,” which will open the 41st Cleveland International Film Festival on Wednesday.

“California Typewriter,” which premiered at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival, will open theatrically in Los Angeles, New York and a dozen additional markets in the late summer.

The title is derived from one of the last remaining typewriter shops, located in Berkeley, Calif., which plays a major role in the film. Run by Herbert Permillion III and his family, the business is shown attempting to balance financial security with its decades-long passion for selling and restoring typewriters.

Director Doug Nichol made the self-funded film over a period of five years. “The film was a real labor of love for everyone involved and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Gravitas and their team,” he said.

The film includes interviews with artist Jeremy Mayer, who makes “typewriter assemblage sculpture”; Martin Howard, who’s collected typewriters for nearly 30 years and is on a quest to add a rare Sholes and Glidden machine his collection; Tom Hanks, who has over 250 machines in his collection; musician John Mayer; playwright Sam Shepard and author David McCullough.

“In exploring the history and fondness people still carry for the typewriter, we are forced to confront an even larger question of how technology factors into our lives and what it’s pushing away,” stated Gravitas Founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher. “It is timely in this age of growth in tech to bring these thought provoking stories to the big screen.”

Nichol photographed with John Benet. Executive producers are Charlotte Chatton, James Redford and Dana Schwartz. The deal was negotiated by Gallagher for Gravitas and Kevin Iwashina and Zac Bright from Preferred Content on behalf of the filmmakers.




‘Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo’ Bought by Gravitas


Gravitas Ventures has acquired worldwide rights from Haviland Digital to the documentary “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” ahead of its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

Gravitas is planning an April 14 day-and-date release in theaters across the U.S. and VOD.

The film includes archival footage and stories from the creator of Mission Control, Dr. Chris Kraft, retired NASA Flight Directors Gene Kranz (portrayed by Ed Harris in “Apollo 13”), Glynn Lunney and Gerry Griffin. Also appearing are Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick, Flight Controller John Aaron, astronaut Captain James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13”), and moonwalkers Charlie Duke and the late Captain Gene Cernan.

“Mission Control” explores the faltering start of the program to the Mercury and Gemini missions, the tragic Apollo 1 fire and the Moon landings.

“Mission Control” was directed by David Fairhead and produced by Keith Haviland and Gareth Dodds. The three men came to the story of “Mission Control” after their work on “The Last Man on the Moon,” which debuted at SXSW in 2015 and told the tale of Cernan, who flew three times in space and twice to the Moon.

“It’s a real privilege to tell this epic story of a remarkable decade. It shows what vision and teamwork can achieve,” said Haviland.

“Flights into space capture the imagination as much today as they did 50 years ago,” said Gravitas Ventures’ CEO Nolan Gallagher. “From Space X to ‘Hidden Figures’ to ‘The Martian,’ the dreams of millions are carried out by hundreds of heroes both in the air and on the ground at Mission Control. We are thrilled to be working with Gareth and Keith to share this remarkable piece of history with audiences everywhere.”

Fox’s “Hidden Figures,” which centers on the role of female African-American scientists in the early days of the space program, has been a critical and commercial success with three Oscar nominations and $145 million in domestic grosses.

The deal for “Mission Control” was negotiated by Nolan Gallagher for Gravitas, and Dodds and Haviland for Haviland Digital.