‘A Miracle Before Christmas’, ‘Surprised By Oxford’ Castings; Fade To Black Films Slate; Acquisitions By Samuel Goldwyn, Freestyle, Adventure Entertainment, Gravitas; More – Film Briefs


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EXCLUSIVE : LeToya Luckett ( Greenleaf ), Romeo Miller ( Honey ) and Keith David ( Greenleaf ) have signed on to star in the film A Miracle Before Christmas , from writer-director LazRael Lison ( #Unknown ).

The love story centers on Mercedes Wright (Luckett), a famous, fast-talking relationship therapist who has the answers to fixing everyone else’s marital issues, but is challenged by problems faced with her own husband (Miller), leaning on help from an angel (David) to get past them. Lison and Tatiana Chekhova are producing the film under their Summer House Pictures banner, with Charles F. Porter of Black Bench Productions, and Jasper Cole ( Never and Again ). Marlon D. Haynes is serving as exec producer.

Luckett is represented by WME and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman; Miller by Pantheon Talent; David by Artists & Representatives, Silver J Management and Meyers & Downs; and Lison by Newman-Thomas Management and Kaye & Mills.


EXCLUSIVE : Rose Reid ( Finding You ), Ruairi O’Connor ( The Morning Show ), Phyllis Logan ( Downton Abbey ) and Mark Williams ( Harry Potter films) will topline the drama Surprised By Oxford , from writer-director Ryan Whitaker.

The film, based on Carolyn Weber’s memoir, tells the aspirational story of the brilliant but emotionally guarded Caro Drake (Reid), who arrives in Oxford with the singular goal of attaining her PhD. Through a turbulent and unexpected friendship with a charming young man, Caro begins to open herself up to mystery, vulnerability and love. Surprised By Oxford also stars Simon Callow, Emma Naomi, Michael Culkin, Annabelle Holloway, Lourdes Faberes, Ed Stoppard and Tyler Merritt. Nook Lane Entertainment’s Ken Carpenter produced alongside Jen Lewis of Evolve Studios. Bart Ruspoli and Hester Ruoff exec produced, along with Evolve’s Joel Edwards and Daniel Kiedis.

Reid is repped by Roar; O’Connor by Independent Talent Group, Verve, Link Entertainment and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman; Logan by Conway van Gelder Grant and SMS Talent; and Williams by CDA.


EXCLUSIVE : Toks Olagundoye ( Veep ), Jenn Lyon ( Claws ), Alec Mapa ( You Don’t Mess with the Zohan ) and Seana Kofoed ( American Princess ) will round out the cast of Rebecca Eskreis’ thriller ClearMind , which heads into production next week. The new additions are set to star alongside previously announced cast members including Kadeem Hardison, Rebecca Creskoff, Rob Benedict, Matt Peters and Jessica Meraz.

The film written by Kofoed explores the dark side of Virtual Reality therapy and the slippery slope of using simulated life to avenge the real. Kofoed is producing alongside Kristin Tegtmeier Higgins ( The Boy’s Gone ), with Lisa Challenger and River Place Productions exec producing.

Olagundoye is represented by Paradigm and Aligned Talent Group; Lyon by SDB Partners, TalentWorks and Principal Entertainment LA; Mapa by Fresh Faces Agency; and Kofoed by AKA Talent, CornerStone Talent and Meghan Schumacher Management.


EXCLUSIVE : Golden Globe winner Cybill Shepherd ( The Last Picture Show ), Erik Fellows ( Being Rose ) and Vannessa Vasquez ( East Los High ) have signed on to star in the horror-thriller A Beating Heart , from director Mark David, which will enter production in Mississippi in September.

In the film written by Daniel Blake Smith and Stephen Tronicek, a young man who as a boy witnessed his parents’ bloody murder must confront the memory and threat from that horrific event when the dangerous spirit that caused it suddenly reappears. A production of DBS Films, A Beating Heart will be produced by Shepherd, Smith, Fellows, Clayton Turnage and Joaquin Camilo.

Shepherd is repped by attorney Joseph Costa; Fellows by Established Artists; Vasquez by Buchwald and DePaz Management; Smith by Weintraub Tobin Chediak; and David by DTLA Entertainment Group.


EXCLUSIVE : Pha’rez Lass ( Mayor of Kingstown ) has been set as the lead for Ron Elliot’s film, Dope King .

Pic follows Profit, a drug dealer shot in the head and left for dead, who survives and seeks to covertly strike down his enemies, in order to reclaim his territory. He is left in anguish after learning his protege was killed and decides to give up life as a drug dealer, but his enemies soon discover he is still alive and are trying to kill him. Now, he must grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder, his fiancé’s kidnapping and the debt he owes to the Russian mob for a product he does not have.

Manny Perez, Marc John Jefferies, Michael Wright, Ephraim Benton, Sakina Deer, Mesha Mellington and Marquise Jackson will also star. Ron Elliot and Sharon Gordon are producing via their Visionary Entertainment Group, alongside Shawn Lindsey, Ephraim Benton, Walter Nicoles and Marquise Jackson. ForUsByUs Network’s Herb Kimble is serving as EP. Lass is repped by Robert Stein Management and Talentworks.


EXCLUSIVE : Fade to Black Films has unveiled details with regard to several upcoming projects, including the film Craft Me a Romance , starring Jodie Sweetin ( Full House ), Brent Bailey ( LBJ ), Michael Patrick Lane ( Sun Records ), Laura Long ( For All Mankind ), Maxwell Caulfield (Pam & Tommy ) and Julie Brown ( Clueless ), which recently entered production.

In the film that Sam Irvine is directing from Terence Brody’s script, Sweetin plays Nicole Borden, the owner of a quaint arts and crafts store, who is faced with an ultimatum by a competitor, only to then fall in love with his son, Mathew (Bailey). After a change of heart, Mathew must confront his father and convince him to help save Nicole’s business or risk losing his true love forever. Oren Kamara and Derek Sulek are producing the film, with Brian Herzinger serving as exec producer.

A second film from Fade to Black, premiering on Lifetime Network on April 30 at 8/7c, is the cat-and-mouse thriller The Walls are Watching , starring Branscombe Richmond and Lana McKissack as newlyweds being haunted by the former owner of the home they now occupy. Brian Herzlinger directed the pic from his and Jay Black’s script. Kamara and Sulek produced, with John Bravo serving as EP, and Brandon Ford Green and Anthony Starke rounding out the cast.

Then, there’s Herzlinger’s Aloha with Love , starring Trevor Donovan, Tiffany Smith, Richmond and James Preston, which premieres on UPTV on May 1st. Pic centers on Gemma (Smith), a talented big city architect who gets dumped by her slick agent fiancé when their relationship interferes too much with his career. In the same week she discovers her dear aunt has passed away but left her an old Hawaiian craftsman home in her will. Gemma then temporarily moves back to Maui to fix her aunt’s old house with Ben (Donovan), a handsome country-boy contractor hand-picked for the job by her aunt. Kamara and Sulek produced this title, penned by Brody.


EXCLUSIVE : Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired North American rights to Marcel Sarmiento’s baseball drama The Royal , with plans to release it in limited theaters and on digital on July 15.

The film tells the story of iconic former Kansas City Royal slugger Willie Mays Aikens, whose promising career quickly turned disastrous because of drug addiction. Aikens, to this day a World Series home run record holder, was entrapped by tricky cops and ultimately sentenced to the longest prison sentence ever given to a professional athlete in a drug case. The Royal is an intimate portrait of a man taking the hard circumstances of his life and turning them around against all odds, as he seeks redemption with his estranged family and friends (including George Brett), with baseball, and ultimately with himself upon his release from prison.

Amin Joseph, Elisabeth Rohm, Olivia Taylor Cruz, Andrea Navedo, Michael Beach and Nic Bishop star. Scott Resnick, Joseph and Gregory Jordan served as the film’s producers.


EXCLUSIVE : Freestyle Digital Media , the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group, has acquired North American rights to the Philippines-based military-themed thriller The Expat , with plans to release it across VOD platforms on May 24.

The film from writer-director Gregory Segal tells the story of a former American Marine stricken with post-traumatic stress disorder while on vacation in the Philippines. While he is enjoying his visit, He soon encounters romance and then the dark side of his new home, as someone begins to stalk and kill women with whom he’s had romantic encounters. As his romantic partners are found dead and scattered around Manila, things turn out to be not as they may seem. When this former American Marine becomes the prime suspect in this series of murders, will we learn the whole truth?

Charlotte Dianco, Cody Simon and Yuson Charles produced the pic, which stars Lev Gorn, Mon Confiado and Lovely Abella. Freestyle Digital Media negotiated the deal to acquire it directly with Glen Reynolds of Circus Road Films. Check out the trailer for The Expat below.


EXCLUSIVE : Adventure Entertainment has acquired North American right to Dan Mirvish’s film 18½ , for release in theaters in over 50 markets on May 27th, beginning with Laemmle theaters in Los Angeles and expanding coast-to-coast on June 3rd, with the filmmakers in attendance for Q&As in all key markets.

The acclaimed film set in 1974 is about a fictional White House transcriber who finds the only copy of the infamous 18½-minute gap in Nixon’s Watergate tapes, only to have her attempts to leak it to the press run afoul of hippies, swingers and nefarious forces.

18½ is a 101 Films International, Bugeater Films and Kyyba Films production in association with Syncopated Daydreams and Terry Keefe Media. Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Vondie Curtis Hall, Catherine Curtin, Richard Kind, Sullivan Jones, Alanna Saunders, Claire Saunders, Ted Raimi, Jon Cryer and Bruce Campbell star. Daniel Moya wrote the script, which was based on his and Mirvish’s story. Mirvish, Moya and Terry Keefe produced the film, with Tel K. Ganesan, Ashwin T. Ganesan, Richard Schenkman and Sebastian Twardosz exec producing, and Paul Orzulak, Kyra Rogers, Elisabeth Jereski, Jarrod Phillips, Dana Altman and Frédéric Forestier serving as co-executive producers.


EXCLUSIVE : Gravitas Ventures , an Anthem Sports & Entertainment Company, has acquired North American rights to the queer musical love story, Triple Threat , directed by and starring Stacey Maltin, for release in theaters in select markets and on VOD on June 21.

In Triple Threat , the relationship between three best friends on the verge of their Broadway debut is put to the test, when diverging dreams meet the realities of adulthood. The indie also stars Margarita Zhitnikova, Jay DeYonker, Mark St. Cyr, Aramie Payton and Catherine Curtin. Maltin wrote the script with DeYonker and produced with Zhitnikova via their Besties Make Movies banner, alongside Jackie Schwartz, Martha Frances Williams and Carrie Radigan.

Gravitas Ventures’ acquisition team negotiated the deal for Triple Threat with Schwartz, who serves as Besties Make Movies’ VP of Development.


EXCLUSIVE : Eric Drath’s basketball documentary The Dream Whisperer , about the Tennessee A&I (now known as Tennessee State University) Tigers, is set to premiere at the 30th annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival on April 30.

In the midst of segregation, the all-Black Tigers were the first collegiate basketball team to win three consecutive national championships. Yet they were never duly recognized for this singular achievement. The team’s captain, legendary Knicks player Dick Barnett, subsequently began a nine-year quest to ensure his team’s immortality, with his tenacity, dedication and struggle finally paying off in 2019.

The doc narrated by Barnett features interviews with Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, Hall of Fame player Julius Erving, two-time NBA champion Walt Frazier, two-time NBA champ Bill Bradley, Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, Hall of Fame NBA Commissioner David Stern and more. Danielle Naassana and Aaron Cohen served as its producers, with Drath, Ed Peskowitz, Penelope Peskowitz, George Willis and Grammy-winning hip hop producer 9th Wonder exec producing. Check out the trailer for The Dream Whisperer below.

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