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17 October 2008

Spitfire And Exclusive To "Back" Weir

Spitfire And Exclusive To "Back" Weir

(Los Angeles, CA) – October 16, 2008 – It was announced today that Spitfire Pictures has just signed on to finance six-time Academy Award® nominee Peter Weir’s new epic film, “The Way Back”.  Spitfire will produce the film for parent company HS Media, the recently formed global filmed entertainment group, which combines Spitfire Pictures and Hammer Films, and is backed by strategic investment group Cyrte Investments.

Exclusive Film Distribution, HS Media’s newly formed sales and distribution company, will handle international sales for the film at the upcoming AFM. The cast of the movie is yet to be announced.

Peter Weir, Joni Levin, Duncan Henderson and Spitfire’s Nigel Sinclair will Produce.  Keith Clarke, John Ptak, Spitfire’s Guy East and Simon Oakes, and Jonathan Schwartz, will Executive Produce.

“The Way Back” is inspired by Slavomir Rawicz's acclaimed novel “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom”, as well as from other real life accounts, and chronicles the escape of a small group of multi-national prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940, and their epic journey of 8,000 miles across five hostile countries.  It was introduced to Weir by Keith Clarke and Joni Levin.  This will be his first film since the multiple Academy Award® winning “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, starring Russell Crowe.

“An irresistible chance to film a story that is as much about survival as escape, all set against a series of vast primeval landscapes stretching from Siberia to India.” – Peter Weir

”Peter is one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. This is his first truly independent film in many, many years and Spitfire Pictures is proud to have the opportunity to be part of his vision.” – Nigel Sinclair

Principal photography for the film is scheduled to begin in March 2009 in Bulgaria.

Exclusive Film Distribution is based in London and will make its market debut at the AFM next month. Exclusive will handle worldwide sales and distribution for both Spitfire Pictures and Hammer Films, both of which fall under the HS Media banner. Additional films on the company’s international slate will be announced over the coming weeks.

Veteran sales executive Peter Naish has joined Exclusive as Head of Sales, reporting to President and Chairman of HS Media’s Sales and Distribution Operation, Guy East, and Managing Director Andy Mayson.

Exclusive will also be actively sourcing negative pick up and third party productions for sales and distribution. Exclusive has adopted the name of the company initially used to distribute the original Hammer films in the 1940’s and 1950’s, when the name Exclusive was synonymous with British filmmaking.

About Peter Weir
Australian director Peter Weir is one of today’s most celebrated international filmmakers.  He first achieved recognition, as well as an Australian Film Institute award for Best Director, with “Gallipoli” in 1981.  Starring newcomer Mel Gibson as one of two friends who go off to fight in World War I, it was hailed by international critics and established Weir's reputation outside of Australia.  His reputation was further enhanced quickly thereafter with “The Year of Living Dangerously”, also staring Gibson, as well as Sigourney Weaver.  A romance set against the backdrop of the toppling of Indonesia's Sukarno regime in 1965, it was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and proved to be Weir's first international commercial success.

Weir made his first excursion onto American soil with “Witness”, starring Harrison Ford, which documented a culture clash viewed from the eyes of a wounded Philadelphia cop recovering from his injuries in a Pennsylvania Amish community.  “Witness” was a worldwide success, and it earned Weir and Ford their first Academy Award Nominations. 

Following the Harrison Ford and River Phoenix staring “Mosquito Coast”, Weir directed the breakout hit “Dead Poets Society”, which earned him his second Oscar nomination for Best Director, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and, a French César for Best Foreign Film. Weir subsequently went on to direct his own screenplay and independent production of “Green Card”, the romantic comedy starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell, which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

After directing “Fearless”, starring Jeff Bridges, Weir helmed the blockbuster hit “The Truman Show.”  Starring Jim Carrey as a man trapped in a TV show about his own artificially constructed life, the film was a surreal, darkly humorous take on contemporary society's obsession with the media and celebrity. It was embraced by both critics and audiences worldwide, earning Weir his third Best Director Oscar nomination, as well as a host of other honors.

Weir took five years to follow up “The Truman Show” with the Napoleonic-era naval epic, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” in 2003.  It was greeted with many rapturous reviews and ten Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, and, yet another Best Director nod for Weir.

About HS Media
Formed by strategic investment group Cyrte Investments in May 2008, HS Media is the parent company of Los Angeles based Spitfire Pictures and legendary British Studio, Hammer Films. The company is run by Nigel Sinclair, Guy East and Simon Oakes with Sinclair and Oakes serving as Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs (out of Los Angeles and London respectively), and East as President and Chairman of the Sales and Distribution Operation.
Under HS Media, Spitfire and Hammer operate as two separate production entities. HS Media aims to produce 6-8 films per year and to acquire additional pictures for worldwide distribution through its London-based subsidiary Exclusive Film Distribution.  The group also develops projects for television and digital platforms.
HS Media has over 300 titles in the combined Hammer and Spitfire libraries and will pursue an aggressive library acquisition policy. The Hammer library is noted for its remake potential and the company is in discussions with A-list writers and directors to revive and re-imagine some of the highly touted titles.

Cyrte Investments is part of Delta Lloyd Asset Management, with some 68 billion euro in assets under management (end 2007), one of the Netherlands major asset managers, which in turn is majority-owned by London Stock Exchange listed Aviva plc, one of the world’s largest insurance companies.

About Spitfire Pictures
Spitfire Pictures is a Los Angeles based production subsidiary of HS Media, with specialized feature film and documentary divisions.

Spitfire has a very active slate of films in pre-production and development with several highly successful writers including Bill Broyles, Stuart Beattie, Christopher McQuarrie, Justin Haythe, Craig Zahler, Max Makowski, and Christopher Cleveland. Projects set up at Spitfire include the biographical picture about the life of legendary Who drummer Keith Moon, and an adaptation of the best-seller “Moral Hazard” to be directed by Philip Noyce.  Spitfire is planning an early 2009 release for its latest thriller, “Possession”, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. 

Spitfire’s acclaimed documentary division has produced several heralded docs including “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who” and the award winning “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” directed by Martin Scorsese, and aims to deliver 3-4 documentaries per year.  Spitfire recently teamed with music legend Billy Joel and Maritime Pictures to produce the feature documentary film “The Last Play at Shea,” documenting Joel’s historic concerts at Shea Stadium on July 16th and 18, 2008.  Barry Blaustein’s “Guys N’ Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals” will be released by Lionsgate and Showtime, while Spitfire has teamed again with Martin Scorsese to direct “The Untitled George Harrison Project” documentary.

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