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Tripling up on talent

XYZ Films’ Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer and Aram Tertzakian talk about their busy company,which is building on the global success of The Raid [pictured]. Jeremy Kay reports

You can still see the starting blocks in the XYZ Films story, but its three founders have wasted little time hitting their stride in what many believe will be a speedy rise.

Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer and Aram Tertzakian met at UCLA and set up the Los Angeles-based company in early 2008. Since then, they have established themselves as savvy deal-makers, arbiters of good (mostly genre) taste and masters of building relationships.

The Raid is the best case in point. XYZ had handled sales on the little-known Indonesian action movie Merantau after a tip from Todd Brown, the company’s Toronto-based partner and founder of genre site Twitch. They saw talent in that film’s director, Gareth Evans, a Welshman who works in Jakarta, and helped him develop his $1m follow-up, The Raid.

The martial-arts hit premiered at Toronto in 2011, where it won the Midnight Madness audience award. Two months later, Sony Pictures Classics snapped it up. The movie arrived in US theatres earlier this year amid rapturous acclaim from fans, and has gone on to earn more than $15m worldwide.

XYZ and Evans will start production in January in Indonesia on the sequel and are developing an English-language remake with Sony’s Screen Gems division. “The Raid is a good example of us identifying and collaborating with international talent,” says Tertzakian. “Gareth won’t be directing [the remake] but he is involved in the process and has given the project his blessing.”

Bolotin picks up the theme. “Gareth and [his company] Merantau Films have relationships with other up-and-coming talent in the region, and together with them we’re helping launch the next wave of Indonesian film-makers. Gareth has been supportive of launching the Mo brothers [who burst on to the scene with Macabre] and he is a producer on their movie Killers, which is in production in Jakarta.”

XYZ is handling worldwide sales on Killers through Celluloid Nightmares, the elevated genre sales arm it launched with Celluloid Dreams in 2010. At AFM, Bolotin and director of sales Sarah Gabriel struck a deal with Wild Bunch for France, Germany and Spain on Home, Nicholas McCarthy’s follow-up to Sundance 2012 hit The Pact. Meanwhile, eOne has taken on the giant killer-bee story Stung for the UK, Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia.

International rights representation is one aspect of a business that includes producing and packaging, and feeds into the broader idea of exploiting global talent.

The company is expanding its relationships in Australia by bringing on Simon de Bruyn as an acquisitions consultant. Bolotin notes: “I was recently with Simon in Melbourne for [film market] 37°South and we identified projects and got to know Australian film-makers and funding bodies.” The company has closed US deals on films such as Crawlspace and Storm Surfers 3D and is also handling world sales on sci-fi thriller These Final Hours.

“This focus on Australia speaks to our broader mission of becoming a global film company,” says Tertzakian. “We are proud of the success we achieved with The Raid in Indonesia, and we’re aiming to further that success around the world with projects like Frankenstein’s Army,” which Dutch director Richard Raaphorst shot in Prague and is in post.

The team can usually be found at every major film festival as they seek to broaden the local-language production roster. “We are doing a movie with Participant that will shoot in Colombia called Aguas Rojas,” says Spicer. “It is a supernatural horror story with an interesting social angle to it. Participant developed it and brought us on as executive producers. We helped structure a co-production between Colombia and Spain and we’re accessing soft monies and mechanisms in those countries. We’re aiming to shoot it next year with a first-time Spanish director called Lluis Quilez.”

Closer to home, head of development, former Fox and Davis Entertainment executive Kyle Franke offers the team a window on how studios think.

And the pipeline is growing. In addition to The Raid remake, XYZ is also developing UK heist film Breaking The Bank for Evans to direct at Universal.

XYZ Films

  • Nate Bolotin worked in packaging, financing and representation at The Collective.
  • Nick Spicer previously produced Love, Pain And Vice Versa for Lemon Films in Mexico.
  • Aram Tertzakian worked in development for Alexander Payne and Radar Pictures.
  • The three established XYZ Films in 2008.
  • They launched Celluloid Nightmares with Celluloid Dreams at Cannes 2010.

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