XYZ Films has hired Ric Roman Waugh to direct the action thriller Land Of The Free set against the backdrop of the stricken US auto industry.

Waugh is also producing alongside XYZ Films’ Nick Spicer, Nate Bolotin and Aram Tertzakian.

Lee Toland Krieger, in contention for an Independent Spirit screenplay award for The Vicious Kind, wrote the script.

Land Of The Free takes place in Detroit where a rising tide of blue collar resentment toward white collar greed is exacerbated by the financial collapse.

“The deep sense of anger building within the working class who’ve all been affected by the overall financial, housing and health care crisis, and in a time of war… while the top 1% not only continue to get richer, but are rewarding themselves with bonuses, is a pressure-cooker situation just waiting to explode,” Waugh said. “Detroit is the epicentre of that angst, which makes it the perfect backdrop.”

In a statement XYZ said: “What’s happening in Detroit is a modern tragedy, and the tensions there are being felt all over the country.”

Waugh recently wrote and directed the prison thriller Felon starring Stephen Dorf, Sam Shepard, Harold Perrineau and Val Kilmer and has lined up The Untitled Bobby Martinez Project, a Black List project he rewrote for Participant Media with State Street Pictures producing.

LA-based XYZ Films’ slate includes a heist film with Darren Aronofsky and a crime thriller about auto industry maverick John DeLorean with Alex Holmes.