Catalyst Studios has tapped Serbian helmer Milena Grujic (A.S. (25)The Future is Bright and Unbearable) to direct action title Verified Target. The project will star international cast including Dominka Walo (Psy 3: W imie Zasad) Sebastian Hulk (All Quiet on the Western Front), Martin Wuttke (Inglorious Bastards), and Maria Erwolter (1899).

Verified Target is a high-octane English-language action film that tells the tale of a disillusioned hit woman who discovers the organization she works for is no longer a force for good. Her target has been falsely verified, she refuses to “take the shot” and now becomes a target on the hit list of the firm she once worked for.

The film, which begins filming in Belgrade, Serbia this week, is produced by Marija Bereta and Dragan Ivanovic, who heads Bandur Film in Belgrade.  Catalyst Studios’ Holly Levow is executive producing.

“I like to push my own limits, collaborate with creative minds, and find unique ways to enrich the vision of any project,” said Grujic. “Directing an action film like this, with the support of Catalyst Studios, is a great step forward for me and my colleagues from the Baltic region. I am truly happy to bring Verified Target to the screen.”

“This is a perfect project for Catalyst given that we have established an impressive production footprint in Serbia,” said Catalyst Studios’ Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf. “We are absolutely thrilled to have Milena, a proven asset to our studio, at the helm of Verified Target, an English-speaking film shot in Serbia for the international market.”

Verified Target joins Catalyst’s slate of six feature films directed and produced by women and centered on female protagonists, including Michelle Salcedo for Switch & Bait, Joanne Mitchell for Sybil, Siri Rødnes for Follow Me, Colombian auteur Ana Maria Hermida for the recently completed coming-of-age film, Alix, and Tamika Miller (Honor Student, “Station 19”) for a soon to be announced project.

Deadline Article

Fledgling U.S. production company Catalyst Studios has announced eight-part docuseries EmpowHer going behind the scenes of the films on its inaugural slate driven by six female and non-binary directors and producers.

Catalyst Studios was launched last May as a joint venture between social entrepreneur Holly Levow and producer Paul Kampf of Equitas Entertainment, and Mark Pennell of Beacon Pictures, with a focus on emerging talent and diverse storytelling.

EmpowHer will follow the journeys of filmmakers from across Catalyst Studios’ slate including Michelle Salcedo with Switch & Bait, starring Otmara Marrero and Katie Clarkson-Hill; Joanne Mitchell with Sybil; Siri Rødnes with Follow Me starring Connie Nielsen, and Colombian auteur Ana Maria Hermida with the recently announced coming-of-age feature film Alix.

Further filmmaker subjectinclude Tamika Miller (Honor StudentStation 19) and Milena Grujic (The Future is BrightUnbearable) with soon-to-be-announced projects.

The series will track the filmmakers from pre-production, through filming, to festival circuits and ultimately releases, to demonstrate the power of female and non-binary representation and the importance of creating a more equitable and diverse film industry.

Jennifer Klein (Vice) is the project’s Supervising Story Producer with Levow executive producing. Veteran filmmaker Richard Gibson (A Message from Fallujah) is directing and executive producing the series with Kerry Doyle producing.

With three films already in post-production, EmpowHer is halfway through its slate and is currently on location in the jungles of Rio Claro, Colombia documenting the process behind Alix.

EmpowHer is more than just an entertaining docuseries, it is a discovery of triumph and an exploration of the human spirit of storytelling seen through the female lens,” said Levow.

“Our goal is to demonstrate the significance of amplifying new voices, and the importance of creating a more equitable and diverse film industry by educating and enlightening the audience as they witness the filmmakers transform a simple script into a major motion picture.”

The docuseries marks the fifth project from Catalyst Studios since its launch with a commitment to six feature films directed, produced, and centered on female protagonists.

Deadline Article

Connie Nielsen is set to star in the psychological thriller “Follow Me” from Catalyst Studios.

The “Gladiator” and “Wonder Woman” star will play the lead role in the film, directed by auteur Siri Rødnes (“A Gambler’s Guide to Dying”). Sam Hunt (“Chicago PD,” ”Empire”) and Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games trilogy, “The Dust Walker”), will co-star opposite Nielsen.

Principal photography will begin in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sept. 25. The film is being produced by Devin DiGonno for Catalyst Studios. Holly Levow, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf are executive producing.

Written by Catalyst’s Mark Pennell, “Follow Me” is described as a “tense” psychological thriller with “all the twists and turns of a classic Hitchcockian thriller, pushing boundaries and blurring the lines between relationships to reveal that money, secrets and deception is a deadly mix.”

Catalyst is the new banner from social entrepreneur Holly Levow, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf. It was formed to produce compelling, high-quality, and commercial feature films. The company recently unveiled its first project, “Switch & Bait,” which is directed by Michelle Salcedo and stars Otmara Marrero and Katie Clarkson-Hill.

Catalyst Studios executive producer Levow said: “Catalyst Studios was formed to deliver a slate of high-quality, fiscally conscious, commercially successful films with broad and identifiable audiences while giving new and visionary female filmmakers unique opportunities that have previously been scarce. ‘Follow Me’ is the second Catalyst film to go into production based on our mission.”

Nielsen is best known for the Oscar-winning feature “Gladiator” opposite Russell Crowe and “Wonder Woman” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” where she played Queen Hippolyta. She is starring in Viaplay’s “The Dreamer,” which premiered at this year’s Canneseries, Liza Bolton’s “Ocean Deep” and the AMC-Channel 4 series, “Close to Me” opposite Christopher Eccleston.

Hunt played Greg ‘Mouse’ Gerwitz on NBC’s long-running series “Chicago P.D.” and starred in Season 3 of Fox’s “Empire” opposite Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, as well as “The L Word: Generation Q” and “Days of Our Lives.”

Dawson is known for playing ‘Annie Cresta’ in The Hunger Games films, as well as the lead in numerous independent films including “The Paper Store” opposite Penn Badgley, for which she won the Oxford International Film Festival’s best actress award, “7 Guardians of the Tomb” with Kelsey Grammer, and “Painted Woman.”

Nielson is represented by UTA, Soli e Associati, The Artists Partnership, and The Lasher Group. Hunt is represented by APA. Dawson is repped by Innovative Artists, Morrissey Management, and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.

The Catalyst slate of films is being represented for sales by Highland Film Group.

Variety Article

Joanne Mitchell (The Outing) has signed on to direct the psychological horror Sybil, starring Rebecca Calder (Love Me Do), James Fleet (Four Weddings and a Funeral), and Sacharissa Claxton (Sandman).

Written by Dominic Brunt and based on an original story by Joanne Mitchell and Tracey Sheals, the flick is billed as a twisted tale of a lonely mortician and her macabre quest for the perfect family. The Mortician’s life can be a lonely one. But there are always opportunities for love and revenge, the synopsis reads.

The pic is produced by Zoe Stewart (Hush) with Cataslyst Studios’ Holly Levow, Mark Pennell, and Paul Kampf. Principal Photography recently began in Belgrade. The cast is rounded out by Rupert Proctor (Notting Hill), Robyn Rainsford (Letters to April), and Jay Taylor (Red Tails).

“We have an extraordinarily talented cast and crew to bring the bizarre and macabre world of Sybil to life,” said Mitchell. “I love the psychology behind the horror genre, and Sybil is a story that will make the audience squirm in their seats. I have been wanting to make it for many years”.

Catalyst’s Levow added: “We are excited to have put another film into production, giving a new team of women filmmakers an opportunity to demonstrate their craft and showcase their great work. The model we are building to bring new voices into storytelling is both practical, profitable, and socially responsible.”

Sybil is the third film in the Catalyst slate to go into production since the company launched in May in Cannes. Siri Rødnes’ Follow Me, starring Connie Nielsen, and Michelle Saledo’s Switch & Bait, starring Otmara Marrero and Katie Clarkson-Hill, recently wrapped production in Belgrade.

The Catalyst slate of films is being represented for sales by Highland Film Group.

Calder is represented by 42, Fleet by Scott Marshall Partners, Procter by Independent Talent Group, Claxton by Denton Brierley, Rainsford by CSA, and Shepherd Management and Taylor by United Artists.

Deadline Article

Colombian auteur Ana Maria Hermida (“The Firefly”) is directing an all-star cast in Catalyst Studios’ “Alix.”

The film introduces Cristal Aparicio (“Enfermeras”) to international audiences in the title role of Alix. Based on Hermida’s script, the film also stars Natalia Reyes (“Terminator Dark Fate”), Roberto Urbina (“Snowpiercer”), Carlos Bardem (“El Cid”) and Carolina Guerra (“Animal Kingdom”). Principal photography has begun in the jungles of Rio Claro, Colombia.

A redemptive coming-of-age tale about the discovery of inner strength and new beginnings, the film is a magic realist tale that tells the story of Conejo (Urbina), a skilled soldier, and a young girl, Alix (Aparicio), who he recruits to be a child soldier in the Colombian jungle under the command of the charismatic Ramon (Bardem). Alix, innocent and optimistic, deals with the trauma of her hard circumstances by letting her imagination journey to a magical realm.

“Alix” is produced by Lemore Syvan, along with Catalyst Studios’ Holly Levow, Paul Kampf and Mark Pennell. Colombian production services are being provided by Imaginer Films.

Hermida said: “The movie is a full Spanish-language film and the location of the shoot makes it very authentic to the nature of the material. We all understand the purpose of this movie and I love how everyone involved has connected with the script and the importance of creating awareness regarding topics such as human trafficking and child soldiers. Colombia is an inspiring country that needs healing, and I wrote this movie to honor that.”

Syvan added: “It has been a long and difficult road. I am grateful to Catalyst Studios who saw the beauty and power of the screenplay and were not afraid to share Ana Maria’s vision for it. We are lucky to have this dream cast of incredible actors who are so passionate about the story and their characters.”

Catalyst Studios is a joint venture between social entrepreneur Levow and producer Kampf’s Equitas Entertainment and Pennell of Beacon Pictures. “Alix” is the fourth film from Catalyst since it launched in May 2022.  The slate, which will feature six feature films directed, produced and centered on female protagonists, includes Siri Rødnes’ “Follow Me,” starring Connie Nielsen, Michelle Saledo’s “Switch & Bait,” starring Otmara Marrero and Katie Clarkson-Hill, and Joanne Mitchell’s “Sybil.”

Courtesy by VARIETY

Michelle Salcedo will direct “The Body,” a new thriller from Catalyst Studios. The film boasts a script from “Inside Man” and “Righteous Kill” writer Russel Gewirtz. Salcedo previously directed “Woman of the House.”

Catalyst is the new banner from social entrepreneur Holly Levow, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf. It was formed to produce compelling, high-quality, and commercial feature films. “The Body” is about a “tough, female, Detroit cop” on a mission to transport a witness across the country and arrive safely in the Motor City. “The Body” will be produced by Meg Messmer and Veronica Caicedo, along with Levow, Pennell and Kampf. Production is due to commence in Belgrade and surrounding areas in the fall of 2022, with Bandur Film providing production services. Highland Film Group is handling worldwide sales.

“There is great demand for the female voice in the marketplace and we will focus on that tremendous opportunity” said Levow, Catalyst’s chairperson. “The pieces are all falling nicely into place and we are thrilled to showcase the amazing talent of our female directors and production teams.”

Kampf and Pennell said: “We are excited by Michelle’s vision for Russell’s great script and know that with Meg and Veronica leading our producing team, we will have a great final product for the world market”.

With a mission to invest in and cultivate a collective of promising new filmmakers, Catalyst Studios has set multi- picture deals with an initial slate of six feature films directed and produced by women, and centered on female protagonists. The first film on the docket is “Alix,” written and directed by Ana Maria Hermida (“The Firefly”). It centers on the subject of sex trafficking in the jungles of Colombia. Production is due to commence in the fall of 2022.

Gewirtz is represented by CAA, Untitled Entertainment, and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson McGinnis Ryan. Pictured: Holly Levow, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf.

Courts by VARIETY

U.S. production company Catalyst Studios is launching with a slate of female-fronted projects that will be repped for sales by Highland Film Group.

Attorney Holly Levow (Imprisoned) has partnered with Mark Pennell (Storm Warning) and Paul Kampf (Imprisoned) to form Catalyst which will have a focus on feature films from emerging talent and with diverse storytelling. The company says its mission is to invest in new filmmakers with multi-picture deals.

The company’s initial slate will include six features directed, produced by and centered on female protagonists. The firm is a joint venture between Levow’s and Kampf’s Equitas Entertainment, and Beacon Pictures, where Pennell serves as Head of Special Projects and New Business. The first film on the docket will be Alix, described as a “redemptive coming-of-age fantasy”. Written and directed by Ana Maria Hermida (The Firefly), the film charts the subject of sex trafficking in the jungles of Colombia. Alix will be produced by Holly Levow, Lemore Syvan, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf. Production is due to commence in the fall of 2022.

The slate of six films will shoot in multiple locations including Colombia and Belgrade with Bandur Film providing production services in Serbia.

“Catalyst Studios’ inaugural endeavor is a bold yet urgent commitment; women represent over 50% of the viewing audience and only account for a fraction of the creative marketplace. It’s both a tremendous business opportunity as well as a socially conscious business investment that we tell stories about women by women,” said Levow, Catalyst’s Chairperson.

Kampf and Pennell added: “it’s a new dawn, a new day for motion picture business. An opportunity to improve the way things are done is upon us and we feel we should seize the moment”.

“This new slate by Catalyst Studios is a wonderful opportunity to empower women both in front of and behind the camera,” commented Highland Film Group CEO Arianne Fraser.

“We are incredibly excited about these six bold new female-driven films – there is big audience demand for these kinds of projects!” added Highland Film Group COO Delphine Perrier.

Courts by DEADLINE

Otmara Marrero (“Start-Up”) and Katie Clarkson-Hill (“Hanna”) are set to star in Catalyst Studios actioner “Switch & Bait.”

Directed by Michelle Saledo, the pic is the first project of Catalyst Studios to begin physical production. Catalyst launched its banner in May with an initial slate of six feature films directed, produced and centered on female protagonists.

Principal photography began in Belgrade, Serbia, this past week. Megan Messmer and Veronica Caicedo are producing, while Catalyst Studios’ Holly Levow, Mark Pennell and Paul Kampf are executive producing. Highland Film Group is handling the worldwide sales on the title.

“Switch & Bait” is based on a script written by Russell Gewirtz (“Inside Man”) and tells the story of a seemingly naïve call girl (Clarkson-Hill) who escapes the clutches of a notorious gangster with a cell phone containing all his secrets. A tough female cop (Marrero), who may or may not be crooked, is given the job to get the witness, on time and in one piece to testify. However, in a fast-paced, action-packed chase, it soon emerges that not everyone is who they pretend to be.

Saledo said: “From the moment I read it, I thought of Otmara Marrero in the lead role. She’s the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability and isn’t afraid to take on challenging roles that take her out of her comfort zone.

“Katie Clarkson-Hill is a rising star and will be her partner in crime as the women embark on this cross-country journey together,” the director added. “I have found an unexpected artistic sanctuary in Serbia and I am thrilled to be working with the incredibly talented crew to bring this story to life.”

Catalyst Studios chairperson Holly Levow added: “This slate covers a diverse collection of films, from aspirational storylines, action-based adventures, and psychological thrillers. The Catalyst mission is to shine a light on female talent, promoting women in every role of the process in front of and behind the camera.”

Catalyst Studios’ Paul Kampf said: “This is an ambitious project for Catalyst’s first project out of the gate. But we have established an impressive production footprint here in Serbia. The crews are wonderful, and we are excited about finally getting the wheels turning.”

Marrero is represented by Innovative Artists, while Clarkson-Hill is repped by Hamilton Hodell. Courtesy by VARIETY