The established studio executive Fred Bernstein is launching a new production and financing company, Astute Films. The newly formed company is kicking off its campaign with $50 million in private equity funding. Bernstein’s venture has already made use of the capital by snatching up the distribution rights to Albert French’s acclaimed, race-driven novel, “Billy.” Martin Davidson (“The Lords of Flatbush”) will produce, direct and adapt the work, while Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) has signed on to produce.
The novel is set in rural 1947 Mississippi during a time when returning ethnic soldiers did not receive the respect and admiration they deserved, particularly in the South. It is during this time that the story unfolds, going through the events in which a young 10-year-old boy becomes tragically involved with the death of a 14-year-old white girl. The community becomes divided and racial tempers begin to flair as the boy is subsequently charged with first degree murder, to which the prosecutors are seeking to convict him with a death sentence.
“Although set almost 70 years ago, this story is extremely pertinent today and is a tour de force of dramatic compression,” said Bernstein. “Our views on race, religion, and our system of justice are all challenged through vivid characters grappling with powerful issues, with surprising relevance in 2016.”
As far as the larger mission of Astute Films, Bernstein added, “It’s about facilitating the production of movies that should be made, but might not get made, with the current focus on comic book super heroes and studio tent pole movies.”
“Billy” has a slated budget of $8 million and has yet to receive a release date.