Drew Simon of FilmNation label Infrared talks ‘Novocaine’, ‘Cooler’, early strategy: “I want to make clutter-busters” (exclusive)

Source: Courtesy of Infrared Pictures

Drew Simon

In step with the goal of building a dynamic supplier of mid-budget mainstream genre titles with franchise potential, Drew Simon has hit the ground running at the FilmNation-owned production label.

Since Infrared launched in November 2022 the president of production has announced two features, with production on the first, the high-concept action title Novocaine starring Jack Quaid of Amazon Studios series The Boys, underway in Cape Town, South Africa.

Paramount snapped up worldwide rights after FilmNation launched sales at AFM last year and has set a March 14, 2025 release date. Robert Olsen and Dan Berk co-direct the story of a bank executive impervious to pain who must swing into action when his co-worker is kidnapped. Amber Midthunder (Prey), Ray Nicholson, Jacob Batalon and Matt Walsh also star.

Meanwhile scouting is underway in Dominican Republic and other locations for the action thriller Cooler, which is scheduled to begin shooting later this year. Dave Bautista will play a Miami bouncer on the verge of getting his family back who embarks on a 36-hour odyssey to retrieve a drug-filled safe. Drew Pearce, a co-writer and executive producer on Universal’s May tentpole The Fall Guy starring Ryan Gosling, directs.

Screen can reveal the project has sold out internationally after a Cannes 2023 sales launch. Among the blue-chip buyers are Sky for the UK; Constantin for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; Sun for Latin America and Spain; Italia for the Middle East; MIS Label for Scandinavia; Elevation Pictures for Canada; and Belga for Benelux. CAA Media Finance, WME Independent, and FilmNation jointly represent US rights.

The origins of Infrared

Infrared came about after FilmNation founder and CEO Glen Basner and his team identified a hole in the market for mainstream mid-budget genre and met with Simon to discuss. “In my previous job [at STX] I was focused largely on that [space],” says Simon. “We saw an opportunity to deliver action movies, comedy movies, thrillers, sci fi and horror.”

Simon continues, “I want to follow the formula that FilmNation has on the specialty side, which is to make best-in-class versions of these films. I want to make what we call ‘clutter-busters’: movies that stand out, feel loud and buzzy, and are made for global audiences.”

The goal is to build a long-term supplier of genre films in the vein of New Line and Dimension Films and bring three to four to market each year by 2026.

Infrared would appear to be a perfect fit for Simon, who reached this point after starting at New Line Cinema, before following the studio’s founder Bob Shaye to Unique Features, moving on to become vice president at The Mark Gordon Company, and most recently rising to EVP at STX, where he managed a production slate including Bad Moms, Greenland and Den Of Thieves.

“The core is going to be more mid budget movies, budgets in the vein of Novocaine,” says Simon. “The sub-$30m, concept-driven action range feels best to me.” That said, Infrared will explore higher and lower budgets depending on each project.

Novocaine was “the perfect first movie” after Simon recevied Lars Jacobson’s script from production company Safehouse and Circle Of Confusion. “I didn’t understand how this movie had never been made before,” he recalls.

“At STX I had the pleasure of working on Nobody [the thriller starring Bob Odenkirk] that we didn’t get a chance to make and Universal made and it was very successful,” he says. “I wanted to find something that could be that movie for Infrared. [Co-directors] Dan and Bobby are special and it’s emblematic of what we want to be making: a concept-driven, fresh take on a genre that is familiar and successful and people want to see more of. There’s so much humour and heart to it – and it’s not your conventional hero.”

Paramount’s passion won through at the end of the day after “bullish” president and CEO Brian Robbins and his team got on a Zoom call during AFM. “They were so passionate about it,” says Simon. “Throughout the process they have made the movie better and have been incredible partners.”

“I fundamentally believe in independent movie-making”

Infrared will be agnostic about distribution avenues, however Simon notes that Novocaine attracted plenty of interest from independent distributors too. “I fundamentally believe in independent movie-making,” he asserts. “And I think if we do it right, that can be the best avenue to make movies. We want to be a consistent supplier for the independent marketplace.”

On its unfolding journey Infrared will benefit from full access to the FilmNation infrastructure including the sales, legal, production, and marketing teams. FilmNation will invest in the pipeline and partner with other backers.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity,” Simon says. “If you look at film-goers there’s a huge youth movement among people who are going to the movies, a lot of Gen Z and young Millennials, and there’s not a lot of action movies that are being built for them.”

With the Novocaine shoot underway, Simon and his team are busy preparing Cooler. “We’re building out the rest of our cast alongside [Bautista] and it’s a movie that we’re going to go make as soon as we possibly can. Dave is the best and he’s just such a talent and a great partner.

“It’s another project that just feels like a fresh take on genre, a perfect role for Dave, and a perfect potential franchise that we could build with the amazing team we have.”

Originally published at https://www.screendaily.com/features/drew-simon-of-filmnation-label-infrared-talks-novocaine-cooler-early-strategy-i-want-to-make-clutter-busters-exclusive/5192773.article

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