- The InSneider
- Welcome to The InSneider; R.I.P. Kevin Turen; Craig Gillespie Heist Movie
Welcome to The InSneider; R.I.P. Kevin Turen; Craig Gillespie Heist Movie
The beloved producer of 'Euphoria' and 'The Idol' was only 44 years old.
Kevin Turen’s smile was the first thing you noticed about him.
R.I.P. Kevin Turen
Today should be a celebratory day, as it marks the official launch of this newsletter, and yet it is tinged with profound sadness, as Sunday night brought the shocking news of the death of Kevin Turen, producer of Euphoria and The Idol.
It’s unclear how Kevin died, and the answer won’t do anything to change the fact that, at just 44 years old, his death is a terrible tragedy for both his friends and family, and the entertainment community at large, as Kevin was a brilliant producer who advocated fiercely for his projects and the artists behind them.
Everyone knows Kevin because of his HBO shows, but if I had to pin it down, I’d say I’ve known Kevin since he made a little movie called Operation: Endgame, which came out back in 2010. I remember being interested in it because Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) was producing it and I’d done my best to track down all the scripts Kelly was even faintly associated with while working for Luke Greenfield’s production company, so I’d read Brian Watanabe’s screenplay when it was called The Rogues Gallery.
I remember it was the very first script they gave me to read, and I either gave it a “Consider” or a “Recommend.” I was immediately reprimanded because, as a lowly intern, I was there to “Pass” on scripts. It just so happened that the very first script they gave me had a really cool idea, even if the eventual execution wasn’t great.
But Kevin was still learning back then.
We kept in touch while he was putting together a movie called Arbitrage. For a while, he was going to work with Al Pacino and Drake before the project fell apart, though he helped put it back together quickly with Richard Gere and Nate Parker because he believed in the material from Nicholas Jarecki.
The movie would go on to be a hit on VOD, and Kevin would go on to work with both actors again, as Gere starred in The Benefactor from Andrew Renzi, with whom I happened to work at that aforementioned production company, and he’d also later produce Parker’s directorial debut Birth of a Nation, which set a Sundance record when it sold for $17.5 at the festival.
When documentary filmmaker Ramin Bahrani wanted to make the leap to features, it was Kevin who produced At Any Price and 99 Homes, and he also helped shepherd the early work of artists such as Sam Levinson (Assassination Nation) and Trey Edward Shults (Waves). Kevin would work with Levinson again on Malcolm & Marie, his second acclaimed Netflix drama following Pieces of a Woman, which earned an Oscar nod for Best Actress.
Since then, Kevin produced a pair of thrillers that got caught up in the pandemic and were released on streamers — Antlers and Those Who Wish Me Dead — as well as A24’s hit horror movies X and Pearl, with Maxxxine, a third film in the trilogy, due out next year.
Additionally, Kevin worked with envelope-pushing artists such as Larry Clark (Wassup Rockers) and Olivier Assayas (HBO’s Irma Vep) as well as stars such as Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent); Lena Dunham and Jon Bernthal (Sharp Stick); Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller (That Awkward Moment); and John Boyega (Breaking).
But what I’ll remember most beyond Kevin’s list of impressive credits is his endless support and sense of compassion. I remember being pilloried online for expressing a favorable opinion of The Idol, which I’ll continue to defend, and Kevin called me up and told me how much he loved my Twitter feed, and especially how I would double down on an unpopular opinion, fanning the flames online.
For all the shit I catch about being a Negative Nancy online, it was nice to hear someone actually appreciate my willingness to go against the grain and stick my own neck out there with the artists, in a way. Kevin encouraged me to keep going and to ignore the haters, which was exactly how he operated as a producer.
I think Kevin had a thing for the misfits of Hollywood, and perhaps that’s why we hit it off. The last time we spoke, he invited me to the Season 3 set of Euphoria, as he knew I was a fan of that show as well even though I came a little late to the party. He knew I had to make my own way to that show and find it on my own time. He was understanding like that, and never took any criticisms personally.
Kevin was a great guy, but don’t just take my word for it.
“Rest in peace to one of my best friends in the industry, the rare producer who goes entirely by his own taste and only signs on[to] the projects he really believes in. A good friend and a great and honest guy who operated with integrity,” screenwriter Max Landis wrote on Instagram.
“Kev championed countless artists and filmmakers. He championed and believed in me. He did anything he could to help his friends… We will all continue to make you proud,” added producer Jason Michael Berman on Instagram.
“I last saw Kevin on the set of The Idol. He invited me to Abel’s house [and] we geeked out about movies like old times. RIP to the best of the best. Kevin was one of the few creative producers left who actually had [a] passion for the craft. He inspired so much of what I do. He will be missed,” producer Alex Tompkins wrote on Twitter.
Kevin is survived by his wife, Evelina, and his two sons, Jack and James, as well as his father, Edward Turen, who told Deadline that “Kevin was so incredibly special. This world is going to be less without him.”
That much is absolutely certain, and my heart goes out to all of Kevin’s loved ones. R.I.P. and may his memory be a blessing. I know I’ll never forget him.
This first issue is dedicated to him.
Jeff Sneider: A Friendly Face You Can Trust, But Not Around McDonald’s Fries
And Now, The Official Welcome InSneider Post
Let me now officially start by saying… I have no fucking idea what I’m doing right now.
All I know is that I quit my job on October 5th and, for the last month, after exploring my other options and stooping so low as to try and sell my Jessica Biel-autographed copy of The Rules of Attraction, I’ve been talking about “starting my own thing, but I don’t know what it looks like.”
But here’s the thing. I’ve been covering Hollywood long enough to know that lots of people talk about doing one thing or another, but very few manage to work up the courage to do it.
So yeah, I guess this is what “it” looks like — for now. And yeah, they told me to come out of the gates swinging and launch with a big scoop, but you know what, I’ve come oh-so-close on a bunch of ‘em and I’m tired of waiting.
As the saying goes, if I build it, they will come.
And I’d rather not start by throwing out rumors. I’m not above that, mind you, but I’d rather start with the kind of scoop that Variety can call to confirm and credit me on. You feel me?
So, why am I starting this, and what can you expect from it? Let me start with the latter half of that question.
You can expect this newsletter to be my headquarters going forward. It will, first and foremost, feature all of my original reporting, as well as my expert awards analysis, the likes of which is largely unique, in that I often say the unpopular things that need to be said about certain movies and performances.
For me, it’s all about the work, and rather than pretend that everyone has a chance at an Oscar in an effort to sell more FYC ads, I’m going to venture out on a limb and just shoot from the hip, so to speak. I’m not always right, as I’m frequently reminded by superfans of Everything Everywhere All at Once, but I’d like to think I have pretty good instincts and a strong track record as a pundit, not to mention a distinct point of view.
This newsletter will be part of a two-pronged approach that will include a complete takeover of social media, including an enhanced presence on YouTube, and more importantly, TikTok.
I know. Ugh. But this is the cruel fate that the publishing industry has led me to. I’m your problem now.
I’m kidding, of course. In fact, you’re all I have, and I’m stupid enough to bet that you’ll be enough — enough to support myself as an adult in Los Angeles. While I will certainly be open to studio sponsorships and FYC ads down the line, I don’t anticipate that they will come for several months, which means I’ll be relying on you guys in the meantime.
Right now, the newsletter will be free, but I anticipate switching to a paid model at the top of the new year. You can also expect it towards the end of the workday, as the goal is to also serve as a news round-up that you don’t have to wait until the next morning to read. It’ll give you plenty to talk about your dinners, drinks meetings, and evening screenings.
As for why I’m starting this newsletter, it’s because, over the past few weeks, people have kept telling me that the website model is dying, and has been dying for years. Rather than hoping people will go to your website, a newsletter allows you to go to them, with email addresses much more valuable than Twitter likes.
Editor’s Note: You will never see me refer to Twitter as X, or “The website formerly known as Twitter.” That won’t be a thing here at The InSneider, nor will timing standing ovations at film festivals. If you ever see that here, then I have sold this newsletter for millions and someone has adopted the moniker.
The newsletter space is geared toward what they used to call “personalities” — the people you think of when someone says, “They don’t make ‘em like so-and-so anymore,” and I think I qualify for that badge of honor.
Right now, there are really two main entertainment newsletters that cover Hollywood, and I race to open each issue, as I’m a huge fan of both of them. But those newsletters cover wealth, power, and moguls — the 1 percent, if you will — and while they both do a great job of it, I’m more interested in the movies themselves and the people who make them. That’s my bread and butter.
In fact… movies are my whole life.
It’s fair to say that you won’t be reading about Godard in this newsletter.
I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, and there are times that I wish I could switch places with that kind of family man a la The Change-Up (an underrated body-switching comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman), but my passion for movies is all I’ve got, so when I was filling out the application to be an Uber driver, I couldn’t bring myself to make an appointment for Yoshi to inspect my 2019 VW Jetta because the thought of doing anything else but this made me physically sick.
Straight up, I don’t know how to do anything else, and I’m scared shitless to find out I can’t do anything else, too. Plus, like Neil McCauley in Heat, I don’t want to do anything else, either. I’m happy with my lot in life in a 1-bedroom apartment surrounded by more movie posters than patrons at the Alamo Drafthouse.
I graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and moved to L.A. to be a screenwriter, and before I even gave it a real shot, I quickly fell down the seductive rabbit hole of entertainment journalism. Not only can I live with that choice, but I have to.
Sure, it’s never too late to try something else, yada yada yada, but being a film reporter is what I do. My entire life is geared to its daily — and seasonal — rhythms.
So while I understand why you may roll your eyes and be like, “Really, another newsletter I’m supposed to (eventually) pay for?” I believe there’s an opening in the marketplace for a newsletter that’s interested in the actual content and the people who make it, not just the ratings or the box office that it generates and how it affects a company’s stock price. I don’t care about that stuff, and those things will never be my strength.
As I have for close to two decades, I want to cover the development space — the daily series of power moves that ultimately lead to a “slate.”
I want to cover notable casting news, director attachments, writing assignments, and stories of producers optioning books, articles, and OnlyFans accounts. I want to continue covering the only two festivals I genuinely care about — Sundance and Toronto — and I want to shine a light on underappreciated talent.
For years, I wrote an Up-and-Comer of the Month column that highlighted several young stars who went on to be, well, bigger stars, like Jessie Buckley and Geraldine Viswanathan, and for years I’ve done my best to shine a light on character actors from Jeremy Bobb to Beth Grant, and covering events like The Carney Awards.
Trust me, there aren’t a ton of reporters at The Carney Awards, but I always loved going because I appreciate the people who work hard and don’t get recognition for their efforts. That’s how I’ve felt my entire career as I’ve watched colleagues ink long-term contracts promising six-figure salaries and magical benefits like, say, health insurance.
I’ll be honest, I’ve made six figures just once in my entire career, and I barely slept that year. I don’t do this job for the money. I do it because, for cryin’ out loud, someone has to. I am far from perfect, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. If you only knew… But as a reporter, I have always fought for the underappreciated, whether it was suggesting Anthony Mackie be cast as Captain America before Chris Evans won the role (Spoiler Alert: Mackie is now playing Captain America… 15 years later) or watching a movie like I, Tonya and zeroing in on the actor who played Shawn Eckhart, a star-in-the-making by the name of Paul Walter Hauser.
Those are the kinds of people and ideas I plan to continue advocating here in this newsletter. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say in the days and weeks ahead, but be sure to come back tomorrow and all this week for my Oscar predictions in all the major categories. I was going to include my Best Picture analysis in this first email, but apparently, my long-winded ass would’ve gone too long for Gmail’s preferences. Subscribe now… it’s totally free!
Buckle up for all that and more in future installments of… The InSneider.
Craig Gillespie is looking to make a heist movie in the vein of a Michael Mann film.
Exclusive: Craig Gillespie and F9 Scribe Daniel Casey Prepping New Package
CAA is starting to put together a hot new package from F9 scribe Daniel Casey that has Dumb Money filmmaker Craig Gillespie attached to direct.
I’m told it’s being referred to as Casey’s Untitled Heist Spec, and that John Garvey is handling it internally, as the agency won’t officially go “out” with it until there’s talent attached.
Details are being kept under wraps but it’s described as a two-hander with a throwback Michael Mann vibe, which sounds exciting. I certainly sense an appetite in the marketplace for more heist movies with a gritty, visceral edge.
Casey has projects in the works all over town following the success of F9, which grossed $726 million worldwide, while Gillespie is coming off the success of Disney’s live-action Cruella movie as well as strong reviews for his GameStop film Dumb Money.
There may not be any actors attached to this project yet, but the script is generating solid buzz throughout the industry, so stay tuned…
Whichever agency doesn’t sign Ilker Çatak is gonna be like…
From The Teachers’ Lounge to Agency Lobbies…
One of the goals of this newsletter is to shine a light on up-and-coming talent and help people get noticed so they can book more meetings, which will, hopefully, lead to more jobs.
To that end, I’m told that German filmmaker Ilker Çatak, director of The Teachers’ Lounge, has been making the agency rounds of late. He’s been riding a wave of industry buzz ever since the film’s debut in Berlin, and as the Oscar race for Best International Feature comes into focus, his film is widely tipped as one of the frontrunners for a nomination.
Çatak is a former Student Academy Award winner, and The Teachers’ Lounge is his third feature. The story follows a new 7th-grade teacher who finds herself investigating a series of thefts. Her pupils accuse a Turkish classmate of the crime, though the list of suspects isn’t limited to the student body. Variety called the film a “highly effective, slow-cooker drama” and “a fine exercise in restrained but mounting tension.”
Çatak is currently represented by Philip Westgren of Black Bear Pictures, who did not respond to a request for comment. Sony Pictures Classics will release The Teachers’ Lounge later this year, so don’t be surprised when one of the trades trumpets the news of Çatak signing with one of the three majors.
Çatak is poised to follow in the footsteps of Edward Berger, the German-Austrian filmmaker whose anti-war movie All Quiet on the Western Front won the Oscar for Best International Feature earlier this year. Berger has already wrapped his follow-up, the indie thriller Conclave starring Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, and John Lithgow — which was just acquired last week by Focus Features — and I bet Çatak will be working with similar stars in no time at all.
And now it’s time for a daily news roundup in a segment I’m calling “Bits & Bobs” in honor of my British friend and former podcast co-host Simon Thompson.
Did Sam Bankman-Fried go topless for his book? I don’t think so…
Bits & Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)
It’s Britney, Bitch - Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, and Shonda Rhimes are among the power producers angling for the rights to Britney Spears’ memoir The Woman in Me, though the “(You Drive Me) Crazy” singer reportedly hasn’t given any of them the time of day, with her team at CAA said to be in no rush to hold an auction.
The red-hot memoir sold more than a million copies in its first week of release, catapulting Britney to the top of the bestseller list. The Ankler broke the news of the A-list interest, reporting that the rights could go for as high as $4 million, but if Apple paid $5 million for the rights to Michael Lewis’ book about Sam Bankman-Fried, this should go for $6-8 million, as far as I’m concerned, as way more people are interested in Britney than SBF. As The Ankler notes, the rights to Killers of the Flower Moon went for $5 million, and frankly, I think Spears’ story, done the right way, could be much more commercial than, say, the mass murder of Native Americans.
The Ankler also reports that there have been talks about a Britney Spears documentary in which she would, notably, participate, and that deal alone could be worth $40 million. That kind of money will buy you a lot of knives to dance with, but it seems like a bargain when you consider that Apple (once again!) paid Billie Eilish $25 million for her 2021 doc The World’s a Little Blurry.
Denzel Returning to the Battlefield - The two-time Oscar winner, who won his first statue for Glory, is set to play the ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal in an epic drama that Antoine Fuqua will direct for Netflix.
This won’t be Denzel’s first streaming movie, as he starred in Joel Coen’s Apple TV+ movie The Tragedy of Macbeth, plus he was originally going to work with Netflix on Leave the World Behind before leaving that role to Mahershala Ali, but still, the idea that Denzel is now doing big-budget movies for streamers is a bit of a bummer, though I suppose everyone is in the same boat these days.
Anyway, Hannibal was known for attacking Rome from the North, riding an elephant while leading his troops through the Alps in order to gain a tactical military advantage against the Roman Republic during the Second Punic War, which happened around 200 B.C. in case you’re not a Jeopardy! champion.
Deadline broke the news, reporting that Washington has had his eye on Hannibal’s story for years, though he wasn’t prepared to be away from his kids for a long period of time back when Fox was interested in making it. Vin Diesel was even poised to play Hannibal at one point, but is this really what audiences want nowadays? I guess we’ll see how Ridley Scott’s Napoleon performs in theaters before making its way to Apple TV+.
Scott’s old pal John Logan (Gladiator) is writing the script, and the film falls under Fuqua’s first-look deal with Netflix. Fuqua and Washington will produce alongside Erik Olsen and Adam Goldworm, while Jeremy Lott and Frank Rodriguez Moll will serve as EPs.
Washington is already getting a taste of period Rome, as he’s starring in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sequel, which will soon resume production overseas before Paramount releases it in theaters next Thanksgiving. Denzel is repped by WME, which also reps Fuqua along with LBI Entertainment.
Under New Management - Congratulations to veteran talent agent Chuck James, who has left CAA to launch a new talent management and production company called. A former partner at Gersh, James did two tours of duty at ICM, where he began his career and worked closely with clients such as Regina King and Megan Fox.
Meanwhile, a belated congrats to Randy Kiyan, the former head of lit at Luber Roklin who recently launched his own management company, Ronin Entertainment. Randy’s clients include Sydney Freeland, whose Marvel series Echo looks bad-ass, as well as director Alice Gu, whose documentary The Donut King was an absolute delight.
Congrats to both Chuck and Randy!
The Weight Is Over - There’s now a trailer for The Garfield Movie, which features the voices of Chris Pratt and Samuel L. Jackson. Let’s hope they earned a lot of lasagna for this one. I grew up loving that fat orange cat, so I’d take my niece to this one if I thought she could sit still for two hours. It looks cute and cuddly enough…
Not So Marvelous - Puck reports that opening weekend estimates for The Marvels have dropped from $47 million to $45.3 million, underscoring the poor word-of-mouth surrounding the sequel, which I reviewed on TikTok.
Jen Salke: Puppet Master? - Variety reports that Amazon is on the verge of picking up Masters of the Universe, which used to be in the works at Netflix. My question? Do they have to take on all those development costs?
Zasvlav. vs. Coyote vs. Acme - I don’t really understand the whole Coyote vs. Acme saga, as I thought Warner Bros. Discovery had already taken the $30 million write-down on the $70 million movie, having applied it to its recent Q3 earnings report. Now, following much outcry (for some reason — it’s a John Cena-led Looney Tunes movie, after all), the studio is letting the filmmakers shop it to streaming services, many of which are desperate for “content.”
Yes, I’ve heard this movie is actually good, and clearly, a lot of hard work went into it, but what people have to remember is that this is a business — it’s art, yes, but it’s a business first and foremost — and if David Zaslav and his magic bean counters think that $30 million is the best return he can get, or rather, $40 million is the least WBD can lose, then I can understand why he’d axe a movie greenlit by a prior regime that may not necessarily represent what he wants to do with the Looney Tunes brand going forward.
But just because I question the financials of it all, and understand why WBD’s disappearing act might help its bottom line (which is why it was done in the first place), doesn’t mean I don’t side with the filmmakers, whose hard work, of course, deserves to be seen. Fortunately, director Dave Green’s fellow filmmakers had his back.
WBD’s latest trip to the movie dump (where Batgirl and a Scooby-Doo movie are currently rotting in a landfill) reportedly inspired a group of filmmakers to band together via group text and decide to cancel meetings they had scheduled with the studio, which got spooked. I applaud the solidarity, particularly following a double strike that has Hollywood chomping at the bit to get back to work.
Mere hours later, it was reported that Zaslav had a change of heart and is now allowing the filmmakers to shop it, but again, if no one offers at least $30 million, I don’t see why WBD would take the deal. Its credibility among the creative class has already taken a significant hit, one that can’t be blamed on Jason Kilar. I just want to know if James Gunn flexed his muscle on the lot and convinced Zas to let them shop it around…
If Zaslav is able to find a deep-pocketed buyer for Coyote vs. Acme, that company should release this movie almost immediately to capitalize on the buzz. The hard work of marketing this movie has already been done for you. If you wait six to nine months to release this thing, it will wind up being the turkey that Warner Bros. feared. You have to strike while the iron is hot.
After all, timing is everything in this business.
Speaking of which, it’s finally time to wrap things up today with…
Your 15 minutes start now…
Film Twitter’s Main Character of the Day
I’m not sure if this will be a daily feature of the newsletter — though there’s certainly enough ammunition — but this is where I’ll be shining a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly tweets that Film Twitter is, well, already shining a light on.
Whether you’re being hailed as a hero or a villain in this space, I hope all recipients of this esteemed award take it in the good nature with which it is intended. Just know that it takes one to know one, and honey, I’ve been there before.
With that disclaimer out of the way, today’s Main Character is my pal Chris Gore of Film Threat, who has been catching flak for his take on the current state of the Marvel and Star Wars universes.
Is he a hero or a villain? You be the judge!
Turning Marvel and Star Wars into girl brands will prove to be one of the costliest decisions in entertainment history.
— Chris Gore (@ThatChrisGore)
Nov 13, 2023
That’ll do it for this initial installment of The InSneider. You’d better print it out, as it could be a collector’s item one day. With your help, I hope to find my voice and the structure/format of this newsletter over the coming weeks. Thank you for joining me on this exciting adventure!
Got a hot tip, or an interesting pitch? Want to buy an ad or ask a provocative question for future mailbag installments? Email me at [email protected].