EXCLUSIVE: Shout! Studios has acquired all North American distribution rights to the neo-Western thriller Head Count, from Continuance Pictures and Method Media. Filmmakers Jacob and Ben Burghart — together known as The Burghart Brothers — are directing in their feature debut, from their script written with Josh Doke, with Aaron Jakubenko (Tidelands), Melanie Zanetti (Raven’s Hollow) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) set to star. Shout! Studios and the filmmakers are planning a strategic launch of the movie next year, beginning with major film festivals and film markets in 2023.
Based on the Burgharts’ 2014 short of the same name, the film billed as Blood Simple meets Memento follows Kat (Jakubenko), who, after escaping prison, finds his own revolver pointed to his head by an unknown assailant. As the empty rounds click away, Kat tries to remember what happened to each bullet, as impulsive officer Sawyer (Kwanten) is hot on his tail, and his ex-lover Jo (Zanetti) reappears in his life. But he must remember, one bullet at a time.
A production of The Burghart Brothers, Continuance Pictures, and Method Media, Head Count also stars Chris Bylsma (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie), Addam Bramich (Poker Face), Polaris Banks (Reklaw) and Cinnamon Shultz (Winter’s Bone). Austin Wagoner, Tristan Barr and David Gim are producing the film, with Chris Knitter, Jordan Rioux, Josh Winnington, Ken Kimura, Ari Harrison, Mike Barr, Jason Bunn, Addam Bramich, Simon Barrett and Jordan Fields serving as EPs.
“After 20 years of filmmaking—from shooting backyard movies as kids to premiering our latest short at Fantasia in 2020—we’re excited to be in production on our first feature film, Head Count,” said Ben Burghart. “Having Continuance Pictures, Method Media, Shout! Studios, and our expert producing team behind us, this project is both exciting and humbling.”
“Head Count is a chance for us to show off our love of stylish neo-noir, westerns and sharp thrillers,” said Jacob Burghart. “Our favorite films have deeply flawed, but charming lead characters, and distinctive worlds built out of the director’s imaginations. We wanted to make a film that revs up quick and doesn’t let its foot off the gas.”
“After Executive Producing their stylish spectacle of a short film Suspense that played at the Fantasia International Film Festival amongst many, we are excited to have set up “The Burghart Brothers” equally enthralling first feature Head Count with some incredible talent and distribution partner in Shout! Studios,” remarked Continuance Pictures Co-Founder, Tristan Barr, “particularly after the recent success of Old Henry internationally.”
“The Burghart brothers have written a taut, modern western that delivers a story and characters both savage and darkly charming,” added Shout! Studios’ Vice President of Acquisitions, Jordan Fields. “They have a unique voice, and we are excited to help launch what will surely be a long, successful career in features, beginning with their thrilling Head Count.”
In addition to 2014’s Head Count, Jacob and Ben Burghart have together co-written and directed short films including ++++: Plus Four, Neon Veins: Hemmohrage and Suspense, with the latter being selected by 20+ top genre festivals before being distributed on Alter.
Jakubenko began his career on the widely known Australian series, Neighbours, finding his first U.S. break when he landed the role of Sabinus in the Starz series, Spartacus. He then went on to portray Commodus, the brutal Emperor of Rome, in the Netflix series Roman Empire: Reign Of Blood. In 2015 he secured a leading role opposite Austin Butler in MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, playing the emotionally tortured Prince Ander Elessedil. He then went on to star as Augie McTeer in the Netflix supernatural drama, Tidelands, and was most recently seen starring alongside Katrina Bowden in the horror-thriller, Great White.
Zanetti is known for voicing Chilli in the hit Australian children’s show, Bluey. She can next be seen as the lead opposite William Moseley and Kate Dickie in the gothic supernatural thriller Raven’s Hollow, which was recently acquired by Shudder. The film reunited her with director Chris Hatton, who directed her in her first feature, Battle of the Damned. Other feature credits include The Leisure Class for HBO’s Project Greenlight opposite Ed Weeks; a cameo in Tracks with Adam Driver; and the lead in the Gabriel’s trilogy, from the books by Sylvain Reynard, for Tosca Musk’s Passionflix. Zanetti can also be seen in dual roles in Paramount’s Love and Monsters opposite Dylan O’Brien.
Perhaps best known for his performance as Jason Stackhouse on HBO’s True Blood, Kwanten is slated to star in the upcoming FX drama series Kindred, directed by Janicza Bravo and produced by Darren Aronofsky. He will also be seen opposite Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke in the upcoming feature Section 8 for AMC+. Prior to these projects, he starred in the Blumhouse/Facebook Watch series Sacred Lies, opposite Juliette Lewis, and the Amazon anthology series Them from Lena Waithe, which debuted at SXSW to win the Audience Award. On the feature side, he starred in the comedy-actioner Supercon for Sony with John Malkovich, as well as the historical drama Northmen: A Viking Saga with Ed Skrein. Other notable credits include Kidnapping Mr. Heineken with Anthony Hopkins and Sam Worthington, Blunt Force Trauma opposite Frieda Pinto and Mickey Rourke, and the crime series The Oath for Sony’s Crackle.
The filmed entertainment production and distribution arm of Shout! Factory, Shout! Studios specializes in all aspects of distribution, including theatrical, VOD, digital, DVD/Blu-ray and broadcast. The company’s upcoming releases include the action-thriller Operation Seawolf, starring Hiram A. Murray, Andrew Stecker, Dolph Lundgren and Frank Grillo; the topical drama On Sacred Ground, starring William Mapother and David Arquette; the sci-fi dramedy Linoleum, starring Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn; the fantasy adventure pic The Magic Flute, starring Jack Wolfe and F. Murray Abraham; the fantasy adventure Three Wishes for Cinderella, starring Scandinavian pop star Astrid Smeplass; the medieval action-adventure Kingslayer, starring Ryan Gage, David Hayman and John Rhys-Davies; and the animated features Ainbo: Spirit of the Amazon.
Fields negotiated the deal for Head Count on behalf of Shout! Studios, with Joseph Lanius of LANIUS Law & Associates on behalf of the filmmakers. Jakubenko is repped by Australia’s Active Artists Management and Fourward; Zanetti by Kubler Auckland Management in Australia and Creative Partners Group; and Kwanten by RGM Artists in Australia, The Artists Partnership in the UK, Verve and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.
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