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XYZ Films Launches US Distribution Arm With Former Neon Exec James Emanuel Shapiro

New division will launch with ”Something in the Dirt,“ a new film from ”Synchronic“ directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

XYZ Films, the indie studio, financier, producer and global sales company, has expanded into distribution, launching on the first day of the Cannes market with a U.S. distribution arm that will be led by former Neon executive James Emanuel Shapiro.

Shapiro will serve as its executive vice president of U.S. Distribution and will report to XYZ Films CEO Nick Spicer and partner Nate Bolotin. He will work alongside Tatyana Joffe, president of international sales and distribution, on XYZ’s global release slate.

The new division will focus on filmmaker driven, independent genre films from around the world, and the new arm’s first release will be “Something in the Dirt,” the fifth film from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (“Synchronic”). The film is currently in post-production and is produced by David Lawson and Rustic Films, marking their fifth collaboration with the XYZ Films team.

XYZ will continue to operate and grow its various divisions, and the boutique operation won’t release every film that XYZ finances or produces.

“It’s a dream come true to come on board to XYZ Films as I’ve worked closely with them throughout my career.” Shapiro said. “Their worldwide reputation for working on the highest quality films from diverse, emerging filmmakers is outstanding. ‘Something in the Dirt’ is the perfect film to launch the new division. Justin, Aaron, and Dave were incredible to work with during the Drafthouse Films release of ‘Spring’ and I’ve loved each film they’ve done since. ‘Something in the Dirt’ is smart, inventive, and very entertaining. I hope we can distribute every film they do going forward.” 

“With traditional distribution models rapidly shifting, we need to quickly adapt to the demands of our international partners and their audience,” Joffe said. “Having control of the windowing, and working collectively with our key international partners to create marketing campaigns will greatly contribute to our global release strategy in capturing broader audience, which will ultimately ensure better performance worldwide.” 

“We specialize in a certain kind of film, and we know that audience inside out. We now have the ability to be a true studio to our filmmakers, all the way through release. James has been distributing elevated, indie genre films for twenty years and knows how to reach that audience better than anyone,” Bolotin and Spicer said in a statement.    

Shapiro is a 20-year entertainment veteran and had previously been COO of both Drafthouse Films and Neon. He worked on Oscar campaigns for films such as “The Act of Killing” and “I, Tonya,” and most recently, Shapiro launched the analytics department and helped build the booking department at the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain. He’s been active in the festival world, having worked with both Fantastic Fest and Beyond Fest. 

XYZ Films during the pandemic was behind six different movies that hit #1 on Netflix, including “Synchronic” and “Stowaway,” and others such as “The Silencing” and “Alone” that topped TVOD charts.

Benson and Moorhead are currently filming Marvel’s “Moon Knight” for Disney+.