In his new role, he will continue to lead the feature film group, while adding feature-length documentaries to his purview, formalizing an area in which he had already been operating. He will oversee the doc arena with Vice President, Nonfiction, Christine Connor, continuing to report to CEO Michael Bloom.
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A key player in the launch and critical successes of Topic Studios, who has since 2018 built and managed its feature film slate through development, financing, production and distribution, Heller most recently served as Senior Vice President of Film and Acquisitions.
He has long been a champion for new directorial voices, in recent years shepherding such breakout projects as the psychological horror Nanny and the acclaimed buddy comedy, The Climb. The former title from rising star director Nikyatu Jusu was picked up for distribution by Blumhouse and Amazon last March after becoming the first horror to claim Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize. The latter, helmed by Michael Angelo Covino, has proven to be one of the most universally beloved indies in recent memory, securing distribution by Sony Pictures Classics after winning the Un Certain Regard prize in its Cannes premiere.
Heller oversaw all three features from Topic Studios that are set to premiere at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. The first from Brandon Cronenberg is the sci-fi horror Infinity Pool, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, which was produced in partnership with Neon and will bow in the Midnight Section. The other two are the Dramatic Competition titles Shortcomings and Theater Camp, which mark the directorial debuts of Randall Park and the duo of Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman, respectively.
Other notable projects Heller has overseen for Topic Studios include Pablo Larraín’s Academy Award-nominated Princess Diana drama Spencer, distributed with Neon, Kevin Macdonald’s Golden Globe-winning legal thriller The Mauritanian for STXfilms, and the PGA Award and Emmy-winning HBO docuseries 100 Foot Wave, which will soon return for a second season. Notable documentary projects on which he’s served as an exec producer include Ry Russo-Young’s Nuclear Family for HBO; Lucy Walker’s California wildfire exposé Bring Your Own Brigade for Paramount+; and Lizzie Gottlieb’s film Turn Every Page – The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb about the same-name literary titans.
“Ryan has been integral in the rapid growth of Topic Studios over the recent years,” said First Look Media’s Bloom. “He is the rare film executive whose creative vision matches his sharp business acumen, and he will play a key role as we accelerate our film and documentary businesses and continue to champion the creative voices and unique, critically-acclaimed projects for which we have become known.”
The Topic Studios-produced Nanny, starring Anna Diop, opened in select theaters on November 23 before debuting on Prime Video on December 16. Up next for the company is the Tribeca-premiering comedy God’s Time from first-time filmmaker Daniel Antebi, which will be released by IFC Films on February 24.
Other notable narrative titles from Topic include Adam Leon’s Italian Studies, starring Academy Award nominee Vanessa Kirby, for Magnolia Pictures; the uplifting Euros Lyn-directed horse-racing pic Dream House starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis, co-released with Bleecker Street; and IFC Films’ meta genre-bender The Nowhere Inn, written by and starring Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent.
Additional documentary titles from the company include Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry’s Academy-Award nominated Attica for Showtime; Douglas Tirola’s Leonard Bernstein portrait Bernstein’s Wall; the GLAAD Media Award winner Mucho Mucho Amor for Netflix; the ACLU-focused The Fight, co-released with Magnolia Pictures; and the Independent Spirit Award-nominated docuseries Love Fraud for Showtime.
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