Clear Blue Sky Productions, the US film production outfit founded by billionaire Paul Allen and run by his sister Jodie Patton, agreed on Friday to co-finance Todd Haynes' $12m-$15m Far From Heaven under a novel arrangementthat sees it sharing in all revenues with both USA Films and ARP of France, who between them are handling worldwide distribution.
Due to start shooting this autumn with Julianne Moore in the lead role, Haynes' film is being produced by Christine Vachon's Killer Films, with Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney executive producing through their Section Eight Productions alongside John Wells.
Under a deal stitched together by New York attorney John Sloss, through his new film packaging entity Cinetic Media, a trio of companies will now be responsible for the financing and distribution of this film.
First to commit was ARP, which licensed the continental European rights to Far From Heaven around the time of this year's Cannes Film Festival. The French distributor will release the film in France while selling on the remaining European rightsacross the rest of the continent.
Just recently, Barry Diller's USA added to equation by agreeing to release the film in North America and also to handle international sales in all remaining overseas territories not covered by the ARP deal. In all likelihood, USA will work through its regular overseas agent, Good Machine International. USA is thought to have paid an upfront $4m for its participation, beating out an aggressive counter-bid from Miramax Films.
What makes the final pre-salesarrangement on Far From Heaven particularly interesting is that, with Clear Blue Sky now also on board, all the revenues will be put into a three-way "mixedpot" from which all the partners will draw their respective shares afterthe production costs have been covered, minimum guarantees recouped and servicefees paid to the distributors.
Far From Heaven, which is one of two projects that Haynes has beenworking on since he wrote and directed Velvet Goldmine (the other is thought to involve the UK'sFilmFour as a backer), is billed as a Sirkian melodrama set in 1950sConnecticut in which Moore's character finds herself entangled in maritalissues at home and rising racial tensions outside.
Haynes, who has citedDouglas Sirk's 1955 All That Heaven Allows (and its remake by Fassbinder, Ali: Fear Eats TheSoul) among his early cinematicinfluences, says he wants to emulate the style of the Danish-born Hollywoodfilmmaker whose lush visuals disguised his often-savage indictments of small-townAmerican life.
Clear Blue Sky is alreadyinvolved with Killer Films on another film, Rose Troche's The SafetyOf Objects, a co-production with theUK's Renaissance Films that is due for delivery soon. In addition,Allen's outfit has put money into John Sayles' Men With Guns, Marleen Gorris' The Luzhin Defense, Julie Taymor's Titus and Victor Nunez' upcoming Coastlines as well as several documentaries.
Meanwhile, USA'spurchase comes at a time of change at the company, which is controlled byDiller and partially owned by Universal Studios. Production president DonnaGigliotti is understood to be quitting the company that already lost itspresident Russell Schwartz to New Line Cinema in late May. USA, run by ScottGreenstein, is now said to be in talks with Hollywood marketing veteran ChrisPula to take over from Schwartz and handle a 2001 slate, which includes NeilLaBute's Possession, BradAnderson's Session 9 and MiraNair's Monsoon Wedding.