Echo Lake Productions, the Los Angeles-based production and finance company behind Things Behind The Sun and 13 Conversations About One Thing, has closed writing and directing deals with Singaporean film-maker CheeK (Chicken Rice War) and India's Santosh Sivan (Asoka, The Terrorist) to direct two films in English in the $2m to $3m range. A third deal is being finalised with Germany's Faith Akin (Im Juli, Kurz Und Scmerzlos).

The projects are part of a new initiative devised by the company called World Visions in which accomplished international directors will make English-language films. "There are many talented foreign filmmakers with fresh voices that we are convinced US audiences will want to hear", said Echo Lake head Doug Mankoff in a statement. "Echo Lake's goal is to give those filmmakers access to this important market. These are directors who are used to making films at a price. Keeping the budgets low will enable them to make films with the kind of creative freedom they have enjoyed in their native countries."

Echo Lake plans to aggregate financing for the titles using its own equity fund, and additional funding from outside sources. The company has begun discussions regarding distribution for the series with a number of foreign sales agents and domestic distributors. The Sivan project is being developed by Echo Lake with producer Mark Burton.

Echo Lake executive vice president Andrew Spaulding is attending this week's Toronto International Film Festival to meet with other directors for future projects in the series.

Echo Lake's other investments include The Big Empty, written and directed by Steve Anderson and featuring an ensemble cast including Jon Favreau, Rachael Leigh Cook, Kelsey Grammer, Sean Bean, Adam Beach, Joey Lauren Adams, Daryl Hannah, Gary Farmer, Jon Gries and Bud Cort. Peter Wetherell, Echo Lake's longtime international distribution consultant is executive producer on the film as he was on Things Behind The Sun. Aura Entertainment and Rainstorm Entertainment also co-financed the film, which is being sold internationally by Aura.

The company also executive produced and provided financing for Levity, the directorial debut of screenwriter Ed Solomon starring Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst. StudioCanal is selling the film internationally; Sony Pictures Classics is releasing it domestically.