Confirming rumours that started swirling before the American Film Market, UK companies Film4, Ingenious and Vertigo Films have joined forces to launch a new international film sales company.
The outfit, called Protagonist Pictures, is fully capitalised by its three partners (who are financing equally). The intial slate isn't announced yet and will be unveiled at Berlin's European Film Market.
Ben Roberts will head Protagonist as CEO after recently leaving his four-year post as VP worldwide acquisitions at Universal Pictures.
Film4, the film arm of broadcaster Channel 4, media investment powerhouse Ingenious and producer/distributor Vertigo Films will each be able to funnel their own projects through the new sales company. But the partners are also free to take specific projects to other sales companies.
Likewise, Protagonist will also take on third-party productions as a standalone sales and financing company.
Protagonist will handle Film4's existing film library and Channel 4's Nada Cirjanic will head library sales for Protagonist. Those titles range from Sexy Beast and Trainspotting to Croupier and My Beautiful Launderette.
Roberts said: 'These three companies are at the forefront of their respective businesses and bring a diverse and exciting mix of talent between them. This is going to be a stand-alone business that reflects their calibre and expertise. What I share with them is an enthusiasm to inject a fresh energy and perspective into the UK and international marketplace. Not only am I thrilled to be working with them, I'm excited by the diversity of films that we'll be able to offer to distributors. From a producer's perspective, we'll be an attractive first port of call for projects in any stage of development.'
Tessa Ross, head of film at Film4 added: 'We will now have much greater steer over the way in which our films and filmmakers reach international audiences and in doing so we can help producers to better understand and control the international distribution of their films.'
Duncan Reid, commercial director of Ingenious, said: 'Protagonist offers us a deeper involvement in the film sales sector, making our film operations more vertically integrated. This helps us offer our investors a route to capitalise more fully on the success of the films we participate in.'
Finally, James Richardson of Vertigo Films added: 'As producers and distributors, this is a tremendously exciting progression into international sales with our friends at Film4 and Ingenious.'
The three parties have worked together in the past. For example, Film4 is working with Vertigo on MySpace-backed Faintheart (now in post-production) as well as documentary Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, Ingenious and Film4 have both backed Mike Leigh's Berlinale competitor Happy-Go-Lucky (being sold by Summit) as well as 2007 project Brick Lane, and Ingenious backed Vertigo production and release Outlaw.
Roberts joined Universal after serving as general manager at UK distributor Metrodome, working on titles including Donnie Darko and Monster.