These are challenging times for First Look International (FLI) president Stuart Ford, one of the participants at Screen International's US financing summit in London. Several months after Ford launched FLI's London office to handle sales and source acquisitions and co-productions, the UK Treasury announced it was effectively closing the door on Gaap funding. Then First Look Studios CEO Henry Winterstern caught Hollywood unawares when he abruptly left his post at the beginning of March.
As befits someone who served as executive vice-president of Miramax International for Harvey Weinstein, Ford is keeping calm. 'It's business as usual,' he says of the Winterstern issue.
Turning to Gaap, he remains optimistic: 'The Gaap situation could indirectly result in truly bankable sales companies becoming even more central to the process of getting UK-based movies financed,' he says.
Since arriving at the company last summer, Ford has once again become a presence on the international circuit, buoyed by a diverse slate that includes the Tennessee Williams adaptation The Loss Of A Teardrop Diamond, Larry Charles' upcoming documentary about institutionalised religion, and Gregg Araki's comedy Smiley Face.
The UK office, headed by vice-president of international sales and former Celsius Entertainment executive Tim Grohne, will play an important role in the next step. 'We're trying to create a top-tier sales operation,' Ford says. 'The sales business is a year-round cycle and I felt it was preferable to have an 'on the ground' presence in Europe to service our partners.
'As a sales operation we handle movies from our sister company First Look Pictures, and we're very active in handling and investing in third-party films. Tim's an excellent sales guy who's extremely well liked in the community and he's also an all-rounder.
'I want our London office to be seen not just as a sales outpost but as a magnet for high-quality projects and an entry point for film-making talent.'