Focus - the new Universal-owned company merging Good Machine International and USA Films - is starting to outline its modus operandi, pledging a commitment to original-language films and representing a new source of studio movies to independent buyers.
Talking to Screen International yesterday, Focus co-chiefs David Linde and James Schamus said that their priority is to ensure that they have the best domestic North American distribution company for international film-makers, "whether they are in the English language or in Tuvalu" according to Schamus.
At the same time, Focus International is already in negotiations with its studio parent to handle sales of future Universal product in select or all international territories. Schamus also said that talks have been held with Universal's major movie distribution company UIP about potential synergies. "We'll always do what's best for the film," said Schamus, "but it's great to have the ability to have access to UIP. Of course different kinds of films work better in the UIP structure than others."
Meanwhile the Focus acquisitions team now consists of former USA buyers Steven Raphael and Amanda Klein along with Good Machine's senior vice president Amy Kaufman and former Universal buyer Jason Resnick - all of whom work with the studio's London-based acquisitions chief Graeme Mason.
But the duo's top priority is that international film-makers with whom they have worked at GMI embrace Focus. "This is a home for international film-makers that isn't a colonial one," explained Schamus. "Directors like Ang Lee, Pedro Almodovar, Zhang Yimou and Alfonso Cuaron understood immediately the importance of this deal. Now they have an international company that is just as excited to distribute their local language films as well as their English language ones. We want to be a dynamic, multi-valent international company."
If Schamus had his way, he says, he would have loved to have handled US distribution of Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien on which GMI was partnered as the international sales company. Of course, the film was instead sold to IFC Films under Bob Berney - the expert distributor who, only two years previously, had been hired by Good Machine to release its controversial movie Happiness.
That of course has now all changed and Linde and Schamus are working closely with the USA Films team under Jack Foley on upcoming releases African American comedy Deliver Us From Eva and Ozon's French picture 8 Femmes. "If it's not a movie for everyone, it's a movie for us," said Schamus. "We define the whole company as one which defines its opportunities by their specificity. We aim to find a film's audiences with as much precision as possible."
They added that there are few overlaps at the company. "There is very little redundancy at the company. We will just keep doing what we've always been doing," said Schamus, "ensuring that we have no pre-judgments about language or genre."