Good Machine, which previously enjoyed housekeeping arrangements with 20th Century Fox and most recently Universal Pictures, has now has struck an exclusive first-look deal with Miramax Films, the Disney-owned studio that is within walking distance of Good Machine's building in downtown Manhattan.
The multi-year deal, which becomes effective this month, means that Miramax will now enjoy an privileged shot at developing and distributing projects that come through Good Machine, a ten-year-old indie outfit that has been thrust into the global spotlight after producing Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Miramax, however, will not have automatic access to future Ang Lee projects. Good Machine co-founder James Schamus points out that Ang, like all of Good Machine's directors are not contractually bound to work with the company on their future projects - even though filmmakers such Todd Solondz and Nicole Holofcener have done just that, returning to Good Machine after making their names with early projects that were nurtured by the company.
"This is a straightforward first-look arrangement with Miramax," explained Schamus, who co-wrote the Academy-Award nominated original screenplay for Crouching Tiger with Ang (not to mention the lyrics to its Oscar contending original song, A Love Before Time).
Future screenplays from Schamus are covered by the Miramax deal, although it may be some time before such projects come into being: Unless a Hollywood strike intervenes, both he and Ang Lee will be spending much of the coming year at work on Universal's big screen rendition of The Incredible Hulk cartoon strip.
As part of the Miramax deal, Good Machine International president David Linde will also have first option on the foreign sales rights to any projects that end up being greenlit by Miramax for North American distribution. Aside from their proximity, the two companies have been associated before. Miramax released Holofcener's Walking And Talking; David Linde was Rick Sand's number two at Miramax International; and, at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Miramax paid some $1.5m for the North American rights to Todd Field's directorial debut In The Bedroom, which was co-produced by Good Machine and sold by Linde.
The deal for In The Bedroom marked something of a turning point for Miramax. Having spent a couple of years focussing on ever larger scale productions, the company has made a noticeable bid to return to its art-house roots by acquiring a number of independent and foreign-language productions at festivals and markets. This year already its haul includes Italian For Beginners, Amelie From Montmartre, Avalon and, most intriguingly, all remaining rights on Hong Kong martial arts historical drama by the name of Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger.
Such a buying spree is a recognition of both Crouching Tiger's phenomenal box office success for rival Sony Pictures Classics and an attempt to reclaim a niche upscale market that Miramax had all but claimed for its own before becoming distracted by the studio mainstream.
Whether Good Machine's deal with Miramax will end the takeover interest in Good Machine remains to be seen. Last October, it emerged that Good Machine was being courted by several corporate suitors, including Intermedia, the production and sales operation that is still riding high on Germany's Neuer Markt.
Just recently, Good Machine International signed a long-term alliance with Radar Pictures, the new production outfit from former Interscope chiefs Ted Field and Scott Kroopf. That deal kicks off with Robert Harmon's They, a $17m horror thriller that has yet to be set up a US studio.
Upcoming productions and co-productions from Good Machine include: Michel Gondry's Human Nature, a StudioCanal-financed film to be released domestically through Fine Line Features; Tod Williams' The Door In The Floor based on John Irving's novel A Widow For One Year; and Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers that was made with the UK's FilmFour.
Among the films that are being sold through GMI are three from USA Films - the Coen brothers' The Barber Movie, Jodie Foster's Flora Plum and Harald Zwart's One Night At McCool - plus Alfonso Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien and an untitled project from Solondz that was financed by New Line Cinema and earmarked for a US release through Fine Line.
In addition, Good Machine and GMI has been developing new directorial projects from Bill Condon, Nicholas Hytner, Peter Jackson, Alan Taylor and Joel Schumacher.