UK film giant FilmFour and New York-based production outfit Hart Sharp Entertainment have formed a co-production alliance to produce a slate of specialised US features, expanding FilmFour's US production ambitions and cementing the international reputation of Hart Sharp whose credits includeBoys Don't Cry and You Can Count On Me.

Under the terms of the deal, Hart Sharp and FilmFour will jointly develop, produce and finance "several films" a year to be distributed in the UK by FilmFour and sold internationally by Film Four International. The deal covers $2m-$4m pictures produced through Hart Sharp's True Film Fund and bigger productions budgeted at $6m and over. FilmFour provides Hart Sharp with a discretionary development fund as part of the deal and has first look at all Hart Sharp pictures.

The two companies had already been in business together on a film based on Sue Tilley's book Leigh Bowery: The Life And Times Of An Icon, the story of 1980s UK artist and style icon Bowery who died of AIDS in 1994. Playwright Jonathan Harvey has completed a first draft of the script. "The alliance is an outgrowth of the collaboration on Leigh Bowery," explains John Hart, who co-founded and runs Hart Sharp with Jeff Sharp. "It was an unusual subject matter but Film Four had the courage to step up at the beginning. In the process of development, we discovered that the two companies work in similar fashions. We don't develop a lot of movies, but we work to make sure that a film reaches a distinguished level in the marketplace."

"We have the same sensibilities and found that we were both going after the same projects," adds Rebecca Yeldham, FilmFour's senior vice president of production, who brought the deal to the table with Hart Sharp's head of production Robert Kessel. Yeldham and Kessel will oversee all future projects developed and produced under the alliance. Yeldham reports to FilmFour Ltd's chief executive Paul Webster, based in London, who used to work with Kessel when both were at Miramax Films, Webster as a senior production executive and Kessel as an acquisitions vice president.

Whether the Hart Sharp projects will have access to domestic distribution through FilmFour's co-production arrangement with Warner Bros will be determined on a case by case basis, said Yeldham. "We also have great relationships with other domestic distributors such as Fox Searchlight [Sexy Beast], Paramount [Lucky Break] and Miramax [Lucky Break]," she said. Hart Sharp sold Boys Don't Cry to Searchlight and You Can Count On Me to Paramount Classics. Distribution is still pending on Hart Sharp's latest film Lift starring Kerry Washington which premiered in dramatic competition at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

The alliance gives FilmFour a presence in New York and access to the Broadway talent pool to which Hart Sharp has close ties. You Can Count On Me, for example, was the film debut of playwright and stage director Kenneth Lonergan, while the company recently bought film rights to David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play Proof.

Also on Hart Sharp's slate is The Trials Of Maria Barbella, a drama about the first woman ever sentenced to death in the US, which is set up at Miramax Films.

The deal was negotiated by attorneys Craig Jacobson of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman for FilmFour and Michael Hogan, chief operating officer of Hart Sharp, with Hart Sharp's outside counsel George Sheanshang.