These are happily hectic times for Helen Lee-Kim, newly ensconced as president of international sales at Mandate International following Lionsgate's $56m acquisition of Mandate Pictures in September.
For what was formerly Lionsgate's international division, now read Mandate International. The expanded operation has seen Kim's workload balloon to accommodate films from Mandate, which remains an autonomous production entity in Beverly Hills with its domestic output deals intact, Ghost House Pictures, Gold Circle Films and third-party companies, as well as the entire Lionsgate slate.
'The volume of titles we handle is the main difference we're seeing so far,' says Kim, a three-year Mandate veteran, from her new digs in Lionsgate's offices in Santa Monica. 'Everybody is so excited. The two companies were such a complement to each other that it just seemed like the perfect combination.'
Kim and her team of 35 - encompassing sales and marketing, legal and finance operations and servicing - will still channel Lionsgate productions through Lionsgate UK in the UK and Hoyts in Australia in honour of existing 'put' deals, while titles from other production sources will be made available to all buyers in those territories.
Mandate International will continue to split sales rights on occasion with Lakeshore. The company also has a deal with Mexican powerhouse Televisa to release the latter's Spanish-language productions in North America, while Televisa handles select Mandate International titles in Latin America.
The AFM slate includes three new titles, all of which are set to go into production before the strike: Jim Sheridan's remake of Susanne Bier's Danish drama Brothers stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman and is scheduled to begin shooting in New Mexico shortly; the romantic comedy Chilled In Miami with Renee Zellwegger and Harry Connick Jr will film in Winnipeg in January; and the romantic comedy Bachelor No 2 with rising US star Dane Cook, Kate Hudson and Alec Baldwin is lined up for a November shoot in Boston.
The pre-strike shoots can only serve to bolster the AFM slate. Beyond that, Kim says the gathering storm clouds of industrial action have not dented the company's 'business as usual' attitude, and she and her colleagues are considering various ways of filling the pipeline next year. Several European productions may be on the cards, far away from the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America, but if so Kim is not saying.
'Buyers will feel the pre-strike tension and if something isn't 100% locked in, there will be some ambiguity about when it starts. So we feel we're in a strong position because we go into markets with strong titles.'
Lionsgate's new co-COO and president of the motion picture group Joe Drake, whose triumphant return to the company he co-founded years ago sparked the merger, calls Kim 'one of the most consummate leaders', citing her 'extraordinary ability with relationships, negotiations, understanding material and bringing together a team of people.'